Isle of Barra
The adventurous spirit of Barra people inspires Isle of Barra’s unique gin. The award-winning Barra Atlantic Gin is distilled from 17 handpicked botanicals foraged from the island shores, capturing the essence of their beautiful home. Born from the island, every drop is distilled, bottled and labelled right on the Isle of Barra.
From their first batch of gin back in August 2017 to today, Isle of Barra Distillers continues to operate as a very small family-run company. The story began with husband-and-wife Michael and Katie, now the team has grown to six, with Debbie handling all the customer related departments & Andrew & Iain making sure all the orders head off to make their journey to your door. Their team may be small, but they all work passionately to build and strengthen the Isle of Barra Distillers together. A company so close to the heart and their Island home is the major drive behind the Isle of Barra Distillers continuous success.
We caught up with Debbie to find out more about their family-run business and the story behind the brand…
How did it all start?
It all started with husband-and-wife team, Michael & Katie Morrison. After years of studying and working in the city of Glasgow, they wished to return home to live, start a family of their own and create something special for the Island. A Distillery has never been opened on the Island before and they wanted to take up that challenge and create opportunities for themselves, their family and the Island itself.
The story behind the name…
Barra Atlantic Gin. Our Island Spirit showcases our beautiful Island and the Atlantic Ocean that sits by us. Our key botanical, Carrageen Seaweed is hand-harvested on the shores of Barra. The Atlantic Ocean and the Isle of Barra pay a huge contribution to our brand and our Gin flavour profile.
Where are you based?
You’ll find our Distillery in the small village of Castlebay, Isle of Barra. Standing out in the Atlantic on the far western edge of Scotland, you’ll find our home, our distillery. Distilled and bottled on the remote Scottish Island of Barra, our gin has a piece of our home in each bottle. We are Scotland’s most westerly distillery. This is distilling on the edge.
What inspires you?
Our Island, our home inspires us as a company. The Isle of Barra is undoubtedly an island of paradise, from its deep blue surrounding sea to its vibrant green land and tropical white sandy beaches, it really does have it all. It’s often hard to believe that our hidden gem of a home is part of Scotland for many people.
Taking advantage of the surrounding beauty of Barra and cunningly using it as inspiration to create the award-winning Barra Atlantic Gin, we are able to produce the freshest island-born fearless spirit which is the delicious gin we all love and enjoy today.
What is your creation process?
We distil our gin for 6 hours through a vapour method/botanical basket. The finished distillate sits at 87.2ABV and we leave this to settle for 3/4 days before we then dilute this down to 46%ABV ready for bottling. We chose to be particular about what distilling method we do and we do not re-use the heads/tails from the distillation. We believe by only ever using the heart, then we have the purest part of the distillation run, and although it is a more expensive method, we believe the end product is one that can hold the name of Barra and one that we are proud to share with the world.
What makes you, your brand or products unique?
Our Key Botanical, Carrageen Seaweed. Each piece of our key botanical is hand-picked from the shores that surround our island home, creating a bold flavour, rich in maritime notes.
Our signature botanical, the carrageen seaweed, is what makes our gin special. Also known by its scientific name Chondrus crispus, carrageen seaweed is a red algae native to the cool Atlantic waters skirting Europe’s rocky coastlines, including our beautiful Isle of Barra.
Like many of the other seaweed varieties found on the Scottish coast, carrageen is harvested after the spring tides, when the water is furthest from the shore. Once harvested, each piece of carrageen seaweed is washed through with fresh water and left outdoors for 5-6 weeks for the wind and sun to dry or ‘bleach’ as it is known on Barra. Once the carrageen has dried and has changed colour to a light white/purple it is then ready to be used to create our award-winning spirit, the Barra Atlantic Gin.
What is your next project?
Isle of Barra Single Malt Scotch Whisky
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
We’re working behind the scenes on a host of new projects, which we’ll be delighted to share with the public at a later date.
What is your biggest achievement?
Opening the Isle of Barra’s first legal Distillery. We’ve achieved so much from so little and are extremely proud of how far we’ve come. Our family run business has grown from strength to strength in just 4 short years since our launch and we’re looking to the future, to produce the first Single Malt Whisky from Barra.
What is your best-selling product/line?
Barra Atlantic Gin
Your experience of your first Country Living Fair (year, exhibiting or visiting)
We’ve exhibited at the Country Living Fair Glasgow a number of times now and have always had a positive experience and response. It’s become a regular show for us now!
What do you love about Country Living Fairs?
We find the Country Living Fair suits our product and brand very well. The customers that visit the Fair are always looking for that unique gift and our Gin is very well received. We enjoy the variety of exhibitors at the show and even manage a little shopping ourselves.
Your three top tips for crafters and makers…
- Stay relevant with trends
- Pour your heart & soul into your business and products
- Be confident in yourself and your work.
Any advice for fledgling businesses…
Work hard, stay determined and it will all work out in the long run!