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.
Just found three old Islay (or at least Islay related) videos tonight I thought worth sharing. The first one is of Bowmore distillery in 1983 (not sure why it says Port Charlotte in the title/description, as Bowmore distillery is of course in … Bowmore):
The second video shows a ferry in West Loch Tarbert, I assume it’s the Islay ferry. I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s the MV Iona (later also known as Pentalina B when she was sold on):
Before getting to West Loch Tarbert a popular stop is the village of Tarbert. It seems to have not changed that much since 1983:
I hope you found these short clips interesting, I find them fascinating for the views back in time.
I couldn’t help thinking of Colin Furze’s 20ft Fire Tornado Firework Launcher when I saw this (if you don’t know of Colin be warned, he’s a bit mad and has no interest in health and safety. Don’t do his stuff at home). I don’t know how Barin has achieved his video, although I suspect there might have been some computer animation involved. Anyway, here’s an unusual way to present a Lagavulin Islay single malt whisky:
I hope you enjoyed it, I found it quite fascinating watching it swirling around.
As my Portuguese is rather limited (that’s an understatement by the way) I didn’t understand much in tonight’s video (only the few seconds in English to be precise). Still I found this video of Vinicius Bustamante’s visit to Islay quite interesting. They (there seems to have been at least one other couple?) stayed in the Glenmachrie Guesthouse and visited several distilleries:
According to Google Translate’s version of the video description he very much enjoyed Islay, the whisky, the sheep and the beaches, so he hopes to return soon.
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.
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.
Something slightly different this evening. Usually the whiskies or beers I mention on this blog are from Islay or at least somewhere in Argyll. This one is from much further afield (from Stonehaven to be precise), but it has been influenced by Islay. Last weekend I stumbled over this tweet:
Having asked for more information I found out it’s a beer brewed by sixº north in Scotland in collaboration with Brouwerij De Ranke in Belgium, aged in Islay whisky casks. I was also told it was available to order online at EeBria, on an impulse I went ahead and ordered some. It doesn’t come cheap, but I decided it was worth it for a treat. The description reads:
This six malt dark brooding beer, fermented in hand picked Islay Whisky casks for 6 months producing a subtle yet balanced typical Islay infusion with hints of Caramel, Dark Fruits, Oak and Fino Sherry.
A few days later the three bottles (+ three others I had also ordered to taste some other time) had arrived:
This evening it was time to open the first bottle. Keeping in mind that it is 9.2% alcohol I decided one bottle would have to be enough, even though it is only a 330ml bottle. As a pint glass was all that I had available the presentation is a bit lacking, but at least you get an idea:
I’m no good in tasting and tasting notes, but I must say the description of ‘dark brooding’ hits it for me. That’s really what it seems to be. To me it appeared very smooth, velvety, dark and heavy. But also fruity. Very nice. I’ll certainly enjoy the remaining bottles, money well spent.
I know there are other Islay cask aged real ales out there, certainly something I’ll explore further in the future.
Some music for this Friday evening. Islay related in a number of ways: to start with the song is about whisky. Then it is written and performed by a band who often visits Islay. And large parts of the video were filmed on Islay. I think that’s plenty enough reasons to share it here:
Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast is probably mainly known for his whisky related podcasts. However, he also produces videos and I think I probably have shared one or two of his videos before. Recently he published a video about a visit to the Port Ellen Maltings, a place not many get to see, although he kind of picked the wrong day (for reasons explained in the video):
In the video Mark mentions that today only a handful of distilleries do any of their own malting. If memory serves me right there are only about six or seven distilleries left in Scotland who do this, three of them are actually on Islay: Laphroaig, Bowmore and Kilchoman.
Over the Christmas and New Year long weekends I made two batches of he Laphroaig Islay single malt whisky truffles, more about that over the coming days. This morning I decided I felt like making some whisky bread again. There was enough Laphroaig left and a quick rummage through my kitchen showed I had most of the ingredients I wanted (the missing one wasn’t essential), so I set to work based on a bread I had made with Bruichladdich previously.
Here are the ingredients in the order used:
Strong stoneground wholemeal bread flour ~250g
Strong white bread flour ~150g
Wholegrain seeded bread flour ~50g
Roasted chopped hazelnuts ~50g
Sunflower seeds ~50g
(Fast action / Easy bake) Dried yeast ~15g (I used two 7g sachets and a pinch of loose yeast)
Extra virgin olive oil ~2 tablespoons
Islay single malt whisky (in this case Laphroaig 10yo) ~¼pint
Hot water ~¼pint
This is the process I used:
Preheat oven to 220°C and make sure the kitchen is warm (helps the bread to rise)
Measure all dry ingredients into a bowl
In a jug mix the whisky and the hot water (in the original recipe I adopted for this recipe you would use ½pint of warm water. Mixing the room temperature whisky with the hot water should result in a warm mixture)
add the olive oil as well as the whisky and water mixture to the dry ingredients
thoroughly mix/knead the mixture, I let my kitchen machine do the work for about 15 minutes, may be slightly longer
Move dough into large bowl and let rise covered by a tea towel for at least 30 minutes, ideally longer. It won’t rise much, but will rise a bit
Beat down, knead again and put into silicon baking form or onto baking tray. Let rest again (covered with a towel) for at least 20 minutes, ideally longer
Bake at 220°C (fan assisted) for approx 30 minutes
That’s it. Cut open and enjoy. I think it tastes very nice, just with some butter. There’s a mellow Islay whisky taste, but I don’t think it’s overpowering. Very enjoyable.
PS: the non-essential missing ingredient was an egg. I would have liked to glaze the bread with egg and sprinkled it with more sunflower seeds. But that’s not crucially important.