Our tour exploring the islands and their connection with Scottish gin continues on the Isle of Skye.
At around 640 sq miles Skye is the second largest island in Scotland (after Lewis and Harris) and the stunning scenery features a series peninsulas and bays which are overlooked by the dramatic Cuillin Hills.
Skye is connected to the mainline via the Skye Bridge which opened in 1995. The scenery and the accessibility has heightened the appeal of the island to tourists and the island economy relies heavily on the tourism industry. It was estimated that in 2019 visitors added over £200 million to the economy and that around 650000 people visited Skye.
There are around 10000 people living on Skye with the population spread throughout the many settlements and villages. The largest village and capital is Portree which is situated on the east side of the island and overlooks a sheltered bay.
Portree has a wide range of activities and attractions to offer including being the home of Isle of Skye Distillers who have a Gin School & Shop in the centre of the village.
Distilling on Skye
There are now two active whisky distilleries on the Isle of Skye. The oldest and most famous is Talisker which has been based on the west of island since 1830 and is now owned by Diageo. Torabhaig Distillery is Skye's second ever licenced Single Malt Scotch Whisky distillery and has been operational since 2017.
Our focus, however, is on Isle of Skye Distillers - the first ever gin distillery on the island.
Isle of Skye Distillers was founded by brothers Alistair and Thomas Wilson and is entirely funded by them. The brothers are proud to have grown up on the island and both are passionate about promoting it to a wider audience.
Planning permission was secured to build the purpose-built distillery in Portree and the brothers both gave up their day jobs to concentrate on their gin dream.
Provenance is key with many of the botanicals being hand-foraged on the island and the water sourced from Loch Storr which is just a few miles from the distillery. The island has also inspired many aspects of the branding with the Cuillin mountains featuring on the label. The unique bottles shape was also chosen to represent the mountainous landscape and turbulent seas.
The distillery houses 4 copper stills to ensure they can meet the growing demand for their spirits. Although the distillery is not open to visitors, the brothers have opened a shop and gin school in the centre of Portree where you can learn more about the spirits and even create and distill your own gin.
The first products were called Isle of Skye Gin at launch but now the spirits carry the name 'Misty Isle' which is an affectionate name for the island coming originally from Norse.
- Misty Isle Gin - the first expression which was released in February 2017 and has picked up many awards since. The gin is made using 11 botanicals including a top secret ingredient which is only available on Skye. There are strong juniper elements with subtle spices and citrus notes.
- Tommy's Gin - a gin created in memory of their father (Tommy Wilson) who sadly passed away in August 2016. Tommy had fought in the Suez Invasion and profits from the gin go to local military charities. To taste, there is the sweetness of poppy combined with hints of liquorice and blaeberries before a citrus finish.
- Misty Isle Pink Gin - a refreshing raspberry infused pink gin which combines classic botanicals as well as pear, blackcurrants and the raspberries. All of the fruit is grown in the Wilson brothers mother's garden. The delighful pink hue comes naturally from the fruit.
- Misty Isle Cill Targhlain Gin - taking its name from the Gaelic name Kiltaraglen which is what Portree was known as before the 16th century. The London Dry gin is a perfect balance of botanicals from in and around Portree including juniper, home-grown coriander seeds, blueberries, meadowsweet stalks and sea orache from the shores of Loch Portree.
- Misty Isle Vodka - Skye's first vodka, Misty Isle Vodka has been triple distilled using the freshest Loch Storr water for a clean, crisp and smooth spirit with a subtle hint of flint and vanilla.
Find out more about the range from Isle of Skye Distillers.