Robin Laing introduced his new book, Whisky Legends of Islay, during the whisky festival of 2009. Robin Laing is for most people known as a Scottish folksinger and songwriter but he writes books as well. Other books from his hand are whisky muse and the whisky river. Amazon, one of the many online shops that sell the book, gives the following description about Whisky Legends of Islay:
This witty and diverting book, from musician and whisky expert Robin Laing, captivates the reader with folklore and history reflecting aspects of Islay life, all relating back to whisky. Simultaneously entertaining, comforting and informative, Laing uses narrative and lyric to examine the relationship between the islanders of Islay and whisky. When grouped together as a whole, the various anecdotes, poems and songs beautifully illustrate the importance that whisky plays in the lives of the people of Islay, but also of how it has shaped their history.
I have received the book myself a couple of days ago and I have come as far as page 40, not enough to write a review yet. Fortunately Bob Gulien, a member of the Islay Forum read the book and was kind enough to write a review for us. The review is available in the forum or you can read it here: Continue reading.....
Whisky Legends of Islay - A review
Published during the Feis Ile 2009, this book is a return to prose for Robin Laing. Famous for his whisky-drenched songs and poems, he started to write about it too. After The Whisky Muse: a collection of poems and songs drenched in Scotch Whisky, he wrote the definitive tour around the Distilleries of Speyside in The Whisky River. Now he turned his writing talents to one of his favourite islands: Islay. 'He brings together the myths and legends of the island of Islay, the whisky capital of the world' (from the backpage blurb).
And he is not shy to start a legend of his own, Seamus Mor. It incorporates such chapters as : Bar Legends, Legendary Drinkers, but my favourite is the story of Islay Cheese which was (allegedly) banned by the Pope, because of itâ€™s aphrodisiacal properties. Of course that has something to do with whisky. The Islay Cheese company was housed in one of the buildings of the former Lochindaal distillery. Still some Angels Share wafting around? Or maybe the fact that the old cheesemaker John Kissock and his son were 'legendary drinkers' according to a Port Charlotte resident. But did it work? Well, read the legend of Seamus Mor and youâ€™ll know! Sadly Islay Cheese is no more. A loss to all, except the Pope.
Of course the well known stories, like the Yellow Submarine and the Weapons of Mass Destruction are there, but a lot of unknown stories give moments of reading pleasure. Mythical or not so mythical whisky beasts have their own chapter. The famous beast lurking around Ardbeg and itâ€™s water supply, Smokey the Bowmore distillery cat and many more.
The chapter on Whisky Heroes is the last chapter or section of the funny and sometimes hilarious book. The truth about the disastrous flight of The Lord Of the Modern Isles, Prince Charles, when he landed the plane the wrong way, and had to be consoled with a very stiff Laphroaig. Some very fine stories from, and one about the Lady of the Isles, Christine Logan.
The book ends with the story of the making of English Whisky. How the English lured one of the real Whisky Heroes, Iain Henderson, retired Laphroaig Distiller, to Norfolk to set up a real English Whisky Distillery. (The St. George distillery). He (Iain Henderson) now sits (according to Robin), a broken man, in a small caravan, on the English side of the border, hoping, that in time, the Scots will forgive him.
As you can see, I liked this book a lot, but one piece of advice: Donâ€™t read it in one go. This book has to be savoured and read a story or chapter at a time, with a nice dram at you fingertips. My recommendation: Have a bottle from every distillery on Islay. Put one of Robinâ€™s cdâ€™s in the player and read one of the funniest books on Whisky. And remember: If whisky drinking was an Olympic sport, nine people of a team of ten, including women, would come from Islay. (A quote from Keith Jessop, which shows, he has a tremendous insight in the social life of Islay).