Islay's Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve

Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve is an important area for wildlife, home to large numbers of Barnacle and White-fronted gees in the wintertime. In spring Loch Gruinart is full of life with breeding wading birds such as Lapwings, snipe and redshanks. At night the Corncrake is a prominent guest. The picture is made in the wintertime at Loch Gruinart where Roe Deer are crossing the loch. Arra Fletcher from the Persabus Pottery was kind enough to send me this picture.

In earlier days the Gruinart Flats were flooded at high tyde all the way up to Druim na h-Erasaid untill a dutch man was hired to build an original Dutch polder. When he arrived around 1850 a dyke was built creating extra grasslands for the Geese. The idea behind it was that the Geese would leave the grasslands from the farmers alone and stay in their designated area. Wishfull thinking at that time and the Geese continued to graze on the farm lands leaving the farmers with a problem. Nowadays the farmers are financially compensatated by the government for letting Geese graze on their land.

Besides a Nature Reserve Loch Gruinart is a magnificant place for walks on one of the stunning beaches on either side of the Loch. Close to the RSPB visitor centre at Aoradh Farm is a bird hide and a wonderful sheltered woodland walk. The finest walks however can be made on the west side of the loch where a circular walk takes you up to Ardnave point. Just before the parking place on the right are the remains of the ancient village of Tayovulin. In the early days a place where a few hundred people lived and worked in the herring industry. Another wonderful walk can be made on the east side of the Loch crossing Killinallan Point towards Gortantaoid Point. From there on Islay becomes almost inaccessible except for the more experienced walker. This is also a part of Islay where Jeremy Hastings from Islay Bushcraft takes people on a bushcraft course.

Bowmore Limited 1989 Edition

In 1779, a farmer named David Simson founded a distillery on the shores of Loch Indaal which is known today as Bowmore. Bowmore is the oldest legal distillery on Islay. It is owned and operated by Morrison Bowmore, which in turn is owned by Suntory of Japan.

Like almost all the Islay whiskies, Bowmore single-malt whiskies have that peaty quality that drinkers either love or hate, but it's a bit lighter and less aggressive than, say, Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Now Bowmore has come out with a limited production of a single-vintage whisky. The Bowmore Limited 1989 Edition is fairly soft but very complex. It is bottled at cask strength, with 51.8 percent alcohol, yet surprisingly gentle. Promising for a cold winter evening ;-)

Lochindaal distillery aka Port Charlotte

Lochindaal was a purpose-built distillery in the Rhinns of Islay which survived in the 20th century. Located in the heart of Port Charlotte village it was constructed for its first licensee, Colin Campbell, in 1829. He only held onto it for two years and subsequently it had many owners: McLennan & Grant from 1831-2; George McLennan 1833-5; Walter Graham 1837; Henderson Lamont & Co until 1852; Rhinns Distillery Co 1852; William Guild & Co to 1855 before a period of stability under the ownership of John B Sherrif until 1895 and then J B Sherrif & Co Ltd up to 1921. It was eventually taken over by Benmore Distilleries Ltd in 1921 prior to that company's acquisition by the DCL. That signalled the end of Lochindaal and it closed in 1929.

Some of it was used by the Islay Creamery until the early 1990's and the shore-side warehouses remain in use by a local garage and the Islay Youth Hostel and Field Centre, whilst a roadside building is now used for vehicle repairs and the distillery cottage is inhabited. The bonded warehouses on the hill behind the distillery site have been in continuous use by other distillers and are currently used by the Bruichladdich Distillery. This is one lost distillery on Islay that has a good photographic history, which clearly records the distillery site during its century of operation

Update: In spring 2007 Bruichladdich announced the reopening of the Lochindaal Distillery and will be called the Port Charlotte Distillery

The Laddie’s Beer helps the RNLI

An ale has been brewed from Islay single malt for the first time. Micro-brewery Islay Ales, on the Hebridean island of the same name, has hooked up with neighbouring distiller Bruichladdich to produce a powerful and heady brew. By interrupting the whisky–making process at the stage of mashing, 600 litres of the prefermented liquor known as ‘wort’ was shipped to Islay Ales brewery.

Here, using brewer’s yeast, the ‘wort’ obtained from a maceration of Optic barley, was fermented to a knee-trembling 9% alcohol ale. Brewer Paul Hathaway added Challenger and Bramling Cross hops for extra flavour: “The distillery usually gets a 7% alcohol using different yeast strain – but I managed to get a thumping 9% alcohol.” “It’s a crossover drink: it has the delicious malty richness of Bruichladdich’s wort and the bitterness of hops. You can drink it now – it will get even better with time.”

1,800 bottles (33cl) entitled “Worts n’Ale” will be sold at £3 each exclusively by Islay Ales. Twenty-five pence from each bottle will go to the RNLI. The debut for this monster was Sunday 28th May at the opening day of the Islay Whisky & Music Festival “Feis Ile” at Bruichladdich Distillery. “At 9% alcohol this is a beer for savouring and certainly not for session drinking.