SB visits: the Isle of Man
The Manx people are incredibly proud of their local produce – never more so than during the Isle of Man’s annual food and drinks festival. SB was invited along to the 2019 event to learn more about the island’s producers.
In less than an hour, you can flee the hustle and bustle of London and fly into a place that could be considered the capital’s opposite – the Isle of Man.
With a population the size of English city Lincoln, just 87,000 people, the island has a “small-town” mentality that spreads across taxi drivers recommending a visit to their friend’s pub, hotel staff suggesting I try their neighbour’s home-made cider, and even a chance encounter with the uncle of a fellow London-based drinks writer – spooky.
The island has a tight-knit community, and its residents are immensely proud of everything it produces – although a few people I speak with say the Manx people aren’t very good at celebrating their achievements.
Despite this, the Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival (14-15 September), organised by the island’s Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, is one opportunity for people on the island to really celebrate what it is good at.
With a Made on the Isle of Man origin marker printed across the island’s produce, there is a huge variety of products on display at the festival – from chorizo to vodka.
Across this family of producers, it seems the island’s community spirit is integral to each brand’s success, with distillers working alongside farmers and winemakers collaborating with brewers.
Over two days on the Isle of Man, SB delved into the island community, meeting with the distillers producing gin and vodka, wine makers creating drinks with island-grown fruits, cider brewers turning to excess apples from the region’s orchards and even a soon-to-launch Isle of Man rum.
Click through our gallery to find out more about the drinks producers on the Isle of Man.
The Fynoderee Distillery on the island produces its seasonal range of gins and vodka under the watchful eyes of co-founders Tiffany and Paul Kerruish, alongside master distiller Gerard Macluskey.
At the food festival, Paul and Tiffany hosted a talk on the history of their brand, and spoke about the local ingredients they are able to use in each product, including Manx honey in Bumbee Vodka, local strawberries in its Summer Gin and hand-picked local gorse in the distillery’s Spring edition gin.
The distillery is also a member of the Isle of Man UNESCO Biosphere, which encourages conservation, development and education to maintain the island’s ecosystems.
After exploring the festival and hearing from Kella Distillers, the team behind Manx Spirit and Bifrost Manx Vodka, SB caught up with Charlotte Traynor of Manx fruit juice and cider producer Apple Orphanage.
Launched in 2009, Traynor and Will Faulds began making apple wine and juice from excess apples from a neighbouring orchard. They now operate an apple exchange where locals can bring their unwanted, locally-grown apples to their farm in exchange for Apple Orphanage’s products.
The duo, who now produce cider, juices and soft drinks, also encourage drinkers on the island to return their bottles to them for refilling.
A few local cheese samples later and SB found itself on the other side of the island in Port Erin at the home of Foraging Vintners.
Founded by MaryBeth Coll and Ian Swindells, Foraging Vintners has made a name for itself on the island for producing sparkling wines using apples, rhubarb and elderflower, as well as their own interpretation of mead made from Isle of Man honey. When SB meets the two founders, the sun is beginning to set over the sea, making for a stunning view from Foraging Vintners seafront winery and bar.
Following a tour of the winery accompanied by a tasting of producer’s range, SB headed to neighbouring The Little Fish at The Bay for a delicious dinner of Manx produce, including some incredible local-inspired ceviche tacos.
The next morning it was back to the Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival to learn more about the island’s produce.
Over the course of the festival, masterclasses had been taking place in the Food Theatre, so SB took a pew and sat in on a breakfast cocktails masterclass from the team at Foraging Vintners.
Throughout the weekend, the theatre also hosted a butchery demo from Teare’s Butchers, the Isle of Man Chef of the Year finals and a series of talks and workshops with Great British Bake Off contestant Selasi Gbormittah.
After touring the entire festival site and speaking with as many producers as possible, SB headed down the road to the Seven Kingdom Distillery.
The vodka and gin distiller in the heart of Douglas began producing its spirits in August 2017. It is known on the island for its Douglas Dry Gin and Cronk Y Voddy Isle of Man vodka, which draws its influence from the island’s position as the home of motorbike road racing with the annual TT event.
Collaboration is close to the distillery’s heart, with the mash for its Cronk Y Voddy coming from neighbouring Hooded Ram Brewing and the distillery recently partnered with Foraging Vintners to create the island’s first rum, which is available as an un-aged white rum, red wine cask-aged pink rum, virgin oak-matured golden rum and a spiced variant.