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Exclusive group of Scottish islanders chosen to be whisky testers

Isle of Harris Distillery
Isle of Harris Distillery

An exclusive group of islanders have been chosen as whisky testers in a new £10million distillery in the Hebrides.

Normally, trained noses are recruited to carry out such work, but Isle of Harris Distillers is taking the unusual step of encouraging locals to apply for the job.

In advance of producing their first batch of the Hearach single malt – called after the Gaelic for an inhabitant of the island, a dedicated nosing panel is being established.

The job requires the select team of men and women to test, once a week, the quality of the spirit and check if it is up to the desired standard.

After an audition last week, numbers have been whittled down to an elite group to undergo specialist training in the art and science of aroma of a dram.

Those who passed a test session to assess the strength of their sense of smell joined distillery staff for more training under the guidance of two experts from the Scotch Whisky Research Institute.

Simon Erlanger, director of the distillery, said: “We have set up a sensory panel.

“A lot of distilleries will have a master blender, taster or ‘nose,’ but what we have done is set up a sensory panel.

“Importantly, it is not just people from the distillery but we have invited people from the community to take part as well.”

Shona Macleod, guest team manager at the new distillery, said it was a “fascinating” session.

“We are learning a lot about the flavour spectrum which is important for us when conducting tours of the new distilleries.”

Mrs Macleod said the enterprise was a significant economic development for Harris having recruited 15 personnel already.

She believes it will also create a huge tourism boost with estimates of some 40,000 visitors a year touring the plant.

She added: “We are all really looking forward to the new distillery opening. We have been working on this since December last year so its really nice to see everything in reality than living our daily lives though plans and images of what the designers thought it will look like.”

The plant is set to bring 20 jobs to the island.

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