Two interesting Islay whisky links

Islay Whisky News & LinksI need to share more links and web findings of Islay things I come across again. After all that’s what blogging originally was all about. So today I give you two interesting Islay whisky related links:

If I’m honest I’m not very impressed with a lot of the articles about Islay in the travel sections of many newspapers. Apart from a few exceptions they are usually written by someone who flew in for 2-3 days, did a distillery tour or two and had a few nice meals. But as I said, there are exceptions. Liza Weisstuch knows what she’s writing about. She’s been to Islay many times, I met her back in June 2011 (when she was on Islay for some real whisky experience at Bruichladdich) during one of her visits. And now she’s a got a big feature in the New York Times, online and if I understand it correctly on the cover of the travel section in the print edition next weekend. It’s called The Whisky Chronicles.

I’m not sure I can fully grasp the point of the second link for today. In my mind Islay is about slowing down, taking your time to enjoy. However, in July there will be a rather extreme whisky distillery tour on Islay and Jura:

A new ‘extreme’ whisky tour will take participants by foot, bicycle and kayak to visit 10 island distilleries over 60 miles, in just three days.

Apparently you won’t get much time to actually tour the distilleries or enjoy the samples (although you can collect the miniatures to saviour later). But if you’re still interested you can read more in WORLD’S ‘MOST EXTREME’ WHISKY TOUR LAUNCHES.

Sadly no Islay walking week 2018 for me

Islay EventsEarlier today I posted the first picture on my Islay photo blog for almost three weeks. The reason for that is that almost three weeks ago I badly injured my right leg and spent the first two weeks almost entirely in bed as I was unable to walk. Last weekend I started to take my first tentative steps again, well, let’s call it some very bad limping.

While there has been improvement over the last week I’m still limping and expect it will take at least another week or two until I can walk normally again, let alone drive. Going on long and strenuous walks will probably take me several more weeks if not months. With this year’s Islay walking week only a week away now it became painfully (pun intended) clear to me over a week ago that I would not be able to participate.

I’m very disappointed that I will not be able to join this year’s walks and meet old and new friends. It is also frustrating as to my knowledge I am the only person who has completed at least one walk on every single Islay walking week since they started 15 years ago. Obviously this run will now come to an end. I wish those able to go fantastic walks, great weather and a wonderful week. Depending on how my recovery goes I’m hoping to be back on Islay in June or later during the summer.

PS: I’m still very pleased with the speech recognition software I installed some time ago. As I’m still having to elevate my leg as much as possible to reduce the swelling it is very helpful to be able to just lean back, put my leg up and dictate this blog entry.

Islay Sessions memories with Jenn & Laura-Beth

Islay MusicLiving and working in the south of England I don’t get many opportunities to hear live traditional/folk music, in particular from the vibrant Scottish scene. The main opportunity for me are my regular Islay visits, in particular the Islay Sessions when I can. That’s where I got to know Jenn & Laura Beth in November 2017 (after hearing Laura-Beth back in 2015). The sound quality isn’t as good as I would have liked (my microphone or more likely my recording capabilities struggled with the louder sections), but here’s a nice memory from the concert at Bruichladdich Hall:

Now here are some good news for those living in the south of England who would like to hear the two live and/or refresh memories from the Islay Sessions: They will play two shows in the south in early March.

I’ve got a ticket for the latter, very much looking forward to the concert! If you live further north (or in Belgium, they are coming over in Sep) check their website for further shows.

Update:

Unfortunately these two concerts (and more) had to be cancelled due to the “Beast fae the East” and “Storm Emma”, I hope they can be rescheduled for some other time. As a tiny consolation I’ll try to edit the remaining footage I’ve got from the Islay Sessions this weekend and get them uploaded.

Start preparing for the Walk Islay walking week 2018

Islay EventsIf I counted correctly the 16th Islay walking week will be taking place in just over two months. Starting on the 8th of April 2018 there will be 6 days of walks on Islay, Jura and Colonsay. The detailed programme will be published soon, as of writing this you can find an overview of the planned walks on the Walk Islay page.

Picture of a group of walkers near a loch (lake), a large flock of geese flying above
Walking on the Oa during an Islay walking week a few years ago

Some of the walks which caught my eye:

  • Walk 2 – Beinn Dubh and Sgorr nam Faoileann – the rarely visited eastern peaks of Islay
  • Walk 5 – Across the sea to Colonsay for a circular walk to the Arandora Star memorial and Pig’s Paradise
  • Walk 8 – Across the Sound to Jura and over the hills to Craighouse with a ride back!

Which walks caught your eye and will make you reach for your walking boots?

Cottage and ferry are booked, I’m looking forward to be back on Islay walking in the beautiful landscape. Hoping to meet many old and new friends during the walks and elsewhere!

Combining CSS and JS and Islay – News about Islay Conf

Islay EventsIf you know what CSS and JS are as well as like Islay and Islay whisky there might be just the event for you in 2018. Islay Conf has been talked about since 2012 (see the @IslayConf Twitter account) and the original plans were quite ambitious as they were hoping to hold the conference on Islay. Due to the size of the event(s) and the complexity of organising it they had to change tack and slightly reduce their ambitions. Still, if you like your Islay whisky as well as either want to speak about coding or want to listen to others speaking about it this might be for you:

Two conferences take place in Edinburgh in summer 2018: ScotlandCSS on 18/Jul/2018 an ScotlandJS on 19 & 20/Jul/2018. Linked to these conferences they have arranged a partnership with Rabbies (a regular visitor to Islay) for two 4 day Islay tours, leaving on 13/Jul/2018 (i.e. before the conferences) and 23/Jul/2018 (i.e. after the conferences). You’ll get to see 5-6 Islay distilleries, some of Islay’s amazing beaches (I’m pretty sure Machir Bay is on the list when the visit Kilchoman distillery, I’ve seen them there many times) and possibly the impressive Kildalton Cross.

Be aware that entry fees and accommodation are not included in the tour price, they need to be paid separately (see the tour details on the Rabbies page). You can read more in the small print from the email I received earlier:

Availability
There are 16 seats on each bus tour.

Costs
The tour price is simply that. It does not include accommodation, entrance fees or cover meals.

Accommodation
Accommodation needs to be arranged with the tour company when booking.

There is little accommodation on Islay. The main options include sharing with housemates in a cottage within the Bowmore distillery. Being targeted at families and groups they do not have a way of locking bedroom doors.

If you get in quick you can book a single room in one of the local B&Bs if that’d be your preference.

Code of Conduct
These tours are open to the general public and ScotlandCSS or ScotlandJS volunteers will NOT be present.

This unfortunately means we cannot put in place or enforce a meaningful Code of Conduct.

If you need more information I believe your best bet is to contact the organisers via the @IslayConf Twitter account.

Islay Sessions 2017 video #1: At the Port Charlotte Hotel

Islay MusicAlmost a month since the event and I finally managed to get my act together to edit my first longer video from the Islay Sessions 2017. I’ve decided to go slightly out of sequence and start with the later evening sessions in the bar of the Port Charlotte Hotel, where everyone gathered after Adam’s and Mark’s Concert in the Conservatory (which I’m aiming to edit next).

The musicians include Adam Sutherland, Marc Clement, Jenn and Laura-Beth, members of Tannara (and Megan MacDonald), Gráinne Nic Bhrádaigh, Emma Tomlinson as well as Ron and Mhairi from the Joy Dunlop Trio. I hope I haven’t missed/forgotten anyone…

But now it’s really time for the video, half an hour of beautiful tunes, laughter and joy:

I hope you’ll enjoy the tunes and the video transports a bit of the joy of the evening into your lounge, study or wherever you’re reading and watching this. More to come over the next few weeks.

Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook launched

Islay MusicSometimes a delayed ferry can be a good thing. I’m usually booked on the afternoon ferry when leaving after one of my Islay visits. This November visit Calmac called to inform me that due to delays in the dry dock (the MV Hebridean Isles was having her annual overhaul) the one ferry timetable would be running slightly longer and they had to move me to a ferry leaving in the evening. Initially I wasn’t too happy as it meant I would arrive at my hotel (which I had already booked and paid on one of those non-changeable, non-refundable deals) much later than planned, but then an unexpected benefit turned up:

As it turned out the long anticipated launch of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook took place the afternoon of the day I was leaving. Under normal circumstances I would have missed it, but because I was now on a later ferry I was able to attend.

The launch took place at the Islay House in Bridgend, a very nice venue for the event. After some mingling and chatting with various people in the foyer we were asked to move over into one of the rooms for the main launch event. Lynn MacDonald opened the proceedings, talking about how the project came to pass and more. Kenneth Thomson spoke about some of the songs and poems included in the collection and how he came across some of them. Finally a representative from Acair Books (unfortunately I’m not sure of her name) spoke about working on the project and the importance of recording the old Gaelic songs and poems. Then it was time for some of the songs. Various singers including Mòd Gold Medal winner 2017 Alasdair Currie sang a variety of songs, some with audience participation. After the music we enjoyed a few biscuits and cup of tea/coffee while talking about the event and buying our copies of the songbook. A very enjoyable afternoon!

The songbook itself is a lovingly collated and designed book, not only for singers and Gaelic speakers, but for everyone (including me who doesn’t know much Gaelic apart from a few words and is musically challenged). Each song receives two pages, on the left are the notes, on the right the words in both Gaelic as well as an English translation. Various beautiful black and white pictures of Islay are spread through the book. Lynn and Kenneth provide an introduction and foreword while at the end of the book we find author biographies. The songbook is ring bound, as someone explained to me that makes it easier to place it on a note stand when performing a song.

A collage of impressions of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook
Impressions from the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook

You can buy the songbook at local outlets on Islay (I know C&E Roy stock it, there might be others) as well as online at the publisher Acair Books. For more information visit the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook Facebook page or follow the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook Twitter feed.

To finish here’s a video with some of the performances from the launch event at Islay House:

(Sorry for the shaky video, I had to handheld my mobile phone as I had run out of memory on my main video camera)

From the Islay Sessions 2017

Sadly that’s the Islay Sessions 2017 almost over. Off to the bar in a minute after a fantastic concert in the conservatory by Innes Watson (with the help of a few friends at the end):

This was filmed with the phone, I hope the quality is reasonable. I’m hoping to upload more video from a better camera later once I had the time to edit it.

The sessions were amazing, great artists delivering fantastic performances. More later.

Islay Sessions 2017 coming up in November

Islay MusicLess than a month to go to the Islay Sessions 2017 taking place in Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich. And after having to miss it last year due to my heart operation I’ll be back to enjoy them even more this year. This years programme includes a variety of artists, some I’ve seen before, others will be new to me.

Picture of Adam Sutherland and Laura-Beth Salter performing on stage
Adam and Laura-Beth enjoying a tune during the Islay Sessions 2015

The Islay Sessions 2017 start on Friday 17/Nov with a Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel. Adam Sutherland and Mark Clement will be performing. After the concert there will be informal sessions in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar, I expect until late into the night.

There will be workshops on Saturday morning, the participants will then also perform at the big concert on Saturday evening 18/Nov at Bruichladdich Hall. I hope many local musicians young and old will join Tannara, the Joy Dunlop Trio and Jenn & Laura Beth.

The weekend will close with another Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel on Sun 19/Nov (followed by more informal sessions in the bar I hope), this time with Innes Watson.

Picture of Innes Watson playing guitar at the Islay Sessions
Innes Watson playing guitar at the Islay Sessions 2015

I understand there will also be a whisky tour during the weekend, details haven’t been posted yet as of writing this. Check the Islay Sessions Twitter account and the Islay Sessions Facebook page for updates. For tickets to the concerts go to the Islay Sessions Eventbrite page.

Islay at the Birdfair 2017

Islay EventsSame as last year (and the year before. And the year before. And the year before. etc) Islay is represented at the Birdfair in Rutland. There’s one difference this year though, this year the Islay stand is a double stand. Much easier to find and more space to sample some of the liquid offerings from Islay and Jura while discussing the bird- and other wildlife. Here are two impressions of the stand:

As you can see there’s whisky and gin from all the distilleries as well as beer from Islay Ales. There’s also some generous helpings of Walker’s shortbread I’m told (I think it might be what’s visible just right of the table under the ‘visit The Oa’ poster). So if you’re at the Birdfair head over to Marquee 7 Stand 14/15 to meet the Islay crew, have a chat and enjoy a sample.