Our fourth Big Fun Raiser is shaping up to be a night to remember. With our exciting circus theme and magnificent new venue, it was only fitting we find a very special sponsor for our welcome drinks reception. And that's where Isle of Harris Gin comes in!

We had a chat with Simon Erlanger, Managing Director of Isle of Harris Distillers, about their unique Isle of Harris Gin and why a partnership with The Yard's Big Fun Raiser makes the perfect pairing.

What made you decide to create Isle of Harris Distillers and what makes it different?

The idea for the Isle of Harris Distillery came from our founder, Anderson Bakewell, who has been connected to the Isle of Harris for over half a century. During that time, he had seen the local population halve to less than 2,000 today, and wanted to find a way to encourage young people to stay on the island, find work and raise families, rather than have to leave. He did not come from the whisky industry, but had seen from other distilleries in Scotland that they tend to stay around and create a sustainable workforce, becoming very much rooted in where they are. He also knew that creating a fantastic single malt to send around the world would help bring Harris to a worldwide audience. This also helps create more jobs indirectly by boosting local tourism. Isle of Harris Distillers is the first distillery created with the future prosperity of the local community at is heart, which is what makes us truly stand out.

Why did you want to support The Yard’s Big Fun Raiser?

When I met Celine at last year’s Institute of Directors Awards dinner in London, over the course of the evening I learned a lot about what The Yard is doing. It was so inspirational and I felt we had something in common. Because the distillery is there to support the young people of Harris, it is in a different way but causes that are youth related are always of interest. Mainly, we just love what The Yard is doing. I came to visit The Yard Edinburgh and thought it was brilliant. So when Celine asked if we could sponsor the Big Fun Raiser drinks reception, it felt rude not to!

How would you describe what makes Isle of Harris Gin special?

We wanted to create a gin that would be deliciously smooth and easy to drink. It has a lovely complexity, so you can drink it neat or it makes a great gin and tonic. We believe the gin should be able to shine through and not be drowned in too many additional flavours. There are two main things that make Harris Gin so special. The first is the sugar kelp (seaweed), which is a local Hebridean botanical, dived for us from the waters around Harris, with a savoury sweet, subtle and delicate flavour. The second is that we discard, instead of recycling, the ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ of the spirit run, helping to make our gin exceptionally smooth.

What is next for Isle of Harris Distillers?

We set out to employ local people – we now have close to 40 employees, nearly all from Harris, which is more than twice what we had hoped at this stage. Thanks to the surprise success of Harris Gin, we are now able to expand our whisky making operation. We can now afford to make more whisky, which will in turn mean greater longevity for our distillery. So we are expanding, both in terms of creating more capacity and growing our team.

Are you looking forward to The Yard’s Big Fun Raiser?

Yes, very much so, it sounds like it is going to be a great event. My wife and I are very excited about having the opportunity to spend some more time with The Yard’s team, families and supporters.

Our huge thanks go to Simon and the team at Isle of Harris Distillers, and we are really looking forward to sampling some Harris Gin at our Big Fun Raiser on Saturday 18th May 2019. If you can't be there on the night, you can still bid on our stunning silent auction prizes.