Dave’s and Neil’s Islay distillery visits video

Islay on Video

Just enjoying a wee dram of Laphroaig Cask Strength (Batch 009) Islay single malt after a few Scottish real ales (from Drygate, Harviestoun and Fyne Ales. Unfortunately Islay Ales don’t ship to the mainland at the moment) earlier. So there’s nothing better than watching a nice video from an Islay visit with plenty distillery tours in December 2019:

I hope you’ll enjoy the video as well, maybe with a wee dram or two?

My Islay Easter dram from Bruichladdich (and some chocolate)

Islay Whisky News & Links

If it hadn’t been for the Coronavirus I would have been out and about this weekend, warming up for the Islay walking week in a week’s time. But obviously neither of that is happening or will happen. So I thought I should have at least some treat. During my last shopping trip I decided to raid the Easter egg aisle even though the chocolate is vastly overpriced in comparison to a normal bar of the same chocolate. But I found something I thought a bit different. Yesterday evening I decided to let some of my Twitter followers pick which one of two Bruichladdich valinches I should open. Here’s the outcome, here’s what I enjoyed today:

Dual before and after picture of my Bruichladdich Port Charlotte SHC: 01 2006 Islay single malt whisky and some golden chocolate
My Islay Easter dram from Bruichladdich (and some chocolate)

The whisky is a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte heavily peated Islay single malt, SHC: 01, 2006. Cask 2134, first fill sherry. Distilled 4/Oct/2006, aged 11 years. My bottle is number 918 of 1,134.

The chocolate is a “single origin dark chocolate teardrop”. Or to be precise, “an intense dark chocolate decorated egg in a golden shimmer using Fino De Aroma cocoa beans sourced from Colombia”.

I’m not going to bore you with tasting notes, my taste buds aren’t developed enough to do much good there. But I can say the whisky tastes fantastic, nice and fiery (that’s as far as I go). The chocolate is nice as well, although I didn’t taste anything different with the golden shimmer (which if I interpret the ingredients list correctly isn’t real gold anyway, but Iron Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Sorry to disappoint you on that side).

Oh, and for those of you interested in the result of the poll, the SHC won with 17 votes out of 29. If I remember correctly it had an even higher lead earlier on, but the VOC pulled back a bit in the later stages (the poll was open for about 13-14 hours). I haven’t decided when yet, but there’s a good chance the VOC will also be opened at some point during or shortly after the lockdown.

Screenshot of the poll which Islay dram to pick
Screenshot of the poll which Islay dram to pick

New Year’s Eve (and soon Day) Islay whisky

Islay Whisky News & Links

On Christmas Eve (and Christmas Day) it was a Laphroaig, now it’s time for a different Islay whisky for New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s Day once it has arrived). On my personal blog I wrote about the music I’m listening to this evening and what I’m eating, but of course the Islay whisky belongs on this blog. For tonight we’re travelling over to the Rhinns of Islay, for a special Bruichladdich:

Picture of a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Bourbon Cask 2003 Valinch Islay single malt whisky
New Year’s Eve (and soon Day) Islay whisky

I’m not entirely sure how long I’ve had this bottle, but as it was distilled in 2003 and according to the label aged for 14 years I must have filled and bought it some time in 2017. It is cask no 917, a bourbon barrel, distilled 15/Oct/2003. My bottle is no 221 of 323, bottled at 56.8%.

It’s very nice, so I’m going to enjoy some tonight and some more on New Year’s Day while listening to the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna as usual. What’s your New Year’s Islay dram?

Islay Sessions 2019, a look back

Islay Music

Three weeks ago I listened to a lot of very nice music during the Islay Sessions 2019 at the Port Charlotte Hotel and Bruichladdich Hall. After that the day job and a few other things got in the way, so I only now get a chance to look back at it. Those who follow me on Twitter might have seen the clips already (individually), but here’s a video with a few impressions I’ve pulled together (all recorded on my phone, so it’s not studio quality. But I think it’s good enough to give you an idea):

The Sessions took place over three days from 22-24/Nov/2019. The Friday kicked off the event with a concert by newly formed VOX in the conservatory of the Port Charlotte Hotel. They played a variety of songs, with Laura-Beth and Kim (as well as on occasion the audience) providing the vocals. After the concert most went to the Port Charlotte Hotel bar for the informal part of the evening. Members of Eabhal and VOX joined forces and played a variety. Later during the evening Grahame Allison (owner of the Port Charlotte Hotel) sang a Gaelic song he performs regularly, what made it even better was Kaitlin Ross (of Eabhal) and Kim Carnie at times joining in.

Saturday saw the main concert at Bruichladdich Hall. After an introduction by Greig Shaw (brother of the late Fraser Shaw, who started the Islay Sessions) the Charlie Stewart Duo warmed up the audience with a variety of tunes on fiddle and guitar. Once they finished their set they stayed on stage to support Kim Carnie who sang some beautiful songs in Gaelic and English for us. Again there was some audience participation after a crash course in Gaelic for some. After the break and the Islay Sessions raffle of CDs and whisky Eabhal took the stage, mainly playing songs from their debut album This Is How The Ladies Dance. Again some beautiful tunes including some with rousing pipes. I headed back to the cottage after the concert as I was tired, but I hear their was more music in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar until early in the morning.

Sunday evening I finally got to see and hear the concert I had been waiting for for a year (she had to cancel the previous year as she had lost her voice, but this year all went to plan): Claire Hastings gave a wonderful solo performance with guitar and ukulele and of course her wonderful voice. Among other songs Fairweather Beggar and I Missed The Boat got an outing as well as a new song she wasn’t even sure it was finished just yet.

I had a great weekend and straight after their sets bought two albums online (Eabhal and Kim Carnie’s In Her Company). Angus was of the same opinion, as he writes in the Oban Times, Thrills and spills at Islay Sessions. If everything goes to plan I’ll be back for the 2020 Islay Sessions, scheduled for 20-22/Nov/2020. May be see you there?

Brìghde Chaimbeul’s debut album The Reeling (via the Islay Sessions)

Islay Music

This weekend I’m going to see Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton (supported by Jenn Butterworth and others) at the south coast of England. Which inspired me to write another post about an artist I got to know through the Islay Sessions (which makes it a post for this blog). In case you’re wondering what the connection is: Brìghde has played together with Ross (not sure if she has played with Ali as well), here’s a nice recording:

ROSS AINSLIE, BRIGHDE CHAIMBEUL and STEVEN BYRNES

But now to the real topic of this post, to Brìghde Chaimbeul‘s debut album, The Reeling. It was published in January 2019 to very positive reviews, for example in the Guardian. I’m not sure if she played any of it during the Islay Sessions in November 2018, but what I heard certainly motivated me to buy the album on release day. Here’s a (rather low quality, as it was recorded with a mobile phone) short snippet from her performance at the Islay Sessions in Bruichladdich Hall (my lack of musical skills don’t allow me to identify the tune):

Brìghde Chaimbeul and Innes White at the Islay Sessions (low quality mobile phone snippet)

Back to the album, it’s available on various download/streaming services (I bought it on Google Play as that’s what I use mostly) and you can buy a CD/LP from Rough Trade. If you’d like to get an impression before you buy you can hear some (or all if you have a Spotify account) here:

If that’s not enough, here’s a video with one of the songs from the album:

Isn’t that a beautiful rich tune? I’ve listened to the album many times now and will listen many times again. I’m not sure about any upcoming gigs by Brìghde, but I’m sure they’ll be mentioned on her social media accounts: Brìghde Chaimbeul on Facebook and Brìghde Chaimbeul on Twitter.

Christmas Islay dram: Port Charlotte cask exploration Eolas An Deididh 07

Islay Whisky News & Links

It’s Christmas eve, as good excuse as any to open a very nice bottle of Islay single malt whisky for Christmas. After the Gorag 02 a few months ago I decided to open another bottle of the cask exploration series, the Eolas An Deididh 07. Bottle #356 of 393:

Picture of a bottle and glass of the Port Charlotte cask exploration: Eolas An Deididh 07
Port Charlotte cask exploration: Eolas An Deididh 07

It was aged for 9 years and finished in a Rivesaltes wine cask from the far south of France. 2 years younger than the Gorag 02. Very nice with some 85% dark chocolate after the venison burger I had this evening.

Tonight’s Islay dram: Port Charlotte cask exploration Gorag 02

Islay Whisky News & LinksLast night on Twitter Bruichladdich asked what our Friday night dram was. My honest answer was that it was their southern competitor Laphroaig with their 10yo cask strength batch 010. And that if I was good on Saturday and got stuff done I would reward myself with one of my Bruichladdich Port Charlotte valinches. Well, I did get a sufficient amount done, so I picked this one from my shelf:

Picture of a bottle and a dram of the Port Charlotte cask exploration Gorag 02
A lovely Islay dram, the Port Charlotte cask exploration Gorag 02

This is bottle #267 of 360 of the Port Charlotte cask exploration o2, Gorag. Aged 11 years in a Pessac-Leognan cask (I must admit, I have no idea what that means apart from that it is a wine cask. But it tastes wonderful).

Rhinns of Islay distillery footpath funding

Islay NewsI don’t know more than what it says in the screenshot, but it looks like after the Southern Islay distillery footpath we will soon see a Rhinns of Islay equivalent between Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich. Many thanks to Ross Coutts for spotting and sharing:

A wonderful Islay dram, Port Charlotte cask exploration Cubaireachd 18

Islay Whisky News & LinksThought I’ll make you (well, some of you) jealous tonight. Enjoying a wonderful dram (or two, or three) of this wonderful Islay single malt and single cask whisky tonight, a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte cask exploration Cubaireachd 18:

Picture of a bottle and a dram of the Port Charlotte cask exploration Cubaireachd 18
A lovely Islay dram, the Port Charlotte cask exploration Cubaireachd 18

There’s only one problem with it: The bottle will be empty far far too quickly.

How not to discover Islay (and how to do it better)

Islay LinksYesterday I came across what I thought was a rather strange article about Islay. Having spent two weeks on Jura Alexander from South Africa thought he could visit and get to know five (yes, 5) Islay distilleries in two (yes, 2) hours. It wasn’t very successful for him, as he writes in A whisky without peat is like soup without salt, but Islay visit is bland.

Assuming I read it correctly he crammed driving from Port Askaig to Bowmore, visiting Bowmore distillery, driving on to the south coast, visiting Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, driving all the way back to Caol Ila, visiting Caol Ila and then driving back to Port Askaig into two hours. 2 hours. I estimate driving from Port Askaig to Ardbeg via Bowmore takes approx 45 minutes. Returning via the High Road should be slightly faster, may be 40 minutes. That’s a total of almost 1.5 hours. Which leaves just over half an hour for five distilleries. Or in other words about 6-7 minutes for each distillery. Where it seems he expected they just drop everything for him as soon as he arrived without any warning or preparation (otherwise he would have known that Ardbeg gets rather busy at lunchtime).

Seriously?

Do you turn up at Johannesburg’s busy top restaurants without a reservation and then expect them to serve you a five course menu over 15 minutes and enjoy that experience?

Here are my (personal, others might differ) suggestions on how to discover Islay: Spend a little time on preparation, plenty of websites and travel guides out there to learn about Islay. Allow yourself a few days to immerse yourself in the island, I’d say at least two full days excluding arrival and departure. Restrict yourself to may be 2-3 distilleries. That’s plenty enough. Get out of the car, walk around a bit, experience the peace and quiet directly, not through the windows of a car. Feel, view, hear and smell the wild and rugged landscape. Spend an hour or two walking along one of Islay’s beautiful beaches. Go out to one of the pubs/bars in the evening, especially if there’s live music on. Good chance you meet a distillery worker there. Visit some other places like Finlaggan or the Woollen Mill, get a feel for the rich history. And most importantly, don’t rush it, you’re on Islay time.

Rough Guides I think do it much better in their video, they take their time to really discover Islay, the multiple facets and what it is about:

Of course there are many more reasons to visit and discover Islay, but these five are already pretty good.

Do you have anything to add, any further thoughts on how to best discover Islay? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.