Two friends on an Islay whisky tour (video)

Islay on Video

It’s Saturday evening, a good time to watch a nice video from an Islay visit. Neil and Precarious Dave visited four distilleries, Bunnahabhain, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. They had lots of fun, drank a lot of whisky (and some Guinness) and bought quite a few bottles. Enjoy the video:

15 minutes visiting Islay distilleries

I hope you enjoyed the video, I thought it was very nicely done.

Islay whisky, smoked salmon and the Vienna New Year’s Concert

Islay Whisky News & Links

Happy New Year! Regular readers might remember that I kind of have a New Year’s tradition, listening to the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna with a wee dram of Islay single malt whisky. Last years I had some whisky chocolate nibs, this year I decided to have some smoked salmon on fresh home made bread. Earlier today I made some fresh bread (a hemp hearts and walnuts wholemeal bread) which I’m now eating with some smoked salmon:

Picture of Laphroaig Islay single malt whisky, smoked salmon and homemade bread
Laphroaig Islay single malt whisky, smoked salmon and homemade bread

The whisky is the Laphroaig 10yo cask strength batch 04, which I had opened for my 10 years Twitter milestone (with New Year’s Day in mind). A rather lovely dram, going down very nicely while the Radetzky-Marsch is playing as I type this.

Have a great 2019 everyone!

Celebrating a decade of @islayblog on Twitter

Islay Fun

Earlier today a wee blue bird told me (not sure if this qualifies as a bad pun?) it’s 10 years ago today that I joined Twitter, of course using the handle @islayblog (although my name shows as Armin, as I tweet as me, a human being). A decade of squeezing a post into 140 characters (or more recently writing 280 characters). Naturally I sent out a quick tweet, promising a celebratory dram later on:

Now it’s time for said dram, I decided to open a special bottle (also keeping in mind that New Year is approaching rapidly and I need something nice for that): From my Islay shelf I picked a Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength, batch 004, Jan.12. Here’s the proof:

Picture of a bottle of Laphroaig 10yo CS next to a laptop showing Twitter and Tweetdeck screens
Sometimes don’t drink and blog needs to be ignored, especially when a 10yo Laphroaig cask strength batch 04 is to hand on your 10th Twitter anniversary

A lot has happened in those 10 years. According to Twitter I’ve posted 33,838 tweets so far (probably a few more by the time you read this). Apparently I have just under 3,000 people following me now (I hope not too many of them are bots). Quite a few of you I’ve met personally, others I only know from Twitter (and sometimes other social networks), but we’ve still had many helpful, interesting, funny and more exchanges. Others I don’t really know yet, but I hope we’ll bump into each other one day. I’ve learned quite a few things on Twitter, found out information, had a lot of fun and more. I hope I could give some of that back, give those who follow me or communicate with me something to enjoy, something they found helpful or something that inspired them. Or just something to laugh.

With that I’ll finish for now, time for another dram. And another tweet.

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.

20 years Friend of Laphroaig

Islay Whisky News & LinksThis is a post I wanted to write almost a month ago, unfortunately then my leg injury got in the way. Recovery is now well under way (this morning I walked 3 kilometres in I think just over half an hour) and I think I can allow myself a wee dram tonight. With that over to the real topic, one of the many factors which brought me to Islay and made me fall in love with it:

Scan of Armin Grewe's Friends of Laphroaig certificate
My original Friends of Laphroaig certificate from March 1998, a few months before I first set foot on Islay in August 1998

Earlier this year I came across my original Friends of Laphroaig certificate. I bought my first bottle of Laphroaig whisky (the standard 10yo, an expression I still enjoy regularly) in early 1998 and duly sent in my claim for my square foot of Islay. A few weeks later my certificate arrived. Iain Henderson was the distillery manager back then (he retired in 2002), so it is signed by him.

A few months later, on a rather wet August morning, I arrived on Islay for my first visit. The first distillery I visited was of course Laphroaig. There was no visitor centre back then, as far as I can remember I found the way to the reception where someone welcomed me and found a miniature bottle for my annual rent for me.

All of this is now 20 years ago (or will soon be), so with a month delay I’m going to open a bottle of Laphroaig Cairdeas tonight for a wee dram to celebrate being a Friend of Laphroaig for 20 years.

Laphroaig Islay distillery storyboards

Islay FunIs it art? Or is it just some computer generated images? Back in December I came across Google’s Storyboard app for Android (don’t know if there’s an iPhone equivalent), it turns videos into short comics. There are no settings, all you can do is to refresh to generate a new image. You can do this until you get one you like, which you can then save. Of course I had to test it with some of my Islay videos. Here are some of Laphroaig distillery I liked:

Laphroaig Islay distillery storyboard 1
Laphroaig Islay distillery storyboard in black and white

It can also do colour:

Laphroaig Islay distillery storyboard 2
Laphroaig Islay distillery storyboard in colour

What do you think? Worth experimenting a bit more or a waste of time?

Very cool Laphroaig 360° Islay distillery tour video

Islay Whisky News & LinksSomething rather cool tonight: Laphroaig invites us to a 360° video tour of the bay, the peat bogs and of course the distillery on Islay. While watching the video you can move the viewing angle (either with the dial on the top right or by just ‘grabbing’ the video with the mouse pointer and moving it around) and look into all directions. Left, right, up, down, whatever you like. And all the while you are flying over Loch Laphroaig, the peat bogs, through the still house and more. Quite amazing technology, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did:

PS: If you don’t like the 3D 360° video there’s also an old fashioned 2D version available:

I prefer the 3D version. Which one do you prefer?

Updates from the Great Islay Swim

Islay NewsBack in May I wrote about Swimming around Islay (for science and charity), Justin Fornal and Chad Anderson planning to swim around Islay this summer. Well, the Great Islay Swim is now well under way and you can find various updates online:

From Laphroaig John Campbell gives them his support:

Several blogs and distillery websites write about them:

Taking a rest at the end of a swim:

Islay Sea-Adventures has a few posts with video and pictures:

And I’m sure there’s more out there. If you have or spot any further pictures, videos or reports from the swim please post them in the comments so that everyone can see them.