Fraser Shaw Islay tunes CD launch

Islay MusicTwo 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:

For further updates follow the Fraser Shaw Trust on Twitter or visit the Fraser Shaw Trust Facebook page.

Swimming around Islay (for science and charity)

Islay NewsBack 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.

(via John Lenker on Twitter)

Islay Blogging Roundup NC #3

Islay Blogging RoundupI had hoped to write this a bit earlier (it’s exactly month again since the Islay Blogging Roundup NC #2), but a variety of things got into the way. Time to catch up now then, here’s the latest collection of Islay (and Jura) related blog posts I found interesting:

Not on the RSPB Islay blog but on the RSPB Liverpool blog I came across an entry about a birdwatching visit to Islay: Holiday to Idyllic Islay, 19th to 23rd February 2017 – Led by Aquila Ecology.

The iLaddie decided to perform an experiment: Blending Bruichladdich LaddieMP5. He claims it was successful.

I’ve mentioned Kate’s (who I haven’t met in person yet) work and Islay visits as well as Anna (who I’ve met a couple of times while she was working and living on Islay) a couple of times, now Anna writes about Kate’s work: Inspired by Islay.

An interesting write up about a Bruichladdich whisky tasting in Ireland: The sound of Islay (no, not the Sound of Islay, that’s something different).

As if by coincidence the next one is a quick jump across the Sound of Islay to Jura for A day in the life “Rachael jones”.

Heiko is a regular visitor to Islay and also quite fond of burgers (I like that man, Islay whisky and burgers, he’s certainly in my good books). He has recently published a burger book and is celebrating with a Surf’n’Turf Burger.

Jake on the Distiller Blog claims The Debate Over Terroir Rages Away on Islay. Which side are you on?

Gordon Yates has been back on Islay again, you can read about it in Forty Shades of Grey and Hunter and Hunted.

Lynne writes about her visits to Ardbeg Distillery, Isle of Islay, Scotland and Caol Ila Distillery, Isle of Islay, Scotland. She also visited the Finlaggan Cross, Eileen Mòr, Isle of Islay, Scotland as well as The Kildalton High Cross, Isle of Islay, Scotland.

Julia Garner has a bunch of posts about her Islay visit in February, including Islay beach findsSaligo Bay – two versionsIslay wildlife highlights and Singing Sands and otters.

On the Port Ellen Primary School blog we can read about the My Place Photography Competition. They also celebrated Burns Day.

I’ve watched them many times on Islay, in particular at Ardnave and at Kilchoman. Scotland’s Nature writes Why the chough needs a champion.

An Islay blogging roundup wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Islay Birds blog (which by the way will be 10 years old in two months). While Ian (who writes the blog with the help of dozens of contributors, even I have been able to contribute a few times I’m immensely pleased to say) was away for three weeks James ran the blog for him. Some of the highlights include a Cackling Goose, a possible Gyr Falcon and a variety of birds including a Glaucous Gull.

And that’s it for this Islay blogging roundup. Hopefully I’ll get the next one out a bit earlier than in a month…

Brazilian visitors to Islay video

Islay on VideoAs 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.

Kathryn Joseph to play on Islay

Islay EventsA very interesting concert is coming up on Islay in the second half of March 2017. Organised by Island Music Ltd you will be able to see and hear Kathryn Joseph performing in Bruichladdich Hall on Saturday the 18th of March 2017. You can order tickets for Kathryn Joseph on Islay online through Island Music Get In Youth Promoter.

To give you an idea of what to expect and get you interested two videos, starting with The Bird:

Second another live performance, this time The Weary:

For more videos also check her YouTube channel and for regular updates follow her Twitter feed.

PS: if you’re a Radiohead fan you might also be interested in Kathryn’s cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit.

Jim McEwan returns to Islay whisky distilling at Ardnahoe

Islay Whisky News & LinksYes, 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.

Picture of Jim McEwan with the Laing family
l-r Stewart Laing, Jim McEwan, Andrew Laing, Scott Laing, Photo credit – Ralph Dunning

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.

New Islay video: A Whirlwind Tour of Islay

Announcing the relaunch of the blog this morning I hinted there might be a second ‘Christmas present’ coming up. Having only finished editing it late in the evening on Christmas Evening I still had to upload it this morning. But it all worked out and I can proudly present my latest Islay video. It’s a bit different from the videos I’ve made previously. To start with it has music. Then it’s monochrome. And it’s quite fast paced. A bit of an experiment, I’m very curious to see what people think. Here it is:

In 4.5 minutes I’m taking you on a quick journey around Islay, taking in as much as possible in such a short period. Admittedly some of the selections were influenced by the availability of footage, in other areas I had to make difficult choices what to show and what to omit. Here is a list of the places you can see in chronological order:

  1. Port Ellen buoy
  2. Port Ellen lighthouse
  3. Port Ellen warehouse
  4. Port Ellen houses with passing Islay Coaches
  5. Port Ellen Maltings
  6. Port Ellen pier/marina and village
  7. Laphroaig approach from loch
  8. Laphroaig smoking pagoda
  9. Laphroaig stills
  10. Dunyvaig castle and Lagavulin
  11. Lagavulin distillery
  12. Bowmore distillery approach from sea
  13. Bowmore Main Street
  14. Round Church
  15. Barnacle Geese in front of Port Charlotte
  16. Barnacle Geese at top of Loch Indaal with Paps of Jura
  17. Bruichladdich approach from sea
  18. Bruichladdich over distillery
  19. Bruichladdich spirit safe (making Port Charlotte spirit)
  20. Past Loch Indaal lighthouse to Port Charlotte
  21. Port Charlotte pier from above
  22. Port Charlotte Main Street towards Port Charlotte Hotel
  23. Loch Indaal lighthouse with breaking waves
  24. Waves breaking over Port Charlotte pier
  25. Saltire flying in Portnahaven
  26. Rhinns of Islay lighthouse and fishing boat
  27. Seal in Portnahaven
  28. Waves breaking near Port Wemyss
  29. Single track road towards Kilchoman
  30. Approaching Kilchoman Church
  31. Ruin of Kilchoman church from the air
  32. View of Machir Bay
  33. Beach view in Machir Bay
  34. Otter in Machir Bay
  35. At the wreck in Machir Bay
  36. Above the wreck in Machir Bay
  37. Breaking waves in Saligo Bay
  38. Waves blown back by wind in Saligo Bay
  39. View towards Sleeping Giant / Opera House Rocks in Saligo Bay
  40. Saligo Bay from the air
  41. Barnacle Geese feeding at Gruinart
  42. Barnacle Geese lifting off at Gruinart
  43. Barnacle Geese over the Gruinart marshes
  44. Barnacle Geese over grazing cows
  45. Approach to Finlaggan from the air
  46. View of the house ruin at Finlaggan from the air
  47. MV Hebridean Isles arriving in Port Askaig
  48. Passing McArthur’s Head lighthouse

I still think that’s quite impressive for 4.5 minutes, also a sign of how much Islay has to offer. It might be too fast and hectic for some, but then it might be exciting and fresh for others. I’m normally not a big fan of music for videos (certainly for my videos) and prefer more natural sounds, but here it felt appropriate so I used some. To avoid any rights issues (not to mention that the lyrics I feel often don’t really fit) I didn’t use any big hit(s) known to many but used some free music offered by Google. No lyrics, so no risk of conflict there either. The style of music will probably not be to everyone’s taste, I like the speed and energy in it.

Now it’s over to you, I hope you enjoy and like the whirlwind tour of Islay. Let me know what you think.