I’ve had a delightful two days. After late nights and early mornings listening to the news, it was with some relief that I went to meet three Frenchmen who were over visiting the Isle of Harris Distillery. They were making a short film including a bit of cocktail mixing en plein air, which involved a walk out onto the machair meadow with a little table, a bag of bottles, glasses, spoons and a handful of herbs. The flowers were still blooming, the turquoise sea formed the backdrop and Ceapabhal hill rose rather majestically in the background – it is a glorious spot. I met them the evening before the shoot and showed them a few of the things I’ve been working on. We tasted, chatted and then the photographer asked if he could take some photos of me talking with Max the mixologist.Read More
A few months ago I had a meeting, it was very interesting. As is my way I arrived with a rucksack of bottles and various twigs, leaves, resins and petals. I always find meetings go well when I surround myself with the tools of my trade, they somehow offer an explanation of what I do far better than a document or even a verbal description. I lay them out on the table and as I start to talk, picking each up in turn, I feel the connection, as if I am a bridge between the client and the landscape. Without them, I feel hopelessly lost.Read More
I’m having a moment. I’m looking at the weather forecast in Lewes, East Sussex today and its 26C meanwhile here on Harris it’s a cool 13C. Thus far this Summer on this beautiful island, I’ve taken my vest off twice, immersed myself, in frankly icy water, twice and broken out my sandals three times. Last night I lit the fire and today I’m itching to light it again. This is a tale of two parts, south coast and far north, warm and chilly, over populated and scarcely inhabited.Read More
I want to write about moving to Harris (oh yes I have) but I’ve decided instead to write about ingredients and sneakily talk about the Isle of Harris by way of an example. This month we’re highlighting the Wild Beauty Balm – in part because it is such a brilliant product and I would never travel, even down the road without it in my bag, but also because it illustrates a wonderful truth about our ingredients.Read More
I’m sitting under a tree, on a bench, looking across the valley – drinking in the colours, the ochres, umbers, greens and browns of mountain, tree and plant. It’s a view I love, a deep valley rising on the far side to gentle peaks. The shape of the distant mountains resembles a sleeping giant and when the kids were small I’d tell them stories about the giant and when he might one day get up from his slumbers. I painted and drew that view repeatedly, never managing to capture it – the largeness of the landscape somehow escaping my feeble attempts. I think now that I should not have tried to paint the landscape but rather to have made the marks that capture its essence.Read More
I love builder’s tea - the familiar dark orange brew, strong enough to stand a spoon up - i have fond memories of my grandmother asking my grandfather to ‘mash the tea’ and mashed it was, not for the fainthearted tea drinker. Tea, along with coffee, serves as the backdrop to my daily life. For many years I’ve tried to like herbal tea, picking up box after box of beautifully packaged teas to add to a cupboard full of once drunk, not repeated brews. The scent is often reasonable but the flavour is dull, the attention to taste minimal. The contents of the teabags resembling the dust of harvests long passed, of grey plants tired and lacking in vitality.Read More
Tara Gould writes about her first rose pick:
It's the sheer abundance of rose petals and the visual and sensual impact they have on you which is such a visceral pleasure. There are mounds and mounds of them, more than enough to submerge yourself in if you wanted to. More than I have ever seen in one place, so that the scent of them is overwhelming and slightly intoxicating…Read More
Once a year in June, when our Roses are in full bloom, I throw open the doors of the barn and welcome in the intrepid group of people who want to experience the absolute joy of wild perfumery. It's a day of immersion in scent, an invitation to try out the way I work myself and it’s utterly liberating.
Working with plants can be challenging. Seeds sown enthusiastically may not germinate. Sometimes the precious little seedlings put into the poly tunnel to grow on might be snacked on by mice. Small plants potted on and cared for so carefully if planted out too soon can fall prey to rabbits, slugs or snails. And then there’s the weather…a late frost, an early drought, too much rain at the wrong time, too much sun (very unlikely here), not enough sun (a familiar story) Farming/gardening is a roller coaster.Read More
It has barely stopped raining for days, odd glimpses of blue amidst a skyscape of unrelenting grey. Welcome 2018. The January of my childhood in Scotland, the cold wind that pierced even the stoutest clothing, the snow and ice, chilled face with rosy cheeks is a distant memory. Replaced with the grey of climate change. I listened to the rain fall from within my snug little house, heard the pitter patter change in rhythm to a heavier drip and looked out to see a drainpipe overflowing from roof to soil....Read More
The process of creating a new skincare product is a fine art, it takes a plant expert with a deep and thorough understanding of botanicals and their therapeutics to design an exceptional, natural product that is both effective and beautifully scented.Read More
Unexpectedly I find myself sitting – this is unheard of through the Summer when the flowers are reaching their peak and the distilling, drying and plant work flows like an unstoppable tide of greenery to rejoice over and manage. However, having fallen over rather badly whist dashing to the farm last week, I’m now directing operations rather than doing them. It is a very strange sensation.
It is a bright sunny day here, the scent from the jasmine by our door wafts in and roses from the farm brought by Emily our guardian of the garden, offer a reminder of the sheer abundance of this time of year.Read More
It is that glorious time, the point in the year when the hedgerows are bursting with flowers and plants full of healing and taste. About a week ago the wonderful A.S Apothecary team headed out on our annual hunt for Elderflower. This has become something of a ritual for us, a moment in the year to come together and celebrate the sheer abundance of the Elder and to marvel at how it grows in the least hospitable places, often on the far side of deep ditches surrounded by thickets of the largest healthiest nettles to be found anywhere.Read More
The barn at the farm is both sanctuary and plant space. It houses our Alembic Stills, the drying racks, shelves of jars and bottles filled with any number of experiments, flowers and herbs. It is the heart of A.S APOTHECARY. The place where ideas and ingredients come together in alchemical harmony. It is the place I retreat to when I need to think through an idea or reflect on some troubling aspect of life or business.Read More
I’m sitting on a bench on the edge of a woodland. The sky is heavy with clouds in shades of grey, rain is threatening. The dandelions and daisies have curled themselves up tight – ‘refurled’ to keep cold and water at bay. In the wood there are saplings by the dozen hopefully pushing up through the soil, their first true leaves soft and green against the dark woodland floor. In stereo the birds sing an evensong from every tree, it is a harmonious dusk soundscape. Only one yellow wood anemone remains, all the others now returned to the earth for another year. The daffodils too are finished, the bright yellow flowers replaced by swollen green heads of seed.Read More
We like to think of our aromatic waters as ‘the perfect plant elixir’, and for good reason. The therapeutic and beauty benefits of these wonderful aromatics are manifold, they are powerfully healing, yet gentle enough to use on the most sensitive skin. Using them is a sensual delight.
A.S.APOTHECARY flower waters are special. They are a world apart from commercial equivalents because we distil using time honoured methods, and we are fastidious about ingredients and quality. As an artisanal distillery our processes differ hugely from large commercial distilleries, whose focus is on profit and quantity, over quality and purity.
On the farm in March and April, apart from the seasonal spring-cleaning of the barn, we begin to plant the calendula seeds, pushing them into trays of rich organic compost. Later, when the seedlings are robust enough we pot them on.We grow calendula between other plants. It's a fast growing annual so it grows, flowers and self-seeds in one year. We love it between the roses, the orange and reds look so beautiful together and we feel that it supports the other plants around it.Read More
We have completed our first week at the shop. It has been great. And what a journey.
From pencil sketches on the back of envelopes to work out storage with Catherine Cridland, deciding on what kind of oak for shelving and how to hang it without any visible fixings (huge metal pins and resin for your information) the hunt for the perfect chair with my sister, bashing up flowers to get pigments so that any colour applied in the shop would directly link back to our plants followed by the utterly joyful commissioning of pieces to use in the space.Read More
At this time of year we are normally sitting back to draw breath before the Christmas orders start arriving, but this year is slightly different. With our first A.S APOTHECARY shop about to open in Lewes we are clearing, sorting, painting, packing and making. It is rather more full on than we are used to, but the end and the beginning are within sight.Read More
I’ve been reading Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore, a wonderful Hindu writer and poet. At this time of year when the days are slowly lengthening and the seeding and planting intensifies at the workshop, I find one of his Song Offerings deeply soothing. I’m not religious at all but I love the idea that everything works out in the garden if we trust that it will.Read More