Seaweed the secret to gin made on Harris

Seaweed from the waters around the Hebrides will be the special ingredient in a new blend of gin set to be produced on Harris.

The Isle of Harris distillery, which is currently under construction in Tarbert, will join the growing band of Scottish gin makers when building work is completed later this year.

It will take several years for the first Harris whisky to be bottled, but bosses at the plant aim to start selling gin soon after the distillery’s planned opening in September.

They hope that sugar kelp, saccharina latissima, will help them stand out from the crowd amid an increasingly-popular market for small-batch gins.

Diver Lewis Mackenzie emerges from the sea with sugar kelp for the distillery

Seaweed harvesting has traditionally helped crofting, often providing a means to fertilise the soil. But its use as an ingredient to infuse in gin can be traced to 2013 when ethnobotanist Susanne Masters produced a research paper for the Harris distillery.

Distillery team manager Shona MacLeod explained that the only way to get sugar kelp is to handdive for it.

She added: “After the sugar kelp is brought ashore it is dried out and processed locally by the Hebridean Seaweed Company. Making gin takes two weeks from distillation to bottle, so we are hoping to have it for sale on the shelves this year.”

The firm showcased their new bottles, as well as some of the other gift products to be sold in the distillery, at last weekend’s Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway.

Gin drinkers were told they can expect a “salty, but sweet” taste from the new spirit.