Scottish oysters were on the rocks. Now a whiskey distillery is throwing them a lifeline

The Last Inches, a farm with a golf course at its heart, will now provide Scottish oysters with a bright new market

Scottish oysters were on the rocks. Now a whiskey distillery is throwing them a lifeline

Last summer a consortium of farmers had an important conversation with the Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay, who is a passionate advocate of Scottish Seafood.

Last July’s bad weather left the Scottish oyster beds out of action for most of the year.

Now, just in time for the summer season, an American whisky distillery will start harvesting oysters from the grounds of Onemile Cove in Glenfargshire, making them available from Monday. The Last Inches will provide 10 tonnes of oysters a year as part of a marketing contract.

“We approached the whisky industry and said ‘Could you make us available for the oyster season?’” said Innes Heriot, manager of the Last Inches farm, which started last year as a masterplan for food production with the Scottish golf company Muirfield Links Limited.

“As soon as I met Mr Ramsay – it’s funny because I kept saying to him that Muirfield’s group only bought the island because he was going to be closing Muirfield – he listened and we went from there.”

Last summer, the oysters with the most obvious English accents belonged to a factory in Kent. The Last Inches oysters, courtesy of the whisky deal, will make a rare feature of Scottish breakfast tables from Monday onwards.

“There are quite few places in the world where you can get strong, crispy breadcrumbs and good, cold whisky on the weekend and these oysters are just a fantastic complement,” said Scott Paterson, whisky bar manager at Muirfield Links.

Several chefs will taste-test the Lochaber oysters, which are hand-picked daily from beds along the shore of Loch Na Emmet.

Gordon Ramsay’s Oyster Bar at the O2, London. Photograph: Supplied

As well as guests at the Loch Na Emmet Islands Club, the Last Inches offers weekly wildfishing trips out of Inverness and will carry on providing oysters to McArthurGlen Oysters, a company based on Loch Na Emmet.

The Oyster Farm takes a product that is increasingly finding new life – increasing processing suggests many courses at restaurants – and is considering localising the beer and whisky it produces, too.

“We’ve always wanted to be a partner with the industry and support it wherever we can,” said Jeff McInnis, operations manager at Last Inches.

“It’s quite a long-standing process for us, but now we are in control of our own destiny.”

Innes Heriot said he expected the £4m investment the farm made last year to pay dividends in the form of 200 jobs at the farm – a boost of 10% for the local economy.

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