Jonny Ingledew, 35, master distiller and Kate MacDonald, 32, creative director

JONNY: We finally opened the North Uist Distillery last week. We were born and raised in Uist and both left for university. I had two spells at university followed by employment; the third time, I did a Master's in brewing and distilling then worked in a distillery for a year. I also worked in a brewery. Kate did a degree in painting at Edinburgh College of Art then worked in arts education programmes before becoming a florist and did her teacher training in secondary art and design teaching. We moved back here at the start of 2017 and we have been working really hard to set up the distillery. We both moved away to go to university but the island called us back over a period of time.

Kate: We didn't want to open the distillery anywhere else. We had a long-term, thought-out plan of a way to live here and start up a business, because there's not so many well-paid jobs here. It was really important to both of us that we work and live here. We've been overwhelmed by the encouragement and support we've been shown.

Jonny: We have a local botanical here, Hebridean heather, which we pick ourselves. It's in bloom from July to September/October. We spent a few days on the hillsides, picking a lot of heather, which we've been using in the gin production. Our main USP for the gin is that we put a lot extra botanicals into it, which gives it a really bold flavour; it goes cloudy in the glass, and that's the essential oils of the botanicals coming out of solution. We have called it Downpour and though it is bold in flavour we see it as a classic juniper Scottish dry gin. There's no sugar or flavouring added to it after the distillation process.

I think if you have a good authenticity behind the story, that is important: Kate and I have really taken the long way around to get here, so we have good technical experience of making gin. In fact, according to the local Business Gateway, it was back in 2014 that I first got in touch with them with the idea of opening a distillery. A lot of people try to create gin with no experience whatsoever but for us it was important to take the time to really get the skills and develop a good recipe. We probably did about 250 distillations to get to our recipe. So there was a lot of gin-tasting involved, as you can imagine.

We have both been looking forward to much to this week and the opening of the distillery. It has been a long time in coming around. But the gin for us is a first step in what we both hope will be a longer journey; we have bigger plans in due course and want to move onto products other than gin. The gin distillery is the first such operation on the islands of Uist but we're looking at the construction of the first whisky distillery. We have planning permission and have a selected site, and we'll be fundraising for that over the next year. The whisky will use a traditional type of barley that grows predominantly just in Uist, which every whisky in the world used to be made from.

* Downpour Gin (£38 per bottle) is available from

Russell Leadbetter