First Isle of Lewis whisky makes history

The first cask of whisky distilled on the Isle of Lewis in 170 years left the island yesterday (Thursday February 25) having being collected at a ceremony held at the distillery in Uig.

A group of whisky enthusiasts were given a chance to taste the new dram at Abhainn Dearg – meaning ‘red river’ in Gaelic.

Among them was Lewis-born Mike Donald from MacSorley’s Bar in Glasgow who travelled to the island to sample the ‘Spirit of Lewis’, as it will be known, and bring back a small cask for the bar.

Also among the visitors was Alba Imports from Germany who collected a cask of the new spirit which will be opened at the Limburg Festival – the largest whisky festival in Europe.

In addition, they plan to deliver a presentation at the festival about the distillery following their visit to the island.

This is Abhainn Dearg’s first opportunity to reach more than 3000 buyers from across the world and the distillery aims to double its production and increase the quantity of island grown barley that it uses over the coming year.

The single malt from the Isle of Lewis’s first distillery takes a minimum of three years to mature and the business expects to produce its first bottling next year, in time for the Royal National Mod’s return to the Outer Hebrides.

The company is working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to identify its goals and create a growth plan.

HIE shares the business’s aspirations to build on the worldwide interest their unique island produced dram is already creating.

Owner Marko Tayburn said: “This is a momentous occasion today. We are grateful to Alba Importers for promoting us in Germany and Europe and we wish MacSorley’s Bar every success and look forward to working with them both in the future.”

HIE’s Gordon Macdonald said: “History is being made this week with the first whisky leaving the island. Abhainn Dearg has put Uig and the Outer Hebrides on the international whisky map.”

Chair of Sustainable Development at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Archie Campbell said: “I am delighted that the new Abhainn Dearg whisky has reached this stage. Mr Tayburn is an excellent advocate for innovative entrepreneurship and I wish him every success for the future. I am confident that the whisky will be a success.”

Abhainn Dearg is one of 350 growing businesses and social enterprises from across the Highlands and Islands with which HIE has been building a long-term client relationship over the past two years.

The aim is to create development plans which will have positive outcomes for businesses and their communities. The closer working relationship and shared goals means that HIE support can flow from the needs of the business.

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