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On Thursday 24 September 2015, the Isle of Harris Distillery opened its doors, the first commercial distillery on the Isle of Harris. 

Isle of Harris distillery

A total of £10 million was needed to kick start the venture. It was backed by 17 private investors and a £1.5 million investment, made by the Scottish Investment Bank’s Scottish Venture Fund, was pivotal in ensuring the project could develop as planned.   

Whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports, worth around £ 3.95 billion last year. The creation of the new distillery, nicknamed The Social Distillery, will produce the equivalent of 300,000 bottles a year of its single malt, The Hearach. Given the number of years required for whisky maturation, the distillery will also produce gin.

With fewer than 2000 people living on the island, long-term employment opportunities are scarce. Once fully operational, the distillery will create 20 vital jobs in the local economy.

The distillery also hopes to further boost the local economy by attracting an increased number of tourists to the island, including those on the whisky trail.

Isle of Harris Distillers was the brainchild of US-born chairman and founder Anderson Bakewell, who first visited Harris in the 1960s. Bakewell decided he wanted to do something to bolster the economy of the island. He felt there was a tremendous opportunity to create a facility that could produce a unique spirit and had the potential to become a stop on the whisky trail, which brings thousands of visitors to Scotland every year.

Anderson Bakewell said: “It is on this special island that conditions prevail for the production and maturation of a unique and exceedingly fine malt whisky. As if that was not enough, we have every expectation that it should inspire creative initiatives - entrepreneurial, cultural and social - for the benefit of the island’s future, helping to retain those here and attract back those who left.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise and a grant from the Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation also contributed vital funding to kick start the project.  

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