Bruichladdich Distillery funds Spirited Soaps to protect community during Covid-19 Crisis.
Here at Self Catering Scotland we are keen to get to know the communities that welcome travellers each year. Whilst speaking to a local bed and breakfast owner, I learned of a lovely shop called Spirited Soaps Islay that had worked in partnership with a local whisky distillery at the outbreak of Covid-19. I was keen to tell their story.
Spirited Soaps takes the essence of what Islay is famous for, its whisky and gin, and fuses them into body products that are completely natural. The result is a beautiful array of soaps, body washes, bath oils, bath salts, body lotions and hand creams that are manufactured on Islay.
Spirited Soap Story
Spirited Soaps Islay was inspired by the island itself. In their own words…
We are a small soap works based on the Hebridean Island of Islay.
Famous the world over for its whisky, this ‘whisky isle’ is also home to miles of empty beaches and spectacular cliffs. At the mercy of the Atlantic surf and isolated from the mainland, alcohol is not the only spirit here. The true spirit of Islay is found in its people.
We have tried to capture the essence of this unique island in our hand crafted transparent whisky soaps and related bath products. Our chemical knowledge and commitment to using the best natural ingredients, including Islay Malt, makes sure that everyone can now bathe in the ‘water of life’.
I contacted Gemma from Spirited soaps after I had interviewed Vivian Livingstone. Vivian told me about the partnership she had with the Bruichladdich Distillery at the beginning of the Coronavirus Crisis. I was intrigued and was keen to find out more.
At the outbreak of Covid-19 back in February, demand for hand sanitiser all over the world became impossible to satisfy and shelves were empty for many weeks.
The benefit of small communities with distilleries on their doorstep is that conversations can happen quickly. Already using alcohol derivatives in their products, Spirited Soaps were ideally placed to work on producing hand sanitiser.
Bruichladdich must have been quick to realise this and immediately approached Spirited Soaps about collaborating on a sanitising soap. The distillery offered to provide the alcohol and fund what it would cost to produce what was needed for Islay and Jura to be protected.
Gemma told us, “With their financial support and our skills, we were able to make enough to help both Islay and Jura. It meant that every household received a bottle, the shops and frontline staff all had as much as we could get to them.”
This was a remarkably rapid response that happened because of the close-knit ties of a small community. Gemma added, “It was nice to feel like we could do something useful to help out.”
This is a wonderful example of collaboration between businesses, one world famous and the other a local enterprise, especially coming together to serve their community during a pandemic. A staggering 3500 bottles were distributed as well as 70 x 5 litre containers. This is what it took to supply every household and keyworker on Islay and Jura.
Spirited Soaps During Lockdown
I have spoken with many businesses over the last 6 months about how they have coped with instant lockdown and overnight closures. Given that Spirited Soaps had done so much to help the islands, I asked Gemma about her own experiences as a business and how she has stayed positive and kept trading. Bearing in mind mainland businesses have found 2020 an exceedingly difficult year, with many casualties now coming to the fore. Imagine the additional pain that is felt by small traders on islands, at the mercy of no ferries and no tourism.
Although tourism is only just tentatively returning and visitor numbers are a lot lower than normal, Gemma says she is still grateful to have the doors open once more.
Gemma recalls, “Our wee shop had to close for 3.5 months during the height of the pandemic. We reopened just over a month ago and it’s great to be back!”
One of the largest losses to their trade was their commercial sales. Gemma stated “The biggest hit was that the tourism industry ground to halt. We supply many hotels, guesthouses and distillery visitor centres across the islands. With them not being able to open it has massively reduced our trade orders.”
The positive from this event has been that the experience of making the sanitiser in partnership with Bruichladdich has been invaluable. Spirited Soaps has now incorporated it into their main product range for sale through the shop on Islay, which is also soon to be sold online.
Resuming Normal Production
Spirited Soaps have not been deterred by having to close and diverting their production into essential products. They have also been working on a new scent of soap that is due to be released in the next few weeks. Gemma stated, “It should have been out for the whisky festival at the end of May, but we delayed its launch.”
Like many other sectors their original plans had to be delayed. Thankfully, they will be able to come to fruition shortly.
Naturally, writers love a pun and a tale of positivity! When I asked Gemma about her overall thoughts for what she has experienced during the last 6 months, she commented, “It’s certainly been a tough year, but we are lucky to have the support of locals as well as visitors to the island. They are keeping us going and we appreciate it more than I can say.”
Every individual has been hit financially during this crisis, so it’s heart warming to see that communities still support their local businesses and help them stay afloat.
The internet has also been a godsend to these rural areas, as Spirited Soaps has also managed to sustain a level of income through online sales.
Spirited Soaps Products
I encourage you all to take a virtual trip to the beautiful online shop and browse through the array of luxurious bath and body products for pure self-indulgence. Choose from bath oils, bath salts, soap bars, liquid soap, hand cream, body lotion, body scrub and lip balm.
Even more appealing is that all of them are derived from gin, whisky, barley, citrus fruits, flowers, myrtle, Whin (coconut and honey) and spices. There are also soap bars that have lavender, heather and rose petals infused through them. I have been a lover of natural body products all my life and thought I had come across a lot of diversity with ingredients. Therefore, I was drawn to the antler scrub soap, as this was a new concept. It contains pine needles, cedar wood and male antler filings for exfoliation. This I must try.
Also another unusual touch are the wedding favours heart shaped bath bombs, slices of soap, presented in bags and ribbons in colours of your choice.
Please support small rural manufacturers and retailers. if you are a lover of natural body products, try something different and bring the Spirit of Scotland to your bathroom.
Thank you to Gemma for taking time out to speak with us at Self Catering Scotland. Especially at such a busy time of year. I will certainly be putting an order in soon.