Isle of Harris The Hearach Single Malt Scotch Whisky (700ml) - First Release
"...a singular style. It must be increasingly challenging to find one's own style with all these new distilleries around. Thumb up; and the bottle's reaaaaally lovely." - whiskyfun.com
Built in 2015, the Isle of Harris distillery recently released its inaugural single malt. Up until now, the project has been limited to the hugely popular Isle of Harris Gin - now into its millionth bottle. Named 'The Hearach' meaning 'Native', the single malt is showing early signs of similar success. The first batches were snapped up from online UK retailers. According to a fan on whiskybase.com, "...[the distillery] used Highland Park 12yo as their inspiration and they’ve nailed it. Slightly Smokey, slightly sweet and a very easy & smooth drink." Key production specs include 100% Scottish Concerto barley lightly peated at 12-15ppm using peat cut by hand at 'Cleite Mhòr', an area of South Harris, a long fermentation that runs for up to five days, as well as maturation for at least five years in three cask types: Fino butts, first-fill bourbon, and oloroso sherry casks. Because conditions for growing grains on Harris aren’t ideal, the barley gets shipped from the Black Isle in north-west Scotland. Water is sourced from the island and is reported to be some of the softest in all of Scotland.
Managing Director, Simon Erlanger, who was previously an executive director for Glenmorangie comments, “We set out to create complexity and character, and that takes time. On first sip or smell, it’s a lovely, sweet, delicious whisky with a hint of smoke at the end. But each time you come back to the glass, you discover different things. People might expect an Island malt style, quite full-bodied and peaty, but we’re not that. We’re not really Speyside style either. It’s an Isle of Harris whisky. We’re just are who we are.”
Head distiller, Norman Ian Mackay adds “We tightly control everything. We’re very strict on our wood policy. The whisky’s all matured in warehouses on Harris. The whole process, including bottling, happens on the island. We’re not doing anything the easy way. If investors wanted to make money quickly from whisky, they wouldn’t do it in the middle of the Atlantic.”
The Australian importer has secured stocks of batch No.2 of the first release, labelled as such on the cap seal. We received a 30ml sample. It's one of a growing number of Scottish upstarts that takes your palate by surprise. Firstly, it's more peaty than you might expect, but in a way that shouldn't be off-putting to people who normally shy away from smokey whiskies. Instead of a maritime blast, the phenols are like sweet wood smoke with sprinklings of white chocolate. Secondly, the malt is already beautifully expressive and, yes, comparisons to the honeyed, medium-peated character of Highland Park or perhaps, Glenglassaugh Portsoy are not without justification. The length is decent for such a youngster, rounding off with toasty oak, citrus, hints of salted crackers and a delicious thread of something sweeter. With an outturn of around 13,000 bottles per batch, as a first edition, this may appeal to forward-thinking collectors. Like the Isle of Harris gin, the presentation of 'The Hearach' is a highlight: A stout but very stylish bespoke bottle designed by Stranger & Stranger, detailed with a fine 'ribbed' texture. The whisky comes bottled at 46% without chill filtration.
Other reviews... Already a star on social media, apparently, thanks to a very carefully chosen bottle that'll be very successful on the shelves of the most exclusive department stores in London, Paris, or New York. Okay, and in Tokyo, Berlin, Milan, Madrid, Montreal… … and John o' Groats. Perhaps not John o'Groats. Right, and they are 'social', and they make gin. The whisky is lightly peated (15ppm) and aged in bourbon, oloroso and fino. Colour: pale white wine. Young distilleries no longer seem to use any caramel. Nose: classic bready start, some porridge, sourdough, rennet, garden peat, then green olives, which I just always love. It's almost as if they had let some olives swim in the casks, or macerate in the wash. Mouth: it's peatier on the palate and it's got a very distinct style. You'd say 30ppm rather than just 15, really. This one too is pretty ashy, in fact, but there's a fermentary depth (see what I mean) that's adding, well, some depth. Notes of pickled lemons, more olives, small gherkins… Finish: rather long, with lemons chiming in, which always works. Oh and a little gin, haha. Comments: singular style. It must be increasingly challenging to find one's own style with all these new distilleries around. Thumb up; and the bottle's reaaaaally lovely. 86 points - whiskyfun.com
Notes from the producers on BATCH NO HE 00002 23... “At first, I smell clean oak smoke like the curing smokehouses in the village I grew up in Poland. There’s a spiciness and a sweetness, like smoke dried prunes which not many people from Harris will know. There’s heather, like the fragrance from the hills when I’m out taking photographs. When I drink it, there’s more sweetness and creaminess like a creme brûlée and I taste freshly picked green apples, very sharp. There’s a gentle saltiness, like licking your lips after walking on one of our windy beaches. The finish is long and smoky. When I first moved to the island I would drive around in winter with the windows down just to get a beautiful whiff of peat fires burning, now I can find it in my glass.” - Peter Kwasniewski, Drinishader, Isle of Harris.