Good and bad Islay whisky news

Islay Whisky News & LinksTwo 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.

Moving on to the good news, where I think this should have never gone to court in the first place. The consumer isn’t as stupid as some lawyers seem to think. The Herald reports (I also saw it in The Sun, but I won’t link to that rag) Whisky distiller wins trademark battle with makers of McEwan’s Lager. The whisky distiller in question is of course Jim McEwan, who is back in business.

A short walk to Islay’s Carraig Fhada lighthouse

Islay on VideoTime for a bit of virtual exercise. And may be it can inspire you to complete the short walk out to Carraig Fhada lighthouse (weather permitting, don’t attempt this walk in a storm…) next time you’re in Port Ellen? Enjoy the video:

Congratulations to the Islay High FilmG winners!

Islay NewsRemember the Vote for Islay High at FilmG 2017 post from a month ago? Some excellent news this evening, as via Twitter I’ve just learned that the Islay High School / Àrd-sgoil Ìle submission has won in the Best Learners (‘The film where the Gaelic dialogue is best orated in a clear and fluid manner, from a class of Gaelic learners.’) category:

A closer look at the award:

I’m not sure at this point how they did in the People’s Choice vote, if I hear anything I’ll add an update below.

A very fast passage through the Sound of Islay

Islay on VideoOK, it’s not really that fast, it’s a timelapse video. But if you’re in a hurry and would like to see how a passage through the Sound of Islay looks this video should be just right for you. Let Jake take you through the Sound on the NLV Pharos:

That is all, I’m afraid.

Heads up: Peatzeria to open on Islay

Islay NewsNo, I don’t know if their pizza oven will be peat fired. I don’t even know when it will open. All I know is that (hopefully soon) a new pizzeria will open on Islay. In Shore Street in Bowmore to be precise, in the building that most recently housed the Holy Coo restaurant.

To be updated about their progress you have a number of options: To start with there’s the Peatzeria – A Slice of Islay website (a holding page as of writing this). Then there’s the Peatzeria Islay Twitter account. And finally there’s the Peatzeria Facebook page. If that isn’t enough I don’t know.

As of now building work is progressing nicely:

If it’s open by the time of my next Islay visit in April I will report back with my impressions then, otherwise after another visit later in the year.

Islay Blogging Roundup NC #2

Islay Blogging RoundupWith a cold and wet weekend approaching (at least in West Berkshire where I’m writing this) I thought I should pull together something for you to read. Or in other words, write the follow up to the Islay Blogging Roundup NC #1 from almost a month ago. Here are a few Islay and Jura related blog posts I found interesting the last few weeks:

Using a photo as inspiration Julia Garner created a nice oil painting of a view from Ardnave Point in the north west of Islay.

On Malted a nice write up of the Bruichladdich #laddieMp5 live online tasting.

Raptor Politics demands Stop the Scottish Government poisoning eagles through the Geese being shot on Islay, creating a lively debate in his comments. (I don’t know enough about this for any judgement, I’m purely reporting what is written out there)

A little bit of Islay history related to Bowmore distillery can be found in James Mutter’s windows.

On a Scottish Tour Guide’s blog we find a number of posts about the Islay distilleries, including Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.

For those looking for a nice wallpaper for their computer WhiskyExperts has one of the Loch Indaal lighthouse and Loch Indaal House.

Many (including this blog) have reported on the appointment of Jim McEwan at Ardnahoe, WhiskyCast has it included in his podcast if you’d like to listen to it.

I mentioned Scotch Cinema in NC #1, they have come up with another nice one, Lagavulin in Parks & Recreation.

Explore Argyll has a few blog posts covering places and events on Islay and Jura: You don’t need to do the Jura Fell Race to enjoy the Paps of JuraDistilleries of Argyll and the Isles Map (most of them of course on Islay and Jura) and Everything you need to know about Islay Airport.

Of course I have to mention the ever reliable Islay Birds blog. I’ve picked out a few posts with pictures: Stonechat, waders on the wing and Sanderlings.

Ron announces that he has struck a partnership with Botswana Dave from the RSPB to provide regular updates.

Sticking to the birds theme Holly reports from her bird project on the Our Learning Blog of Port Ellen Primary.

I think that’s enough for this roundup, I hope you found something interesting to read this weekend. More to come whenever I’ve collected enough interesting entries, if you have one you think I should mention please get in touch.

A Contralto Paralegal from Islay

Islay MusicThe music isn’t from Islay and admittedly the artist doesn’t live on Islay any more, but she was raised on Islay and still returns regularly. That’s plenty enough for me. Oh, and paralegal isn’t a musical term, it’s her ‘day job’ where she recently qualified as paralegal.

The artist in question is Marion Ramsay (Marion Ramsay’s website with a lot of information), she recently set up a Marion Ramsay Contralto Facebook page and hopes you can help with a few ‘likes’ (if you’re on Facebook). To hear her performing you can listen to this sample from her repertoire on her YouTube channel:

Having mentioned her day job, here’s Marion’s LinkedIn profile and a mention of her graduation as a paralegal (as well as her musical career) in the Oban Times.

The palm trees on Islay and Jura … that aren’t

Islay FunA few years ago (well, let’s call it a decade ago) I wrote a post about what I believed to be palm trees on Islay and Jura. Except … they aren’t palm trees. Someone corrected me in the comments, but sadly those comments have since been lost. Recently I came across a post discussing these trees, so I thought it’s worth revisiting the topic so that I have something to refer to when it comes up again.

As mentioned in the previous post the trees in question can be found in a variety of locations on both Islay and Jura, including around Port Ellen, in Bruichladdich and also in the community garden in Bridgend (at least back in 2007, when this picture was taken):

Picture of a Cordyline Australis in a walled garden
Cordyline Australis in the Islay Community Garden in 2007

Update:

I must have had a hunch when I wrote this post and mentioned that the picture was from 2007. Sadly the tree has since been damaged in a storm, hopefully it will grow back to its former size. Many thanks to Steve Bavin of Islay Ales for the update!

Picture of a walled garden
The same view with a much reduced cabbage tree in Feb 2017 – picture credit Steve Bavin

End of update, original text continues below:

On Jura some of the best known ones can be spotted near the Jura Hotel garden, outside of the Jura distillery:

Picture of Cordyline Australis near a shore in a coastal village
Cordyline Australis in Craighouse on Jura

So what are these trees really if they are not palm trees? Well, we can read from some people from New Zealand (who should know them, as that’s where these trees are from), when visiting Jura in 2016 they taught the distillery staff about them. The tree is called Cordyline Australis, or cabbage tree. In the UK it is apparently also known as Torbay Palm and Torquay Palm, although that still doesn’t make it a palm tree. Among other things it doesn’t fare well in hot tropical climates, an area where you would expect palm trees to thrive.

So now you know, may be it will be helpful in a pub quiz one day?

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.

Enjoying an Islay ATC 1.1 Real Ale

Islay LinksSomething 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:

Picture of 3 bottles of beer called Islay ATC 1.1

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:

Picture of a bottle of beer called Islay ATC 1.1 poured into a glass

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.