Thomas & Alistair Wilson, founders, distillers and MDs of Isle of Skye Distillers catch up with SLTN
Q: Where do you work?
A: Portree on the Isle of Skye. We built our small distillery in the back garden of the family home where we were both raised and the high school we went to is right behind us.
Q: What do you produce?
Q: How long have you worked there?
A: The idea came from a home compounding gin kit that Alistair received as a secret Santa gift from work in 2014, which started the thought behind Misty Isle Gin. Lots and lots of research and planning happened through 2015, most of it in Thomas’s kitchen, with Thomas starting construction of the distillery in September 2016. The first batch of Misty Isle Gin was distilled on January 22, 2017, then launched on Valentine’s Day of 2017.
Q: What’s a typical working day like?
A: It starts at around 7am checking emails and arranging any orders for the day, writing a list of jobs that need done and never finishing it as it grows hour by hour! Then it’s onto distilling and gin schools which we provide three days a week in our small shop in Portree.
Q: Describe the production process.
A: All our production happens in the distillery, running four small hand-made copper stills. We bottle around 100 at a time, then hand label. We locally forage or use home-grown ingredients where possible, things like blaeberry and angelica root. Our juniper is collected from wild locations around the Isle of Skye and we have recently planted 24 new juniper trees to help with the demand; the balance is made up from our auntie’s farm in Croatia.
Q: Please provide brief tasting notes for your product.
A: Our Misty Isle Gin is juniper-heavy but not too floral with earthy undertones and a hint of spice, subtle flavours of citrus with a refreshing aftertaste. Tommy’s Gin has sweetness of poppy with a small hint of liquorice, tartness of the blaeberries through the middle and a hint of sweet orange to leave a balanced citrus aftertaste. Our seasonal Mulled Christmas Gin is very different with the aim of catching mulled wine – very spice and citrus orientated and, served with a ginger ale, tastes a little like Christmas cake! Misty Isle Vodka is a very clean and smooth spirit which can be sipped neat or with any mixer.
Q: What would you say sets your products apart from others?
A: We are very proud of the fact that we created the first gin distilled on the Isle of Skye, two brothers distilling and bottling in the back garden of our family home. The Isle of Skye is iconic, so we are very lucky to have that in our favour. Provenance is important to us and we are very proud that we make our own products. Also, we have a good spirit, so that’s always going to set us apart!
Q: What one fact should bartenders know about your brand?
A: We like to let bartenders experiment with our spirits as they create the best cocktails. We always like to see our gins served with 50ml of gin to 125ml of tonic – that’s our personal preference though.
Q: What’s your favourite part of the job?
A: We don’t have jobs; we are enjoying our hobby! Coming up with new recipes is exciting. But the best part? Seeing people enjoy our products. We’ve met so many people on our journey so far, that’s the satisfying part.
Q: What’s your favourite way to drink your product?
A: In a G&T really but with our Misty Isle, a Negroni; and a Martini with our Tommy’s; or a Vesper Martini using our new vodka, which is great!
Q: What’s your career highlight so far?
A: We’ve had a few: winning the Distilled Gin of the Year at the Scottish Gin Awards, Julie Walters making gin in our distillery on World Gin Day, seeing our bottle on the bar in the TV show the Reluctant Landlord, causing political controversy when Nicola Sturgeon gave Theresa May a bottle of our gin at Christmas (we are not political by the way!) to mention a few. The actual top highlight is building something we can pass on in our family, that is our ultimate goal.
Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?
A: I don’t think there’s a single one to be honest. It’s a great community of people all helping each other in some way to promote and grow Scottish gin. Some have created employment and tourism in remote areas which is fantastic for the country!
Q: How do you relax outside of work?
A: We don’t, we live to work. It’s just gin, gin, gin all the time! We both have dogs, so they play an important part in our lives, and Thomas has two boys, so we better mention them! We just look forward to January for a bit of quiet time to catch up with everyone and recharge the batteries.
Q: If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?
A: Darth Vader. Get him to Skye, give him some of our gin, chill him out and the whole galactic empire problem is solved! There are so many great people we would like to drink with, past and present, so this question is a hard one. Thomas was in the Parachute Regiment and would love to have met and had a dram with the Band of Brothers men.