With the ever-increasing pace of life, I often crave the stillness of my childhood, when days were leisurely and discoveries a plenty. Maybe it is one of the reasons why I have renewed appreciation of skincare artisans, backed by extensive knowledge, creativity and working alongside the seasonality of nature. Amanda Saurin, of AS. Apothecary is definitely one of those artisans and her recent collaboration with Isle of Harris Distillery on a small line of products is something that I wanted to bring in the spotlight for your attention.
Standing out in the Atlantic, on the far northwestern edge of Scotland, Isle of Harris is a breath-taking place that needs to be visited to be believed, according to Amanda. The distillery itself was born out of the desire to combine island’s natural resources and beauty and residents skills in order to address economic problems that a small place like this can experience. The Tarbert Ten, a group of ten locals who form the foundation of the team that is tasked with the responsibilities of the day-to-day running of the Harris distillery, combine lots of interesting skill sets, from an engineering background to hotel hospitality business to a bagpiper.
The way Amanda’s career has evolved is an interesting one, deserving a separate, long article, but let me just say here that she doesn’t approach people but rather people approach her and she dives into the chosen projects with an enthusiasm of a child.
”Our collaboration is a meeting of minds and shared values, a love of this island and a fascination for the art of distillation”.
‘Val’, Amanda’s 200 litre Alembic Still, is made from hand-beaten copper providing an ancient method for producing quality essential oils and richly scented aromatic waters, so for the Isle of Harris range, Amanda and the team gathered flowers, leaves, roots, seaweed and moss together, taking a journey into Hebridean mountain, shore and sea. It was also an educational journey for the locals, as they weren’t aware of some of the plants local to the island growing there in the first place. The end result, according to Alex, one of the distillery’s team members, is that ‘Amanda has done a beautiful job of capturing the essence of Harris in the products range – a hidden gem of a place, where the pace of life is slightly different.”
The Isle of Harris offers Thyme, Meadowsweet, Ladies Bedstraw, Heather and many other wind-hardy plants that might be small in size, but resilient by nature and full of aromatic intensity. They also have Sugar Kelp, a seaweed that needs to be dived for and distilled into an Aromatic Water, which will help to bring a coastal flavour to the Isle of Harris Distillery Gin. The most important thing to consider before purchasing one or several of the Apothecary products is that a combination of beautiful oils and plant extracts gives it a subtle, nurturing influence, which not that many of modern beauty products can offer.
Amanda deliberately created a small Apothecary range for Harris Distillery, comprising of only seven products, namely:
– Sweet Gale & Thyme Candle,
– Heather & Thyme Shaving Balm,
– Sweet Gale & Thyme Shaving Soap,
– Rose & Honeysuckle hand cream,
– Cedar & Honeysuckle soap,
– Heather & Thyme Men’s Cologne
– Sugar Kelp Aromatic Water.
You can currently purchase Apothecary products created exclusively for the distillery online, via Harris Distillery webshop and each one of them contains the plants that were gathered last year and which powers were determined by natural elements, like rain, sunshine, wind, salt & harvest time. The combination of oils and plant extracts makes this range truly unique and transferring you directly to the island when you use them.
I was quite keen to start the discovery of that range with the hand cream, as both the images and the description are so enticing, but as I don’t use it on my hands at this time of the year that often (otherwise you would have had to wait several months for a review), I though I would share the link to the review that lovely Sandra ( Beauty Balm blog ) did, as it would give you a good idea about the product.
My own, initial order comprised the Sweet Gale & Thyme candle, which arrived within a few days of ordering, beautifully and securely packaged and we all know that as a customer attention to detail counts. The candle is smaller in size than I expected ( I guess my expectation when it comes to candles is a traditional size plus I should have read the description more carefully! ) but its lovely shape and colour ( of a dark and brooding sea interlaced with its lighter shade) made me examine it in delight. When the evening descended and the day turned into night, I lit it and put it next to my laptop, which awaited the editing of the notes. Within minutes the candle started filling the space with the most unusual but beautifully evocative smell – there was darkness of a seashore and the smell of the sea mixed with crushed juniper berries and thyme.
I have never burnt a candle like that at home and yet some of the smell brought up familiar memories, of days spent walking on the sea-shore, gathering pebbles and stones, enjoying the feel of the slightly wet sand under my feet. The smell is somewhat masculine but it suits the mood of darker autumnal evenings, when we start craving the comfort of a blanket and possibly a glass of something warming, while we read a book or watch a movie. It is comforting and calming, maybe because it contains birch oil – but I guess Amanda would be the best person to explain the intricacies of the composition.
All I can say is that this candle and its smell will linger in my mind even when the wax has fully melted. Luckily, I will have a little ceramic pot to remind me of the moments of slow burning magic – though there is a queue of little people forming, asking for it to be given to them and used for kids tea-parties.
What this order from Isle of Harris Distillery has reminded me of, is that some things, when created with love, care and deep & meaningful knowledge become one of life’s and nature’s little luxuries for the customer. Proceeds of the sale benefit a wider community, notably people living and working on the Isle of Harris in this case, bring awareness to their existence and special skills plus allow the artisans to challenge themselves and create something different from their own range in existence. For me, that’s the definition of life’s meaningful, full circle – of nature and humanity working respectfully alongside each other.
To find out more about Isle of Harris Distillery please click here
here to find out more about Amanda Saurin
I also highly recommend reading Amanda’s blog because her writing is like an angel whispering in your ear.