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.

Two interesting Islay whisky links

Islay Whisky News & LinksI need to share more links and web findings of Islay things I come across again. After all that’s what blogging originally was all about. So today I give you two interesting Islay whisky related links:

If I’m honest I’m not very impressed with a lot of the articles about Islay in the travel sections of many newspapers. Apart from a few exceptions they are usually written by someone who flew in for 2-3 days, did a distillery tour or two and had a few nice meals. But as I said, there are exceptions. Liza Weisstuch knows what she’s writing about. She’s been to Islay many times, I met her back in June 2011 (when she was on Islay for some real whisky experience at Bruichladdich) during one of her visits. And now she’s a got a big feature in the New York Times, online and if I understand it correctly on the cover of the travel section in the print edition next weekend. It’s called The Whisky Chronicles.

I’m not sure I can fully grasp the point of the second link for today. In my mind Islay is about slowing down, taking your time to enjoy. However, in July there will be a rather extreme whisky distillery tour on Islay and Jura:

A new ‘extreme’ whisky tour will take participants by foot, bicycle and kayak to visit 10 island distilleries over 60 miles, in just three days.

Apparently you won’t get much time to actually tour the distilleries or enjoy the samples (although you can collect the miniatures to saviour later). But if you’re still interested you can read more in WORLD’S ‘MOST EXTREME’ WHISKY TOUR LAUNCHES.

Islay Sessions memories with Jenn & Laura-Beth

Islay MusicLiving and working in the south of England I don’t get many opportunities to hear live traditional/folk music, in particular from the vibrant Scottish scene. The main opportunity for me are my regular Islay visits, in particular the Islay Sessions when I can. That’s where I got to know Jenn & Laura Beth in November 2017 (after hearing Laura-Beth back in 2015). The sound quality isn’t as good as I would have liked (my microphone or more likely my recording capabilities struggled with the louder sections), but here’s a nice memory from the concert at Bruichladdich Hall:

Now here are some good news for those living in the south of England who would like to hear the two live and/or refresh memories from the Islay Sessions: They will play two shows in the south in early March.

I’ve got a ticket for the latter, very much looking forward to the concert! If you live further north (or in Belgium, they are coming over in Sep) check their website for further shows.

Update:

Unfortunately these two concerts (and more) had to be cancelled due to the “Beast fae the East” and “Storm Emma”, I hope they can be rescheduled for some other time. As a tiny consolation I’ll try to edit the remaining footage I’ve got from the Islay Sessions this weekend and get them uploaded.

Camping and walking at Kintra, Islay

Islay on VideoCalum and Jess went for a camping and walking and whisky/gin holiday on Islay. They stayed at Kintra from where they walked out to Soldier’s Rock. They also visited Bruichladdich for the Botanist Gin tour. Enjoy the video:

Calum also blogs at Cal McTravels.

Islay Sessions 2017 coming up in November

Islay MusicLess than a month to go to the Islay Sessions 2017 taking place in Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich. And after having to miss it last year due to my heart operation I’ll be back to enjoy them even more this year. This years programme includes a variety of artists, some I’ve seen before, others will be new to me.

Picture of Adam Sutherland and Laura-Beth Salter performing on stage
Adam and Laura-Beth enjoying a tune during the Islay Sessions 2015

The Islay Sessions 2017 start on Friday 17/Nov with a Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel. Adam Sutherland and Mark Clement will be performing. After the concert there will be informal sessions in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar, I expect until late into the night.

There will be workshops on Saturday morning, the participants will then also perform at the big concert on Saturday evening 18/Nov at Bruichladdich Hall. I hope many local musicians young and old will join Tannara, the Joy Dunlop Trio and Jenn & Laura Beth.

The weekend will close with another Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel on Sun 19/Nov (followed by more informal sessions in the bar I hope), this time with Innes Watson.

Picture of Innes Watson playing guitar at the Islay Sessions
Innes Watson playing guitar at the Islay Sessions 2015

I understand there will also be a whisky tour during the weekend, details haven’t been posted yet as of writing this. Check the Islay Sessions Twitter account and the Islay Sessions Facebook page for updates. For tickets to the concerts go to the Islay Sessions Eventbrite page.