See you next year, Islay (hopefully)

Islay News

Several factors were involved in this decision, but over this belated bank holiday weekend I have made the decision not to travel to Islay this year. Back in March when I wrote Sadly no Islay visit for me for the foreseeable future and also in recent weeks I still had hopes and plans to visit later in the year. I’ve got two weeks off work in October, which I had originally planned for a long Islay visit. But I’ve now decided to make it another staycation in West Berkshire, where I live (and currently work from home. I normally work in Reading, but we’ve been told to work from home until at least the end of the year). I don’t feel I have to justify that decision, but I still would like to explain:

To start with I’m still not comfortable to travel or go anywhere with people in confined spaces. While my GP told me she doesn’t consider me a Covid-19 high risk and I don’t have to shield like some other people I’m still very careful. I’ve read several reports of long term health implications from Covid-19 infections, including heart problems. Having fully recovered and been given a new life after my major heart surgery a few years back I just want to minimise the risks. I haven’t been to a pub or restaurant since March or even February (can’t remember) and obviously haven’t used the dining voucher scheme by the government. I haven’t even been to the beer gardens some of the pubs around where I live have opened. I’d love to, but I must admit I’m feeling physically uncomfortable even when walking past them. Some will say I’m overreacting, that might well be, but that’s how I feel.

Going on the long trip to Scotland with these feelings doesn’t feel right to me. It wouldn’t feel like a holiday. The journey (with over night stops, ferry crossing etc) would be very stressful and even on Islay I couldn’t fully enjoy it. Sure, most of the time I would spend in the cottage and outdoors away from people, but even though it’s probably safe (I know the restaurants, distilleries etc all follow the latest guidelines and do their best to keep everyone safe) I wouldn’t feel comfortable to go for a meal, go to a pub/bar or visiting a distillery. Visiting any friends isn’t very realistic either, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into anyone’s home.

Finally the news over the last week or so have further tipped me over to the decision not to go. As I’m sure everyone is aware the infections rates, R-values and whatever else they measure have gone up. While it’s probably too early to say that there is talk of a second wave. Across the continent we have significant increases, same as earlier this year where the UK was lagging the continent by a few weeks. Some restrictions have already been put in place, I fear further restrictions might come over the coming weeks. For me personally not the time to plan a trip, just too insecure (I’ve seen it very closely, some people I work with had to cancel their holiday in France the day before they were due to depart as the rules changed).

I’m obviously very disappointed that I won’t visit Islay this year. I hope the situation will improve next year, I’m hoping that there will be an Islay walking week again and that I will have the confidence to travel. Should that turn out to be too early then I’ll have to wait. All I know is that at some point I will be back.

To finish I’d just like to make clear that this is a purely personal decision. It’s no guidance, direction, anything for anyone else. If you want to go and it feels right for you to go, by all means visit Islay. I’ll be happy for you to go, share your pictures and videos and experiences so that others can enjoy them as well. Islay will welcome you, many businesses on Islay are waiting for you, support them in this difficult time.

A nice Islay beer, the Ardbeer

Islay Whisky News & Links

As I’m starting a long weekend, a belated bank holiday weekend, this evening (taking a day in lieu after having to work on the August bank holiday Monday) I thought this is a good time to enjoy a special beer:

Picture of a glass of porter beer with a can of Ardbeg Smoky Porter next to it
Ardbeer, the Ardbeg Smoky Porter

The beer in question is (or better, was, as I’ve finished it by now) the Ardbeg The Shortie Smoky Porter, a one off release as far as I understand. It’s also sold out by now, at least on the Ardbeg website (there might still be places you can get it, I don’t know). The Whisky Exchange blog has a nice post about it with a lot of background information.

While not the type of beer I usually drink (I prefer Golden Ales and Pale Ales) I quite like this one. It has a nice smoky taste, but it’s not overpowering to me. Just the right amount. A bit heavier than the beers I usually drink, but again not too much. I think I’ve got five cans left (minimum as well as maximum purchase was two boxes of four cans), I’ll enjoy them slowly over the coming weeks or even months.

Great video of the Corryvreckan whirlpool between Jura and Scarba

Jura Excursions

Recently a quite interesting visitor was spotted around Islay and Jura, the Thunder Child II, a very impressive boat. The first XSV20 built by Safehaven Marine in Co Cork, Ireland. Unfortunately it had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but they hope to set a new record for a trans Atlantic crossing soon. This week they didn’t go that far, but visited one of the local attractions where they filmed a great video of the famous Corryvreckan whirlpool:

I’m pretty sure Thunder Child II could have easily coped with even wilder conditions, but even here the waves and views are impressive. I also found their way to “land” their drone after filming them quite interesting (you’ll have to watch the video to see how they do it), first time I’ve seen it done that way.

I can only recommend a boat tour to the Corryvreckan, I went with Jura Boat Tours in June 2019 and enjoyed every minute of it. Seeing the whirlpool up close is a great experience, even if it is running at less than half of its full strength.

Dave’s and Neil’s Islay distillery visits video

Islay on Video

Just enjoying a wee dram of Laphroaig Cask Strength (Batch 009) Islay single malt after a few Scottish real ales (from Drygate, Harviestoun and Fyne Ales. Unfortunately Islay Ales don’t ship to the mainland at the moment) earlier. So there’s nothing better than watching a nice video from an Islay visit with plenty distillery tours in December 2019:

I hope you’ll enjoy the video as well, maybe with a wee dram or two?

Nice walking on Islay (and Jura and Colonsay) video

Islay on Video

While we don’t know when, if it’s going to be this year or next year, at some point we will be able to go walking in the beautiful wide open spaces of Islay, Jura and Colonsay again. Until then we have to watch videos like this, showing walking on mainly Islay, but also Jura and Colonsay, in all weathers, from beautiful sunshine to pouring rain:

There are many ways to walk on Islay: you can go on organised walking holidays like in this video with About Argyll, you can come for the Islay walking week or you can go just for yourself whenever you want and wherever you want.

Watch a sunset over Islay, Jura, Gigha and Cara

Islay on Video

Well, that didn’t entirely go to plan. When the Coronavirus lockdown started I had high hopes and plans to blog here more often and share all kinds of things. Initially that went reasonably well. And then I kind of lost my mojo as the weeks dragged past. Haven’t posted here since late April. But I’m feeling like I’m slowly getting my mojo back, so let’s give it another go. Starting with a long video hopefully helping you to wind down after a long day, best watched in full screen mode with a drink of your choice:

This video was filmed at the start of the lockdown, but even with some of the easing of the restrictions most of us won’t be able to watch a sunset like this for a while. Thanks to Scott for sharing.

Support Gráinne Brady’s 2nd album Newcomer

Islay Music

Regular readers might remember me writing about Gráinne Brady’s debut album just over a year ago, launched at the Islay Sessions 2018. Hopefully there will be Islay Sessions 2020, be it live on Islay or virtual (Fèis Ìle 2020 is moving online), as I’m hoping we will get to hear more from her there. Why? Because Gráinne is currently finishing her second album. I should have posted it earlier as now there are only a few days left, but if you’re quick you can still support her in fundraising to finalise and launch the album:

If you’re interested in supporting her go to Gráinne’s Indiegogo campaign for Newcomer and make your choice which goodies to pick (depending on your contribution). They range from digital downloads over signed CDs and/or launch tickets to a house concert.

For more also visit Gráinne’s website, follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Also check out her Bandcamp page.

My Islay Easter dram from Bruichladdich (and some chocolate)

Islay Whisky News & Links

If it hadn’t been for the Coronavirus I would have been out and about this weekend, warming up for the Islay walking week in a week’s time. But obviously neither of that is happening or will happen. So I thought I should have at least some treat. During my last shopping trip I decided to raid the Easter egg aisle even though the chocolate is vastly overpriced in comparison to a normal bar of the same chocolate. But I found something I thought a bit different. Yesterday evening I decided to let some of my Twitter followers pick which one of two Bruichladdich valinches I should open. Here’s the outcome, here’s what I enjoyed today:

Dual before and after picture of my Bruichladdich Port Charlotte SHC: 01 2006 Islay single malt whisky and some golden chocolate
My Islay Easter dram from Bruichladdich (and some chocolate)

The whisky is a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte heavily peated Islay single malt, SHC: 01, 2006. Cask 2134, first fill sherry. Distilled 4/Oct/2006, aged 11 years. My bottle is number 918 of 1,134.

The chocolate is a “single origin dark chocolate teardrop”. Or to be precise, “an intense dark chocolate decorated egg in a golden shimmer using Fino De Aroma cocoa beans sourced from Colombia”.

I’m not going to bore you with tasting notes, my taste buds aren’t developed enough to do much good there. But I can say the whisky tastes fantastic, nice and fiery (that’s as far as I go). The chocolate is nice as well, although I didn’t taste anything different with the golden shimmer (which if I interpret the ingredients list correctly isn’t real gold anyway, but Iron Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Sorry to disappoint you on that side).

Oh, and for those of you interested in the result of the poll, the SHC won with 17 votes out of 29. If I remember correctly it had an even higher lead earlier on, but the VOC pulled back a bit in the later stages (the poll was open for about 13-14 hours). I haven’t decided when yet, but there’s a good chance the VOC will also be opened at some point during or shortly after the lockdown.

Screenshot of the poll which Islay dram to pick
Screenshot of the poll which Islay dram to pick

Donald Trump plans to buy Islay

Islay News

The cousin of a friend of mine has an uncle who works in the White House who has a colleague who has access to the innermost circle of the American president. From him we’ve just learned about this most fascinating development:

Donald Trump is planning to buy Islay. All of it. The whole island.

Remember the story about Donald Trump wanting to buy Greenland? As you probably know that plan failed. So now Trump has set his sights elsewhere. And picked Islay. In a secret transcript Trump says:

Islay is such a tremendous island, it has the bestest whiskey in the whole world, Americans love it. Islay is hugely popular! When there’s a feature about Islay on the TV the ratings go up in England, it’s bigger than a Premier League game or Dance Off!! Amazing!!! So I’m going to buy it for America.

secret White House transcript

Trump is understood to have reached out to the Scottish and British government to negotiate the deal, believed to be worth in the trillions if Trump is successful with his outrageous bid. Trump also said:

This will be an amazing deal we will offer Scotchland. And once we’ve completed it I will proclaim my beautiful daughter Ivanka as the first queen of Islay. We will also introduce the proper spelling of whiskey to Islay and teach everyone how to best enjoy a stiff Islay scotch, with a nice big lump of fresh Alaskan ice!

secret White House transcript

This will certainly be a developing story to watch…..

Islay beaches by drone video

Islay on Video

Let’s visit some Islay beaches from the air. Stuart Lewis visited Islay in 2018 and filmed a variety of beaches ranging from the Singing Sands over Kilchoman beach to the small beach at the pier in Port Charlotte from his drone. Take a look:

I hope you enjoyed this aerial tour of some of Islay’s beautiful sunny beaches. Which beach is your favourite?