These are exciting times for the whisky Industry on Islay. With a new distillery recently being opened and others in the planning to be built, as well as the major reconstruction plans for some of the existing distilleries, I thought it would be a good idea to write about the upcoming changes as the (distillery) landscape on Islay is rapidly changing.
Let's start with the most exciting news as recently, early April, Islay's ninth distillery opened for the public. Ardnahoe Distillery is located a mile south of Bunnahabhain. I'm sure many visitors to Islay will take the opportunity and visit Islay's latest distillery and take a tour. The interior of the distillery is beautiful and the views are amazing. There is a large restaurant with nice views too so if you're not a whisky fan you still want to make the trip and have lunch or a drink.
Ardnahoe offers several tours; The "normal tour" named Spirit of Ardnahoe starts at 10am, 2pm and 3.30pm. There are also two special tours available. All tours can be booked online which is always recommended. More info on their website www.ardnahoedistillery.com, phone 01496 840777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more.....
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Support Islay Lifeline Charities during your stay by buying a fabulous Islay CD!!
For those searching for the perfect gift while visiting Islay, there’s no better choice than a CD of the BBC recordings of the late Donald M MacLeod of Islay. EVERY PENNY RAISED will go to two charities which are lifelines for Islay and beyond: Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute Islay (RNLI).
This is creating a buzz amongst music lovers at home and abroad with Islay shops reporting they are ‘’selling like hotcakes” and sales requests coming from as far afield as Melbourne and Los Angeles! Donald was described in the Oban Times as “ Islay’s most famous export after whisky”. He was born and raised in Portnahaven, a crofter and Master Joiner. He and his wife Katie loved the place and its people. He was a winner of the Junior and Senior medals for singing at the Islay Mod and a National Mod Gold Medallist. In 2011 he was inducted into the Traditional Music Hall of Fame. Read more...
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It seems that Spring in recent years not only welcomed sunshine, lambs and daffodils but broken ferries and messed up timetables too. The ferry services were disrupted almost every time at the start of the tourist season which usually coincides with the start of the summer ferry timetables, end of March. The problems were usually due to ferries returning late from dry dock resulting in a knock-on effect throughout the network. Broken down ferries are another cause of disruptions as the fleet is getting older and older. This year however, according to Calmac, things were planned to be different. The maintenance schedule was altered and the two Islay ferries were supposed to be back early March to guarantee a smooth start into the tourist season....You feel it coming right?
After the breakdown of the MV Finlaggan on Friday 15th of March, only weeks after her return from dry dock, the Caledonian Isles ferry, the one between Ardrossan and Brodick (Isle of Arran) had malfunctioning bow thrusters and as a result "touched" the pier in Brodick (Arran), or as Calmac wrote on their website: "Please be advised that as the MV Caledonian Isles was coming alongside in Brodick at approx 1400hrs, the bow thrusters failed resulting in a heavy contact being made with the pier fenders. This has resulted in some damage which will require further investigation." Read more...
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I'm pleased that I can finally share some news snippets about Ardnahoe, Islay's ninth distillery. This morning I had the pleasure of a private tour of the new distillery. Paul Graham, visitor centre operations manager, showed me the ins and outs of the new distillery. It was a much anticipated experience for me as I had my first proper impressions of the beautiful interior. Without going into more detail, I will do that at a later date, I can safely say that Arnahoe is a great new asset for Islay and it will certainly become one of the tourism highlights for this year.
Ardnahoe Distillery Friday 8th March 2019
When will Ardnahoe Distillery Open?
At the moment of writing the distillery is in the test/production phase and they are preparing for their official opening on Friday 12th of April. However, this opening is for dignitaries only. The opening for regular visitors is likely to happen around the end of March but this is not certain yet. Make sure to keep an eye out on their social media channels and website for updates regarding the opening hours and other news. www.ardnahoedistillery.com
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Scotch: The Golden Dram, a revealing feature documentary on how Scotch whisky became the premiere spirit of choice around the globe, will be released in UK and Irish cinemas on March 8 by Parkland Entertainment and Munro Films. This follows the film’s European premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on 1 March. Islay, and Jim McEwan, feature heavily in the film. The distilleries of Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg are all included.
The film marks director-producer Andrew Peat’s feature-length documentary debut, a passion project for the American filmmaker who studied at St Andrew’s University in Scotland. Andrew Peat says, “I am absolutely delighted to bring our film to UK and Irish audiences. The heart of our film is the characters, the men and women who produce Scotch whisky, from the barley farmers to the bottle makers. And you can literally see the passion and joy and pride they have in their work and this world-renowned product. They share their amazing stories, and some very humorous anecdotes. It’s a very educational film (you learn the entire process of whisky making), but at the same time it’s a film of the heart. You will laugh and possibly cry by the time the credits roll.” Continue reading...
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On several occasions I've written about Wild and Magic Islay, Whisky for Girls and Theatre of Drams, all ran by Rachel MacNeill from Bowmore. Around a year ago Rachel decided to streamline all her activities under one new business name and new website and the result was Islay Whisky Academy ( www.islaywhiskyacademy.scot ). The Whisky For Girls brand is still there and so are the many different and excellent Islay Whisky Tours and tastings through Wild and Magic Islay. Added is the education part.
Islay Whisky Education
A few years ago she started the Islay Whisky Academy Diploma and it proved to be very successful. Rachel said: "We have developed and expanded the company, and are delighted to offer Whisky Education Courses, in addition to our amazing Islay Whisky Tours and Events. Our new range of Islay Whisky Tours include 5 Star Tours, Flavours of Islay Tours, Adventure Tours, and many other interesting and unusual experiences. Wild and Magic Islay are very "on trend", offering Outlaw King Historic Tours of Islay. Sharing stories of Finlaggan Ancient Seat of the Kings of the Isles, & Dun Naomhaig - from where 10,000 men left to fight for Robert the Bruce in 1314." Read more....
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David Livingstone posted a link on Facebook to a video which was filmed in 1960. (great find David). The film, titled Islay Holiday, is a silent film, shot in colour and shows the "Mills family holiday to Islay visiting Gigha and passing Colonsay." This film is available from the National Library of Scotland and therefore can't be embedded on the blog, however clicking on the photo or this link will take you to the page where you can watch the film.
There are some fantastic scenes in this film and what stands out the most for me were the immaculate white buildings of Bunnahabhain Distillery, the Locheil Ferry, the shots of Port Ellen and the view up Main Street Bowmore. What a changes in almost 60 years time! The shotlist is as follows:
map of west coast showing route from mainland to Islay. Pan of Port Ellen (0.51) shot Bunnahabhain distillery. Mills family on holiday, scenery. (1.30) looking over to Jura from Port Ellen ferry at Port Ellen pier (1.47) gv's Bowmore, including ls Killarow Parish church (2.10) scenery by Lochindaal; c/u kitten walking through bracken; Portnahaven with lighthouse in distance (4.37) Ferry Locheil arriving at Gigha pier. holiday makers on Gigha looking over to Jura. (5.45) visitors in Gigha village, Mills on deck of steamer Lochiel heading for Islay; tracking shot arriving Port Askaig (7.03) ls cattle on beach (7.11) ms Mills working on upturned bicycle. l/s monument to drowned American sailors on the Oa (7.48) Ferry travelling up sound of Jura Mills on board. (8.46) Ferry Locheil? arrives off Colonsay and small launch takes off mail and passengers [Donald 'Gibbie' handles mail sacks] (9.44) Port Askaig as ferry leaves and arrives at West Loch Tarbet (9.57)
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Dear readers and followers, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year. I realise my Islay Blog has been quiet in December, this was due to a huge workload and some very necessary time off. However, we are now starting up again and behind the scenes is enough going on to make 2019 an exciting year but more about that later here.
2019 will again be a busier, tourism wise, than the previous years. This is a trend that's continuing for as long as I'm webmaster of the Islay Info website and it's confirmed by many tourism related folk I talk to on Islay. The tourist season is stretching and more and more visitors find their way to Islay in months which hardly saw any visitors some 15 years ago.
With the expansion of the current Islay Distilleries and the construction of new distilleries whisky tourism will also get an extra boost. Almost every distillery on Islay is either increasing capacity and/or working on providing a better service for their visitors, think for instance of the recently accounced plans for a state of the art visitor centre at Caol-Ila distillery. This is also the year that Ardnahoe Distillery will open its doors for visitors and Elixir Distillers have submitted revised plans for Farkin Distillery, between Port Ellen and Laphroaig, with underground warehousing for their new venture. And last but not least, work will begin this year on the Diageo site at Port Ellen with the reconstruction of Port Ellen Distillery. Read more...
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The beautiful village of Port Charlotte on the Isle of Islay has a primary school with pre5 unit who are looking for a new head teacher, starting as soon as possible! I might be biased here as my daughter is a pupil but this school is fantastic. Its dedicated team of teachers, classroom assistants, cook and janitor as well as the beautiful location make it unique and are reflected in the pupils' motivation and love for their wee school.
The current head teacher, Danielle Vessey, is leaving us unfortunately so therefore it would be great if we could find someone on short notice. If there's a head teacher out there, or someone who wants to become a head teacher, I can very much recommend considering a move to our beautiful island. Islay is a safe place for kids and it's also a place with a good community sense. No need to lock your doors or car here!!
The closing date for this job is the 7th of December so you have to act fast! The council is offering a great salary as well as a relocation package. This is your chance to live and work on the most beautiful island in Scotland. For more info and to apply for the job please visit this link.
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The ferry winter schedule is in operation from end of October 2018 until 28th of March 2019. This is the period that it's somewhat quieter on the ferries and also the period that the two regular Islay Ferries, the Finlaggan and Hebridean Isles, get their annual maintenance period. In the past this has caused disruptions around the start of the tourist season around Easter time as the return of one of the ferries was delayed. For 2019 the maintenance schedule looks more favourable as both ferries will have had their annual maintenance before the end of February. Islay will return to a two vessel service starting the 15th of February 2019, if all goes as planned. Fingers crossed here. If you're keen to know what and how many ferries are doing the Islay service this winter please check the table below. And as always, if you want to know if ferries are disrupted and what your rights as passenger are please read this article. Continue reading....
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