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Distillery dives deep for seaweed gin

A distillery is set to release the first gin produced in the Scotland’s Western Isles made using seaweed hand-dived from the seas around the Isle of Harris.

The sea kelp is hand harvested by the distillery off the shores of the Isle of Harris

The Harris Distillery, on the Isle of Harris off the coast of Scotland, began working toward producing a seaweed gin in 2013 with the help of ethnobotanist Susanne Masters.

“We were keen to discover which botanicals our island’s flora could bring to the fore”, the distillery’s website explains.

“Our fragile island environment may not lend itself well to the commercial gathering of ingredients but with care and attention we hoped to find something special among the abundance of wild plants found on low land and high hills across Harris.”

Masters hit upon sugar kelp, also known as Saccharina Latissima, a “true Hebridean seaweed found in underwater forests all around the island”.

It is commonly used in Japanese cooking, and will be used by the distillery to infuse with its gin. As you would expect of seaweed, it holds a salty flavour but is also sweet due to the presence of a substance called mannitol. The only way to harvest it is to hand dive for it, with the distillery taking only small quantities.

“Growing in deep abundance around our shores and hand-harvestable by traditional methods, it would be a most environmentally friendly ingredient when taken carefully from our seas by local gatherers”, the distillery said.

The gin’s final recipe, which will include traditional botanicals such as juniper, angelica and coriander, is still being perfected.

The distillery hopes its unusual ingredient will help it stand out from the crowd, however it is not the first distillery to experiment with marine vegetation.

Last year a Welsh distillery released a “seaweed gin” infused with algae gathered from the Cornish coast. The 42% abv small batch Dà Mhìle Seaweed Gin, made at the Dà Mhìle Distillery in Ceredigion in Wales, is infused with the alage for three weeks giving it a “yellowy green” hue.

The distillery’s first batch of 45% abv gin, which does not yet have a name, will be released at the end of September and is expected to retail at  £35.

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