Islay Easter dram 2021 (and some dark chocolate and cocoa truffles)

Islay Fun

Happy Easter 2021 (even if it’s a bit late). Had a nice afternoon walk in the sun in West Berkshire earlier, spotting around 30 Mute Swans in a field as well as several Red Kite along my route, which was a mixture of well known (to me) paths and a new path I hadn’t been on before. Now, about 45 minutes after sunset and with the last light of the gloaming slowly fading away, it’s time for a well deserved Islay Easter dram and some chocolate:

Picture of a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte MRC: 01 2010 with a Lindt dark chocolate Easter egg and cocoa truffles
Islay Easter dram (and some dark chocolate and cocoa truffles)

I picked the Bruichladdich distillery Port Charlotte MRC: 01 2010, one of my favourite Islay single malts. The “standard” Port Charlotte 10yo is one of my regular go to Islay whiskies, this one I think is the even better (and unfortunately pricier) version for special days.

For the chocolate I’m treating myself to a Lindt Lindor dark chocolate 70% minimum Easter egg with some dark chocolate truffles. While on a chocolate per ££££ basis these Easter eggs are a bit of a rip off compared to regular chocolate bars there is something strangely satisfying about breaking up a chocolate Easter egg and eating the crumbled chocolate, so it’s something I’m treating myself to once (or twice, Christmas is similar) a year.

I hope you’re having a nice Easter with whisky, chocolate and Easter walks in the sunshine. What’s your treat this Easter?

Some traditional music from Islay with Shane and friends

Islay Music

While I preparing my venison burger on my Fyne Venison Weekend I thought it would be nice to listen to some Islay music. Luckily the YouTube recommendation algorithm (and that I’m subscribed to him) suggested a nice video from Shane MacKinnon he uploaded today. Here he is with Donnie and Niall at the Islay Hotel in 2019:

Traditional Music at the Islay Hotel Oct 2019

And there’s more, as here he is with Kyle and Ciara at the Port Charlotte Hotel a little bit earlier in 2019:

Tunes in the Port Charlotte Hotel – Islay. 22/07/19

For even more take a look at Shane’s YouTube music channel and while you’re there subscribe to it.

My Islay Easter dram from Bruichladdich (and some chocolate)

Islay Whisky News & Links

If it hadn’t been for the Coronavirus I would have been out and about this weekend, warming up for the Islay walking week in a week’s time. But obviously neither of that is happening or will happen. So I thought I should have at least some treat. During my last shopping trip I decided to raid the Easter egg aisle even though the chocolate is vastly overpriced in comparison to a normal bar of the same chocolate. But I found something I thought a bit different. Yesterday evening I decided to let some of my Twitter followers pick which one of two Bruichladdich valinches I should open. Here’s the outcome, here’s what I enjoyed today:

Dual before and after picture of my Bruichladdich Port Charlotte SHC: 01 2006 Islay single malt whisky and some golden chocolate
My Islay Easter dram from Bruichladdich (and some chocolate)

The whisky is a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte heavily peated Islay single malt, SHC: 01, 2006. Cask 2134, first fill sherry. Distilled 4/Oct/2006, aged 11 years. My bottle is number 918 of 1,134.

The chocolate is a “single origin dark chocolate teardrop”. Or to be precise, “an intense dark chocolate decorated egg in a golden shimmer using Fino De Aroma cocoa beans sourced from Colombia”.

I’m not going to bore you with tasting notes, my taste buds aren’t developed enough to do much good there. But I can say the whisky tastes fantastic, nice and fiery (that’s as far as I go). The chocolate is nice as well, although I didn’t taste anything different with the golden shimmer (which if I interpret the ingredients list correctly isn’t real gold anyway, but Iron Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Sorry to disappoint you on that side).

Oh, and for those of you interested in the result of the poll, the SHC won with 17 votes out of 29. If I remember correctly it had an even higher lead earlier on, but the VOC pulled back a bit in the later stages (the poll was open for about 13-14 hours). I haven’t decided when yet, but there’s a good chance the VOC will also be opened at some point during or shortly after the lockdown.

Screenshot of the poll which Islay dram to pick
Screenshot of the poll which Islay dram to pick

Islay Sessions 2019, a look back

Islay Music

Three weeks ago I listened to a lot of very nice music during the Islay Sessions 2019 at the Port Charlotte Hotel and Bruichladdich Hall. After that the day job and a few other things got in the way, so I only now get a chance to look back at it. Those who follow me on Twitter might have seen the clips already (individually), but here’s a video with a few impressions I’ve pulled together (all recorded on my phone, so it’s not studio quality. But I think it’s good enough to give you an idea):

The Sessions took place over three days from 22-24/Nov/2019. The Friday kicked off the event with a concert by newly formed VOX in the conservatory of the Port Charlotte Hotel. They played a variety of songs, with Laura-Beth and Kim (as well as on occasion the audience) providing the vocals. After the concert most went to the Port Charlotte Hotel bar for the informal part of the evening. Members of Eabhal and VOX joined forces and played a variety. Later during the evening Grahame Allison (owner of the Port Charlotte Hotel) sang a Gaelic song he performs regularly, what made it even better was Kaitlin Ross (of Eabhal) and Kim Carnie at times joining in.

Saturday saw the main concert at Bruichladdich Hall. After an introduction by Greig Shaw (brother of the late Fraser Shaw, who started the Islay Sessions) the Charlie Stewart Duo warmed up the audience with a variety of tunes on fiddle and guitar. Once they finished their set they stayed on stage to support Kim Carnie who sang some beautiful songs in Gaelic and English for us. Again there was some audience participation after a crash course in Gaelic for some. After the break and the Islay Sessions raffle of CDs and whisky Eabhal took the stage, mainly playing songs from their debut album This Is How The Ladies Dance. Again some beautiful tunes including some with rousing pipes. I headed back to the cottage after the concert as I was tired, but I hear their was more music in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar until early in the morning.

Sunday evening I finally got to see and hear the concert I had been waiting for for a year (she had to cancel the previous year as she had lost her voice, but this year all went to plan): Claire Hastings gave a wonderful solo performance with guitar and ukulele and of course her wonderful voice. Among other songs Fairweather Beggar and I Missed The Boat got an outing as well as a new song she wasn’t even sure it was finished just yet.

I had a great weekend and straight after their sets bought two albums online (Eabhal and Kim Carnie’s In Her Company). Angus was of the same opinion, as he writes in the Oban Times, Thrills and spills at Islay Sessions. If everything goes to plan I’ll be back for the 2020 Islay Sessions, scheduled for 20-22/Nov/2020. May be see you there?

Gráinne Brady’s debut album The Road Across the Hills (via the Islay Sessions)

Islay Music

Something slightly outside of the normal content of this blog, but then there’s a good chance that without the Islay Sessions I wouldn’t have heard of this album (and others I will write about some other time). So I think it does fit into this blog. I’ve known Gráinne Brady for a number of years now, performing at and organising the wonderful Islay Sessions. Early on she was mainly performing together with other artists, last year saw her launching a solo project with her debut album. I’ll let her tell you about it herself:

Gráinne Brady: BEYOND: The Story of an Irish Immigrant

The Islay Sessions saw the second ever live performance of the album, Gráinne supported by Andrew Waite and Innes White. It was a great experience, her telling us about the project and then performing it, taking on parts of the spoken word as well. Some great musical storytelling. Here’s a short snippet (mobile phone recording, so not the greatest quality) from the sessions, just to give you an impression:

Gráinne supported by Andrew and Innes at the Islay Sessions

If this got you interested, Gráinne is going on tour in Ireland and Scotland in late February and March 2019. Here is her tour poster:

Tour poster for Gráinne Brady's spring tour 2019 with dates and more
Gráinne spring tour 2019 poster

I hope you get a chance to see one of her concerts and buy the album (Gráinne on Bandcamp). For updates check her website and her social media accounts (Gráinne Facebook, Gráinne 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.

smallcutemouse visits Islay

Islay FunThis morning I posted a picture of Sushi, chief mouse hunter at Caol Ila, on the photoblog. By coincidence or inspired by it (I’m not sure) John Hurst on Twitter alerted me to a special little visitor to Islay. I hope the smallcutemouse doesn’t get into any trouble with Sushi on a very enjoyable visit to Islay:

For more visit the smallcutemouse account on Instagram.