Same 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.
A 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:
As 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.
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.
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.
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.