Meet The Producers
We invite you to find out the stories behind some of the best produce of the west.
The island of Islay is a world class whisky destination and one of Scotland's five whisky distilling regions. The island is home to no fewer than 9 distilleries, many of them world renowned. Just over 15 years ago, Islay added a brewery to the mix, which is now run by Donald McKenzie and Mackay Smith who both belong to the island and recently returned home after forging careers abroad. Islay Ales is a traditional 4-barrel outfit, producing a compact but growing range of ales, which are never filtered or pasteurised, meaning they continue to ferment and mature in the cask or bottle. If you visit Islay, you'll be able to taste the results in pubs and hotels all over the island, as well as those on Jura and Colonsay. They can also be found aboard our Kennacraig to Islay route, aboard the MV Finlaggan and MV Hebridean Isles, and their availability beyond the island is growing rapidly. Central to the brewery is the strong provenance of the island. When Donald and Mackay took over in 2018, they went back to market and consulted local people about what they wanted to see from Islay Ales. Mackay explained: "We're very much a local brewery, run by local people, for local people and visitors alike. The products all have Islay place names, each bottle label will explain a little about that location's history, and with it transmit a bit of the taste of Islay, and its culture.' Speaking about the pedigree of Islay food and drink, Donald McKenzie explained: 'Islay is world class when it comes to whisky, people and place. We want the beer to be at the same level in terms of perceived quality."
Nestled on the neighbouring island of Jura is Lussa Gin , which came to life just 5 years ago following a chance conversation between three islanders - Alicia MacInnes, Claire Fletcher and Georgina Kitching. The gin is produced using local botanicals that are grown, gathered and distilled on Jura, and Alicia, Claire and Georgina all agree that the making of the gin, on the island's tough terrain and in its weather conditions is their 'labour of Lussa'. Jura itself is a special place - accessible by sea (or air), and home to around 200 people, 6,000 red deer, otters, eagles, and an abundant array of flora and fauna. The distillery is situated along a single track road at Ardlussa - 25 miles from the ferry - and as the team say, the magic begins with the place, which they all share a love of. Their other love is growing things, everything that is in the bottle is being grown on the island. Ingredients are gathered by hand from hills, glens, woods and seas, before they and the clear spring water meet Jim - the team's handcrafted copper still. Together, Alicia, Claire and Georgina harnessed their skills and their love of their home to create Lussa Gin. When it is safe to visit the island and you're over 8 years old, you can tour the distillery and meet the team (pre-booking required), Monday to Friday 11.30am and 2.30pm. Until then you can sample some of this zesty and aromatic gin by purchasing online via Lussa Gin's website.
Based in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides, family run, craft bakers - Stag Bakeries - has been a constant presence in the community for over 130 years. Stag Bakeries began producing bread rolls and biscuits for their local community in 1885, and now this team of 60 is producing an expanding range of award winning produce. At the heart of their success is staying faithful to their time honoured recipes and methods passed down through the generations, but balancing this with innovations and new twists. For instance, six years ago they introduced seaweed to their water biscuit and oatcake recipes - later winning awards and national recognition. As Daniel Smith, Sales and Marketing Manager explained: "Tastes are changing. When the founders began the company, the range was much smaller, and we've added a lot to that to stay competitive. However, the exciting part is that our expanded range reflects our sense of place, and we've simultaneously kept our core." What would the founders think about today's operation? Daniel explained: "I think they would be pleased with our balance between progress and tradition."