Spirit of the Islands - World Whisky Day
The origins of Scotland's national drink - whisky - dates back to the 15th Century. Farmers would distil their surplus grain at the end of the harvest season. Fittingly, the resulting whisky was known as Uisge Beatha, which translates from Gaelic as 'the water of life'. These days, whisky is the country's biggest export. At CalMac we are very proud to service all 21 legal whisky distilleries on the western Scottish islands - helping them to get their world-famous whisky to consumers all across the globe. Scotland's also becoming renowned for its gin too, so much so, 70% of UK gin is produced in Scotland.
Whisky and gin are borne from the skill of their master makers and Scotland's abundance of unspoiled natural resources - from pastures to peat, to water and wood. The west coast is home to some of the world's best whisky and some of the most popular gins. For World Whisky Day and this week's World Cocktail Day - here's a roundup of some of the most renowned producers in the region.
(It is important to stress that those distilleries that would normally do so, cannot welcome visitors at present. But many have their products available online).
Campbelltown, Kintyre was once the 'whisky capital of the world.' One of Scotland's six official whisky regions, it has three distilleries in operation. It's also home to one of the youngest Scottish craft gin producers - Beinn An Tuirc, producing Kintyre Gin.
Islay - 'Queen of the Hebrides' - is a whisky region in its own right. It's perhaps one of the best-known whisky locations in the world, famed for its peaty, smoky dram from several world class distilleries - one of whom is also now producing their Botanist gin.
Jura is home to the producers of Lussa Gin. It's made using botanicals foraged on the island. Jura's also home to the Isle of Jura distillery, which dates all the way back to 1810.
The tiny and remote island of Colonsay is home to just 125 people and two gins - Colonsay Gin, handmade in small batches of 160 bottles and Wild Island Botanic Gin.
Tiree was once known as Tìr an Eòrna, which translates as 'the land of barley' on account of its crops and its whisky heritage, which has now been preserved by the Tiree Whisky Company, offering both whisky and gin.
The beautiful island of Mull is home to Whitetail Gin created using sustainably sourced botanicals native to the island - think pine needs from Tiroran Estate and sea kelp from Loch Scridain.
Lochranza's Isle of Arran Distillers and Lagg Distillery in Kilmory revived the ancient tradition of whisky making on the island. Isle of Arran Gin - a craft gin created by four locals, passionate about locally-sourced produce is another addition to the island's incredible call sheet on food and drink.
The Isle of Skye Distillers is based in Portree is the island's first gin distillery, producers of Misty Isle Gin using the waters of nearby Storr Loch. When it comes to whisky, Skye is renowned, with both Tallisker and now Torabhaig distilleries on the island.
Located on the most westerly peninsula on the British Isles is the Ardnamurchan distillery - a bottler of rare cask and limited-edition single malt whisky, also due to release its own malt in the next couple of years.
The tiny island to the east of Skye has a long history of illicit distilling. These days things are more above board with the establishment of The Isle of Raasay Distillery.
Harris is of course home to the Isle of Harris distillery and the award-winning Harris Gin, created by five local distillers. Its whisky offering, 'The Hearach' will revive the tradition of whisky distilling after a 170 year hiatus.
Isle of Barra Distillers, makers of Barra Atlantic Gin - created using 17 Barra botanicals gathered from the island shoreline, including its defining ingredient - Carrageen seaweed, native to Atlantic waters.
The North Uist Distillery Co are the makers of Downpour Gin who also have plans to develop a single malt whisky range in the future.