Islayschki Vodka to be launched

Islay NewsWhisky and gin are already well established on Islay and Jura, there are also plans to distil rum on Islay. Not to forget Islay Ales being brewed in Bridgend. Now efforts are underway to add another spirit to this portfolio, vodka to be precise:

Label for Islayschki Vodka

Following Roman Abramovich’s Islay visit a few years ago there will now also be Islay vodka, to be called Islayschki Vodka. The vodka will be distilled in a new purpose-built distillery near Port Ellen. From what I understand the distillery will be a joint venture by a Russian conglomerate and a Scottish spirit merchant.

Not much is known about the taste profile yet, but I understand it will be a fusion of continental freshness and Islay’s maritime salty influences. While it is mainly to be enjoyed neat it can also be used in cocktails and mixed with other drinks.

Will you try the new Islayschki Vodka?

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 High School wins award at FilmG 2018

Islay NewsRemember a few weeks ago I mentioned voting for the Islay entries at FilmG 2018? Unfortunately neither of the Islay entries won the people’s choice award but at least one prize returns to Islay again. Yes, you read that right, returns to Islay again. Same as last year Islay High has won the Gaelic Award for Learners:

Congratulations! Will they get to keep the prize if they win it again next year?

Highlights of yesterday’s awards ceremony will be broadcast on BBC Alba at 21:00 on Sunday 11/Feb/2018 (and I believe be available on the iPlayer afterwards).

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!

Please vote for Islay’s FilmG entries

Islay NewsEarlier this year I asked you to vote for Islay High at FilmG 2017. Almost a year has passed and now it’s time to vote for FilmG 2018 (GD/EN). However, if you read the title of this post carefully you’ll have noticed a subtle but important difference. I’m not just asking you to vote for Islay High’s entry, I’m asking you to vote for Islay’s entries. Plural. For this year there are two entries from Islay:

Let’s start with the newcomer: Bowmore Primary School has entered for the first time with a wonderful story of the Bowmore crimebusters apprehending a cake thief:

To vote for it you need to go to either the CÈIC NA FÌRINN (GD) or the CÈIC NA FÌRINN (EN) page (depending on your language skills) and click on the yellow voting button. You can also read more about their entry.

Moving on to the older ones at Islay High and their entry for this year. They have a strange and spooky tale of a jealous wife:

To vote for them you’ll have to visit the A’ BHEAN EUDACH (GD) or A’ BHEAN EUDACH (EN) page (again depending on your language skills) and use the yellow voting button. Again there’s a synopsis of the film you can read as well.

The awards ceremony will be broadcast on BBC Alba on Sunday 11/Feb/2018, so get voting soon to help Islay being well represented at the event.

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.

Video from the Great Islay Swim

Islay NewsA quick update to the Updates from the Great Islay Swim posted last week. Bruichladdich have posted a nice video from the Sound of Islay leg of the swim, taking them from McArthur’s Head lighthouse to Rhuvaal lighthouse. I’ve walked from Bunnahabhain to Rhuvaal several times, I can’t imagine swimming all that (not to mention the rest from McArthur’s Head to Bunnahabhain). Watch the swimmers in action in the sun and the rain:

For more and where to bid for the pillaged whisky see The Great Islay Swim.

Updates from the Great Islay Swim

Islay NewsBack in May I wrote about Swimming around Islay (for science and charity), Justin Fornal and Chad Anderson planning to swim around Islay this summer. Well, the Great Islay Swim is now well under way and you can find various updates online:

From Laphroaig John Campbell gives them his support:

Several blogs and distillery websites write about them:

Taking a rest at the end of a swim:

Islay Sea-Adventures has a few posts with video and pictures:

And I’m sure there’s more out there. If you have or spot any further pictures, videos or reports from the swim please post them in the comments so that everyone can see them.

Mac Ìle CD with Fraser Shaw’s Islay tunes

Islay MusicAs I’m writing this The Islay Sessioners will be playing some beautiful tunes at Bruichladdich Hall on Islay, for today is the Fraser Shaw Islay tunes CD launch I mentioned back in May. Sadly I can’t be there myself as my recent holiday didn’t last long enough, so I’m doing the next best thing, listening to the CD.

Picture of the outside of Mac Ìle – The Music of Fraser Shaw
The outside of Mac Ìle – The Music of Fraser Shaw

I picked up my copy from the Ardnahoe distillery shop in Islay House Square last week, it will also be available at Bruichladdich distillery and I assume at the Port Charlotte Hotel, a big supporter. Probably also other places on Islay. And if you can’t get to Islay to get your copy you can of course order it online from The Fraser Shaw Trust website.

I can’t share any tunes here, so for now the beautifully designed CD (artwork by Somhairle MacDonald) is all I can give you.

Picture of the inside of Mac Ìle – The Music of Fraser Shaw
The inside of Mac Ìle – The Music of Fraser Shaw

But of course the music is the most important part. Of course I’m not a music critic, my knowledge of music extends to ‘I love it’, ‘I like it’ and ‘No, thanks, that’s not for me’. This CD is firmly in the first category, I love it. My favourites are the Pipe Set (#5) and Cairn’s Set (#9), I’m going to quote Ciara MacTaggart from her review in The Ileach:

There is a pipe set on track 5 that is powerful and toe-tapping with harmonious piping riffs. The type of tunes that fill you with energy and tunes as a musician you want to learn immediately. Track 9 Cairn’s Set does something similar. It has the power to turn stressful worries into a positive, lifting your mood immediately. In fact, the entire album has this contagious air about it.

It should be obvious that I highly recommend it. A fantastic job by all the musicians and everyone else involved in this project. I had the pleasure to see many of them during the Islay Sessions over the last few years and hope to see and hear them again in November.

Bookcrossing on Islay

Islay NewsSome 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:

Sounds good to me, hopefully there will be many Islay based bookcrossers soon (of course visitors can also join in), sending books on journeys from various locations on Islay!