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A young brewer from Mull and a mainland hostelry have come away with two of the top honours at the 15th Highland and Islands Food and Drink Awards.
Calum Bennett, 24, took the Young Ambassador of the Year title while the Ben Cruachan Inn at Lochawe won the New Business Award.
Held at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, the awards showcase and celebrate excellence and achievement in the food and drink industry in the region.
Raised on the Isle of Mull at Lochdon, Calum went to Salen Primary (Gaelic-medium), Tobermory High School, Edinburgh University, where he achieved an honours degree in geography, then on to Herriot-Watt University for a Masters Degree in Brewing and Distilling.
Calum now lives on to the Isle of Harris and works as head brewer at Loomshed Hebridean Brewery. He has been involved since the beginning in the setting up of what is the first craft brewery on Harris and hopes it will go on to provide new opportunities for the young people of the island.
‘I believe young people should have the opportunity to enter into all levels of the profession through apprenticeship schemes as well as the academic route enabling them to stay in their own rural environment,’ said Calum, who has also been a great advocate for affordable rental housing on the island.
Calum almost missed his award as he hadn’t really expected to win the category outright so once the recipient of the highly commended award had been revealed he switched off.
‘It was a bit of a surprise, to say the least. However, I am passionate about this industry and am extremely proud to be the winner of the Young Ambassador Award.’
The Ben Cruachan Inn scooped its second food and drink award of the year winning the category Best New Business.
The inn, which reopened its doors after a refurbishment in 2017, has grown its culinary reputation for high quality, locally sourced food and has proved popular with locals and visitors.
Co-owners Ian Irvine and Tracey Peedle attended the dinner and were absolutely delighted to bring the award back to Lochawe against some stiff competition.
‘To win Best New Business at the Highland and Islands Food and Drinks Awards couldn’t be more exciting because it highlights exactly what we set out to do when we began the refurbishment to bring the Inn back to life after years of closure,’ said Tracey.
The Ben Cruachan Inn won the gastro pub of the year title at the Food Awards Scotland earlier this year.
Barcaldine-based Highland Fold Ice Cream also made the shortlist for the awards, in the Primary Agricultural Producer of the Year category.