Vienna New Year’s Day concert and Islay Whisky Nibs

Islay Whisky News & LinksHappy New Year! As usual on New Year’s Day I’m listening to the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna while sipping an Islay single malt whisky (a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte valinch to be precise). Again as usual the waltzes and polkas, this year conducted by Riccardo Muti, are excellent, as is the whisky. What’s unusual this year is the chocolate I’m enjoying with it:

This year I’m having some Whisky Nibs from Chocolate Tree in Edinburgh. I can’t remember where exactly I came across them, I think it was some food or whisky blog. As the whisky they use is from Islay I of course had to order some.

Picture of a bar of whisky chocolate nibs next to a dram of Islay single malt whisky

Islay Whisky Chocolate Nibs. And some Islay whisky.The chocolate is very nice, a dark chocolate with 69% cocoa content from the Marañón canyon in Peru. The nibs make it nice and crunchy. With the whisky content in the single digit percentage the whisky taste for me was quite faint but detectable. I’m sure connoisseurs with better developed and trained taste buds will detect much more. I think well worth giving it a try (once available again, when I was writing this it was out of stock. I’m hoping they’re going to produce more).

And with that I’m returning to the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna, where as I’m typing this they’re playing An der schönen blauen Donau.

Combining CSS and JS and Islay – News about Islay Conf

Islay EventsIf you know what CSS and JS are as well as like Islay and Islay whisky there might be just the event for you in 2018. Islay Conf has been talked about since 2012 (see the @IslayConf Twitter account) and the original plans were quite ambitious as they were hoping to hold the conference on Islay. Due to the size of the event(s) and the complexity of organising it they had to change tack and slightly reduce their ambitions. Still, if you like your Islay whisky as well as either want to speak about coding or want to listen to others speaking about it this might be for you:

Two conferences take place in Edinburgh in summer 2018: ScotlandCSS on 18/Jul/2018 an ScotlandJS on 19 & 20/Jul/2018. Linked to these conferences they have arranged a partnership with Rabbies (a regular visitor to Islay) for two 4 day Islay tours, leaving on 13/Jul/2018 (i.e. before the conferences) and 23/Jul/2018 (i.e. after the conferences). You’ll get to see 5-6 Islay distilleries, some of Islay’s amazing beaches (I’m pretty sure Machir Bay is on the list when the visit Kilchoman distillery, I’ve seen them there many times) and possibly the impressive Kildalton Cross.

Be aware that entry fees and accommodation are not included in the tour price, they need to be paid separately (see the tour details on the Rabbies page). You can read more in the small print from the email I received earlier:

Availability
There are 16 seats on each bus tour.

Costs
The tour price is simply that. It does not include accommodation, entrance fees or cover meals.

Accommodation
Accommodation needs to be arranged with the tour company when booking.

There is little accommodation on Islay. The main options include sharing with housemates in a cottage within the Bowmore distillery. Being targeted at families and groups they do not have a way of locking bedroom doors.

If you get in quick you can book a single room in one of the local B&Bs if that’d be your preference.

Code of Conduct
These tours are open to the general public and ScotlandCSS or ScotlandJS volunteers will NOT be present.

This unfortunately means we cannot put in place or enforce a meaningful Code of Conduct.

If you need more information I believe your best bet is to contact the organisers via the @IslayConf Twitter account.

Please vote for Islay’s FilmG entries

Islay NewsEarlier this year I asked you to vote for Islay High at FilmG 2017. Almost a year has passed and now it’s time to vote for FilmG 2018 (GD/EN). However, if you read the title of this post carefully you’ll have noticed a subtle but important difference. I’m not just asking you to vote for Islay High’s entry, I’m asking you to vote for Islay’s entries. Plural. For this year there are two entries from Islay:

Let’s start with the newcomer: Bowmore Primary School has entered for the first time with a wonderful story of the Bowmore crimebusters apprehending a cake thief:

To vote for it you need to go to either the CÈIC NA FÌRINN (GD) or the CÈIC NA FÌRINN (EN) page (depending on your language skills) and click on the yellow voting button. You can also read more about their entry.

Moving on to the older ones at Islay High and their entry for this year. They have a strange and spooky tale of a jealous wife:

To vote for them you’ll have to visit the A’ BHEAN EUDACH (GD) or A’ BHEAN EUDACH (EN) page (again depending on your language skills) and use the yellow voting button. Again there’s a synopsis of the film you can read as well.

The awards ceremony will be broadcast on BBC Alba on Sunday 11/Feb/2018, so get voting soon to help Islay being well represented at the event.

Lady Whisky, French Islay whisky comic book

Islay Whisky News & LinksMy French is rather limited, so I’m not entirely sure if it’s worth for me buying it, but those of you with better French might be interested: When I was scrolling through my news and blog feeds this afternoon I came across an entry Lady Whisky on Chez Lo. It is about a comic book by Joël Alessandra and after a bit of searching I found the publisher’s page for Lady Whisky. Also here’s a review (in French, positive I think)

As I said my French is limited and Google Translate can only help so much, but as far as I can gather it’s about the death of whisky expert Helen Arthur and Joël tracing back her steps including a visit to Islay. The cover indicates a visit to at least Ardbeg is on the cards, but I think the other distilleries are also visited. Jim McEwan has written a preface and many other well known Islay whisky names seem to have given support.

Here’s an Amazon link:

Price: £18.65

Islay Sessions 2017 video #1: At the Port Charlotte Hotel

Islay MusicAlmost a month since the event and I finally managed to get my act together to edit my first longer video from the Islay Sessions 2017. I’ve decided to go slightly out of sequence and start with the later evening sessions in the bar of the Port Charlotte Hotel, where everyone gathered after Adam’s and Mark’s Concert in the Conservatory (which I’m aiming to edit next).

The musicians include Adam Sutherland, Marc Clement, Jenn and Laura-Beth, members of Tannara (and Megan MacDonald), Gráinne Nic Bhrádaigh, Emma Tomlinson as well as Ron and Mhairi from the Joy Dunlop Trio. I hope I haven’t missed/forgotten anyone…

But now it’s really time for the video, half an hour of beautiful tunes, laughter and joy:

I hope you’ll enjoy the tunes and the video transports a bit of the joy of the evening into your lounge, study or wherever you’re reading and watching this. More to come over the next few weeks.

Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook launched

Islay MusicSometimes a delayed ferry can be a good thing. I’m usually booked on the afternoon ferry when leaving after one of my Islay visits. This November visit Calmac called to inform me that due to delays in the dry dock (the MV Hebridean Isles was having her annual overhaul) the one ferry timetable would be running slightly longer and they had to move me to a ferry leaving in the evening. Initially I wasn’t too happy as it meant I would arrive at my hotel (which I had already booked and paid on one of those non-changeable, non-refundable deals) much later than planned, but then an unexpected benefit turned up:

As it turned out the long anticipated launch of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook took place the afternoon of the day I was leaving. Under normal circumstances I would have missed it, but because I was now on a later ferry I was able to attend.

The launch took place at the Islay House in Bridgend, a very nice venue for the event. After some mingling and chatting with various people in the foyer we were asked to move over into one of the rooms for the main launch event. Lynn MacDonald opened the proceedings, talking about how the project came to pass and more. Kenneth Thomson spoke about some of the songs and poems included in the collection and how he came across some of them. Finally a representative from Acair Books (unfortunately I’m not sure of her name) spoke about working on the project and the importance of recording the old Gaelic songs and poems. Then it was time for some of the songs. Various singers including Mòd Gold Medal winner 2017 Alasdair Currie sang a variety of songs, some with audience participation. After the music we enjoyed a few biscuits and cup of tea/coffee while talking about the event and buying our copies of the songbook. A very enjoyable afternoon!

The songbook itself is a lovingly collated and designed book, not only for singers and Gaelic speakers, but for everyone (including me who doesn’t know much Gaelic apart from a few words and is musically challenged). Each song receives two pages, on the left are the notes, on the right the words in both Gaelic as well as an English translation. Various beautiful black and white pictures of Islay are spread through the book. Lynn and Kenneth provide an introduction and foreword while at the end of the book we find author biographies. The songbook is ring bound, as someone explained to me that makes it easier to place it on a note stand when performing a song.

A collage of impressions of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook
Impressions from the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook

You can buy the songbook at local outlets on Islay (I know C&E Roy stock it, there might be others) as well as online at the publisher Acair Books. For more information visit the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook Facebook page or follow the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook Twitter feed.

To finish here’s a video with some of the performances from the launch event at Islay House:

(Sorry for the shaky video, I had to handheld my mobile phone as I had run out of memory on my main video camera)

From the Islay Sessions 2017

Sadly that’s the Islay Sessions 2017 almost over. Off to the bar in a minute after a fantastic concert in the conservatory by Innes Watson (with the help of a few friends at the end):

This was filmed with the phone, I hope the quality is reasonable. I’m hoping to upload more video from a better camera later once I had the time to edit it.

The sessions were amazing, great artists delivering fantastic performances. More later.

Kitesurfing on Islay video

Islay on VideoI’ve shared a few kitesurfing videos before I think, but then again certainly I don’t tire of them. Gael (and two humans I believe) recently visit Islay. I’m not sure how much time Gael did get out on the water, certainly the two humans spent quite some time kitesurfing as you can see in this video:

I hope you enjoyed the video as well, there is some whisky in it as well towards the end. Not to mention a few sightings of a distillery soon to be resurrected.

Meeting the Kilchoman distillery team on Islay

Islay Whisky News & LinksRecently I blogged about the Kilchoman 100% Islay video, now there’s more from Islay farm distillery. The first two videos of what I understand to be a series of ‘People Behind the Whisky’ videos. Let’s start with the founder Anthony Wills:

Second in the series is distillery manager Islay Heads:

Nicely done, I think should pour another dram of the 100% Islay I opened when I watched the first video.

Tom’s Islay night shots

Islay PicturesSomething for those who don’t use Twitter, as I already retweeted them there. Or if you missed the retweets. Tom Lowe is into birdwatching and aurora hunting among other things. Recently he visited Islay, I believe mainly for birdwatching (Geese and Whooper Swans to name a few), but also ventured out at least one night. I hope you enjoy the results:

On the same morning he also captured this:

Update: a later addition to the portfolio below