Isle of Skye Distillers Ltd Gin School
Brothers Thomas and Alistair Wilson are Skyemen born and bred and over the last few years have realised their dream of distilling the first gin on Skye. Misty Isle gin takes its name and inspiration from the dramatic Skye landscape. Their gin incorporates at least one secret native ingredient as well as juniper, coriander, angelica, orris root, cassia bark, grains of paradise, liquorice root, black cubebs and a citrusy lemon peel finish. Having spent a lot of time experimenting with these and various other botanicals to develop their gins has put the brothers in a unique position to share this knowledge in their very own gin school.
Based at their shop in Portree, the recently opened, gin school offers you the chance to distil and bottle your very own unique gin. Alistair or Thomas run each class and host a tutored interactive three-hour gin making experience. They offer an insight and inspiration into setting up a gin distillery from scratch with lots of opportunities to sample their own gins as well as advice on your own creation. There are six miniature copper stills and the class takes up to 12 people so the tuition feels very focused and relaxed.
What flavours of gin do you like?
After an overview of some of the many different botanicals available and their different properties, we were let loose to decide on what kind of flavour profile we wanted for our batch. Alistair guided us through the recommended proportions for each one with juniper being a requisite in all gins. I wanted a citrusy gin and went in heavy with the orange peel and liked the sound of carob imagining a gin flavoured chocolate orange.
After carefully measuring out the ingredients in proportions that would (hopefully!) result in a bottle of gin that would at least be drinkable, we ground the ingredients with our pestles and mortars. There is something quite satisfying about grinding the botanicals like an apothecary would in years gone by and the tantalising aromas certainly smelled promising. The pungent smell of juniper berries soon gives way to some of the more subtle ingredients with the earthy orris root binding everything together.
Let the distillation commence
Botanicals ground, we decanted them into our muslin bags, ready to be inserted into the arm of the stills that are heated from below. The white grain spirit is mixed with water from Skye’s Storr Lochs and the vapour allowed to infuse with the botanicals to create your own special gin. It takes longer to infuse the more botanicals you have in your pouch. Mine took a while to start dripping out of the tube with the first 20ml head discarded as some of the heavier oils are extracted during this time and can lead to an unbalanced gin.
The aromas are literally quite intoxicating and the worlds smallest copper teacup can be used to sample the first sip of your debut gin. During this process, Alistair is on hand to answer any questions and you can also browse the rest of their well-stocked shop and take advantage of your 10% gin school discount. The final 20ml tail of the distillation is also discarded ensuring that the flavours aren’t too diluted.
Once the distillation process was complete, we measured the alcohol level in our spirit. Mine came in a very respectable paint stripping 82.24% Vol. Alistair helped with the calculations to dilute the gin with more water from The Storr Lochs, to a more socially acceptable 40% Vol.
Bottle Number 1 – Let the labelling commence
The Gin School has a selection of classic Skye views that can be added to your label along with your chosen name. If you want to make your bottle really special then customise it with your own picture (remember to take it along with you on your phone). The bottle is then ready to take home and impress your friends with.
The gin school is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon in Portree. It’s really interesting and great fun experimenting with different botanicals and learning about the art of gin making. Alistair and Thomas as the perfect hosts. They make you feel very welcome and are keen for you to have an enjoyable time at the gin school. They are both so passionate about gin making and their knowledge and guidance ensure that you won’t leave disappointed.
Our bottle is now empty! It was a lovely gin and we would definitely buy it again…….if only we could remember the recipe! Next time we will take a note of our ingredients and weights!
Make your own gin at Isle of Skye Distiller’s Gin School
Isle of Skye Distillers Ltd
Shop and Gin School
Rathad na Slignich,
Huge thanks to Thomas and Alistair for inviting us along to make our own Gin and to West Coast Media for sharing their pictures.