Kelp-Infused Gin: A Scottish Distillery is Slowing the Tide of Migration From a Depopulating Island

When Lewis MacKenzie goes diving off Harris, an island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, he has plenty of company in the frigid water. “I’ll get seals and otters diving past me, cormorants and guillemots swimming by, streaming bubbles as they go,” he says.

But MacKenzie, a professional diver and skipper, isn’t there for the wildlife. He’s on the lookout for the bronze fronds of sugar kelp, which he clips carefully from the seabed.

As the Isle of Harris Distillery’s sole harvester, MacKenzie can gather 200 kilograms of kelp a day, which is put to a somewhat unconventional use: flavoring the island’s gin.

Sugar kelp is the key ingredient in Harris Gin. After the kelp is dried, it is infused with spirits in a copper gin still.

“There’s a saltiness first of all,” says MacKenzie, describing the taste of raw kelp. “Then as you chew it a sweetness is released. That’s what you can pick up in the gin as well, these layers of flavor.” But the maritime quality of the gin isn’t all that makes the two-year-old distillery unique: it also aims to bring economic revival to an island that is swiftly losing its young people.

Photo: Bryan Ledgard/WIkimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Comments (2)
No. 1-2


Love this story-- creativity and a benefitting the community as well!


I hope things get better soon