Some interesting news for avid readers on Islay over the next few weeks. I’ve been bookcrossing for many years (according to my bookcrossing profile I joined September 2007) and have released books in Swindon and Aldermaston Wharf over the years. I thought about taking some to Islay during my holidays and release them there, but for various reasons never got round to it. I think there have been a few individual releases over the years, but this year the Islay Book Festival team has decided to make Islay a bookcrossing heaven:
Two years ago Fraser Shaw passed away, but his memory and his music live on, in particular through the Islay Sessions and the Fraser Shaw Trust. In the Fraser Shaw Trust Fraser’s family and friends have worked to finish a song book of Fraser’s compositions and record them. Both will be published this year, the proceeds will be used to support Multiple Sclerosis help organisations and activities in Argyll.
I don’t know if these were his own tunes or someone else’s, here are some memories of Fraser playing together with other musicians at the Port Charlotte Hotel during the Islay Sessions 2012:
But back to the future, in particular the upcoming CD launch. Three events are coming up over the next few weeks and months:
Back in 2008 Becky walked (in stages) all the way around the coast of Islay. Today I came across a similar challenge two men are planning, although slightly wetter. About a decade ago the Islay Masters Swimming club swam across Loch Indaal from Bowmore to Bruichladdich (or was it the other way around? Not entirely sure), crossed the Sound of Islay and even tackled the famous Corryvreckan. Justin Fornal and Chad Anderson are planning an even bigger, more ambitious swim:
The Great Islay Swim. In a week in July 2017 they plan to swim all around Islay. Starting from Ardbeg they will swim clockwise around Islay in seven days. Swimming between 4-8 hours a day and covering around 15-20 kilometres per day. Pulling a whisky cask they are planning to fill with whisky from all the distilleries (similar to the Islay Pillage a number of years ago), which will later be bottled and sold. And they’re fundraising for the RNLI.
Very interesting to see it from this angle, especially as I thought only parts of the stern remain now. I might be wrong, but it looks to me as if there might be something left of the bow hiding below the water (visible towards the end of the video when he’s flying above it looking down)? What do you think?
Islay farmers are well known for their excellent beef, pork and lamb. The fresh sea air and salty grass certainly helping with the nice taste of the meat. Soon there will be a fourth variety of meat coming directly from Islay: Haggis. A Haggis farm is to open on Islay today.
The farm will start with 100 Haggis, but expansion plans have already been approved to grow this to 1,000 Haggis. Being located on Islay the expectation is the Haggis meat will have a salty and peaty taste influence. Especially over the winter (and therefore in the prime season just before Burns Night) the grass will be complemented with draff from the whisky distilleries, meaning the Haggis will go even better with a good Islay whisky.
The location of the new farm is on the Rhinns of Islay, between Port Charlotte and Kilchiaran:
It is expected that the Haggis will thrive on this rugged land, finding plenty of food (as already mentioned supplemented with the draff from the distilleries during the harsh winter months) and growing and fattening quickly. The uneven and hilly landscape is their natural habitat, so they will feel right at home.
Initially most of the sales are expected to be local on Islay, but as its fame spreads the owners expect to export to the mainland and even internationally. First enquiries by international importers have already been received even before the farm started operating.
Two Islay whisky news links this evening, one I consider to be a good news, the other is more bad news. Pour yourself a wee dram of a good Islay single malt whisky and read on:
Let me start with the not so good news: The Times (£ or registration required to read full article, sorry) reports Business Rates – Rises pour misery on island distilleries. For the big distilleries while not nice I should think they will be able to manage. For the smaller independent ones I think a 40% increase will be quite a bit tougher.
Remember the Vote for Islay High at FilmG 2017 post from a month ago? Some excellent news this evening, as via Twitter I’ve just learned that the Islay High School / Àrd-sgoil Ìle submission has won in the Best Learners (‘The film where the Gaelic dialogue is best orated in a clear and fluid manner, from a class of Gaelic learners.’) category:
No, I don’t know if their pizza oven will be peat fired. I don’t even know when it will open. All I know is that (hopefully soon) a new pizzeria will open on Islay. In Shore Street in Bowmore to be precise, in the building that most recently housed the Holy Coo restaurant.
Yes, it’s the first of the month. No, it’s not April. It’s February. In other words, this is not an April Fools. Some rather interesting news have come out about Islay and whisky legend (or is it whisky and Islay legend?) Jim McEwan in connection with the currently under construction Ardnahoe distillery overlooking the Sound of Islay. From the press release:
World-renowned whisky distiller Jim McEwan has been appointed Production Director of Ardnahoe Distillery on Islay – 18 months after he retired.
The Islay-born whisky industry icon, who has 53 years’ experience under his belt, has been hired by Hunter Laing & Co, the family-run Glasgow whisky company behind Ardnahoe, the first distillery to be built on Islay for more than a decade.
Ardnahoe is being built on the north-east coast of Islay and will become the ninth distillery on the island. It expects to start distilling whisky in early 2018.
As Production Director at Ardnahoe Distillery, McEwan is playing a pivotal role at the distillery for the Laing family – father Stewart and sons Andrew and Scott. From shaping its design and installing his preferred pieces of distilling equipment, to fine-tuning the production processes and selecting casks, he will influence every step of the whisky-making journey at Ardnahoe.
The distillery, which will include a visitor centre café, shop and tasting room, will produce traditional peated Islay single malt.
McEwan will also work on a number of other as-yet-secret creative projects that are sure to make waves across the spirits world.
Many will of course know Jim from his roles at Bruichladdich and Bowmore in his previous lives. As Master Distiller at Bruichladdich he’s remembered for famous whiskies like the Octomore and the mysterious Black Art. Not to forget bringing gin to Islay with The Botanist. Before joining Bruichladdich he had spent 38 years at Bowmore distillery in almost every role imaginable after starting his career there in 1963 as a 15 year old apprentice cooper.
Jim is quoted as saying:
I had intended to ride off into the sunset, but I’ve known Stewart for many years and have always been impressed with Hunter Laing whisky. When the call came in, it really excited me.
It felt as though the stars were aligning; the amazing location, my history with Islay, my relationship with the Laing family, their passion for the project, the calibre of architect Iain Hepburn, plus my chance to get involved with the design of the distillery for the first time in my career, all made it feel like it was ‘meant to happen’.
Similarly Andrew Laing, Director of Hunter Laing & Co, said:
It’s hard to think of anyone better qualified than Jim McEwan to develop the character of the newest Islay malt whisky. Jim has lived and breathed Islay whisky his whole life and is bringing all of his passion and knowledge to Ardnahoe Distillery. The three of us are hugely impressed with the whiskies he’s produced in the past and can sleep easy knowing that he is in ultimate charge of whisky-making at Ardnahoe
For further news and updates you can follow @Ardnahoe distillery on Twitter, including expected announcements about their planned participation in the Islay Festival in late May.
I’ve heard of various ways to get across the North Channel from Islay to Ireland (or vice versa). By plane. By boat (mainly RIB). By Laser sailing dinghy. By kayak. By stand up paddle board. I don’t think I’ve heard of swimming before. That might be about to change:
I don’t know more than is mentioned in the blog post New Swimspiration, The Celtic Quadrant (and the links posted there) I came across today. Of the four swims included in the quadrant one is the following:
The Oa Channel Swim, a 45 km 6-person relay between the Isle of Islay and Ireland in 11°C to 13°C water at £200 per swimmer with a window between 15–20 July 2017 with an estimated time of 18+ hours for crossing.