Residents of Tiree can enjoy a free gin this month.

A Hebridean distiller is set to spread some festive cheer this December by giving a free miniature bottle of Tyree gin to every islander on their home of Tiree.

Tiree residents over the age of 18 will be treated to a free miniature of Tyree Gin or Hebridean Pink Gin in the run up to Christmas as distillery bosses add some unexpected joy to what has been a difficult year.

Owners of the of Tiree Whisky Company, Ian Smith and Alain Campbell have teamed up with the island’s local shop, Buth a’ Bhaile, so that lucky residents can collect their miniatures from the store in Crossapol on the island.

Ian Smith said: “2020 has been a challenging year for most people so we wanted to inject a bit of festive cheer into the lives of everyone in Tiree and give them a small gift.

“We’ll be taking orders and delivering to Buth a’ Bhaile from today until 23rd December. Together, as a community, we can reflect on 2020 and raise a glass to the New Year.”

Islanders over the age of 18 among Tiree’s population of 650 people can apply for their gift by filling out a form on the Tyree Gin website.

The Isle of Tiree has a fascinating distilling heritage which Tiree Whisky Company Ltd has resurrected in recent years. Their distillery is the first on the island in over 217 years.

The company’s first product, Tyree Gin, was launched at Tiree Music Festival 2017. This product reflects the landscape in which it is distilled, incorporating kelp harvested from the icy waters, coastal salty flavours and a range of botanicals from the machair ground inland from the shore.

Earlier this year, the small spirits producer launched Hebridean Pink Gin, which comes in a striking pink bottle and is distilled using juniper berries, raspberries and sweet peels.

Despite the challenges of 2020, the company also recently invested in new stills and equipment for future production planned for 2021 as they look ahead to a positive year.

Speaking in 2019 during the tenth Tiree Music Festival, Iain explained what drove him to open the distillery.

“Our distillery is the first legal distillery since 1801. In 1802 the Duke (of Argyll) actually banned distilling on the island because – if you read some of the statistical accounts – it says: ‘some of the islanders were lacking morals and were idle because of their fondness and intemperance,’” he laughed.

It was this link to distilling and a desire to give back to the community and raise the profile of Tiree that led Ian and his business partner Alain Campbell to launch the company, starting with a whisky.

Usually seen playing the accordion in popular folk band Trail West, Ian moved back to Tiree last year, having spent about eight years in Glasgow, and it was this move that got him thinking of the future.

“The main reason for the company was not only to provide employment for ourselves (outside of Trail West), but to also raise the profile of the island,” he explained.

“Myself and my business partner are very into the local history – we love reading about the island’s written historical accounts and one of the things I discovered was that between 1790 and 1791 there were 157 people caught distilling illegally, and one in every ten was evicted from their croft or holding. We thought this history was fascinating – there were hundreds of years of history of whisky production on the island – and we thought, why has nobody tried to revive that?”

In a bid to do just that, The Tiree Whisky Company launched a whisky titled The Cairnsmuir – a 19 year old Speyside malt.

The story behind the Isle of Tiree’s first legal distillery in over 200 years

About The Author

Rosalind Erskine

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related.

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