Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Nov. 24.

The week that was… WHISKY COURSE ISLAY Pt II

Wednesday afternoon, saw us leaving Kilchoman Distillery and heading to Port Ellen for the SECOND whisky tasting of the day ~ an exclusive Scotch Malt Whisky Society Tasting hosted by John McCheyne.  Our guest for the evening was Florence Grey, chair person of the voluntary commitee who organise Feis Ile ~Islay Whisky Festival.


Thursday saw us learning chemistry of maturation in the morning. And a practical focus on Wood, Warehousing & Maturation took us on a tour of Bowmore Distillery, where we joined some delegates drawing samples from their own casks in Warehouse 5. Later, in the malt barns and kilns the artistic among us created barley angels, whilst the diligent practised turning green malt…..

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Thursday evening brought the eagerly anticipated Whisky & Scottish Cuisine Dinner/Ceilidh. 

Two local cooks created a beautiful meal for us,  held in the largest kitchen of all the houses. Hunter Laing, R & B Distillers & R.D. Rattray sponsored the meal by sending us lovely bottles to enjoy. Also gifted were bottles from OWL Distillery, Mackmyra Distillery and various others. Whisky for Girls (& Guys!) provided a rather delicious port finish Kilchoman.

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I really enjoyed the meal as it was very informal and relaxed,  just like an old time ceilidh. Over the course of the leisurely meal, everyone stood up when inspired to do so and made a spontaneous toast ~ it could be as heartfelt or ridiculous as one wished….. and they were!

 After coffee, when everyone thought they could just chill…. in an heartfelt outburst of ‘bon homie’, I generously took it upon myself to teach the assembled company that Islay anthem… The Lights of Loch Indaal…. 

“if you learned ONE thing this week……..”

 … I remember a story about Sammy’s nails, or was it snails?? Lots of laughter, repeated playing of the ‘Vatersay Boys’  and the concerted tasting of ALL whiskies on the table……

Anyway… moving swiftly on to Friday with Marketing, Branding & Customer Loyalty. We were extravagantly hosted by Jackie at Ardbeg Distillery.  There were oysters in Seaview, a range of drams in the warehouse, a dram from 1976 in the old malt barns, ice cream in the still house, tea and cakes in the cafe and to top it all:  

SMOKING Ardbeg10 YO  in the chairperson’s study….

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   We awarded

WHISKY COURSE ISLAY 15 Certificates 

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In the Welcome Pack it said ~ 

“WHISKY COURSE ISLAY 2015 wishes to be an educational break from the corporate norm…..

I hope you will learn a lot; and make friends, rather than contacts, during your time in Islay”

I believe WHISKY COURSE ISLAY 15 fulfilled these hopes.


Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Nov. 23.

The week that was WHISKY COURSE ISLAY…. Pt I

What a full on, fun filled, fact saturated, whisky flowing, friend making week.

WHISKY COURSE ISLAY from 26 – 30 October 2015 inclusive, brought people from all corners of this round earth to Wild and Magic Islay. We had 15 delegates, most of whom turned out to be industry professionals. I presumed mainly ‘whisky connoisseur/hobbyists’ would attend, and happily, they did; and, it was heartening to be so well supported by the industry. We had distillery owners and managers, maltsters, marketing people, bar school teachers, independent bottlers, engineers, brand ambassadors……   good fun, clever, whisky drinking  people!

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We had 5 full on days. Learning from Professor Paul Huges in the morning, then backing up the theory with practical application at various Islay Distilleries in the afternoons. At Laphroaig Distillery moss, Dugie MacTaggart introduced everyone to peat cutting.

And, heroically maintained a straight face when asked such searching questions as; ‘what do you call your tool, Willie?’ …… !!!


John Campbell took us to places in Laphroaig no one normally goes…. We learned about malting in fine detail. We learned specifics of the job. Thinking about what side of the malt floor faces the sea ~ so barley germinates slower than on the slightly warmer road side. We thought about the malt around the base of the building pillars, we thought about the barley at the bottom of the steep tanks not being aerated as the aeration ring is set up by around 12″ from the opening. We learned……!

Laphroaig Steep tank

 So much to learn, so little space left in the head after all the theory of the morning sessions with Prof Paul…

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Tuesday found us at Bruichladdich Distillery being well looked after by Alan Logan. What he didn’t teach these WHISKY COURSE ISLAY delegates about milling and mashing is not worth knowing! We saw the inner workings of the victorian, Heath Robinson style, yet, greatly efficient, mill.

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We learned about the open topped cast iron mash tun ~ 4 waters due to so much evaporation… and Alan risked life and limb in the warehouse to bring us some lovely whisky right out the casks….

We only managed to lose two delegates at Bruichladdich ~ one is very likely still there, as evidenced by this ID picture being circulated by an old respected Independent Bottlers…..

WCI Bruich Handbeg

the other was found red faced and sparkly eyed at the vatting sink, after being led astray by Master Blender,  Adam Hannett……

Moving swiftly on to day 3. A wonderfully educational, yet totally relaxed day at Kilchoman Distillery. We spent SO long in the still house learning the machinations of small scale whisky production with Robin & Russell, that Kathy began to think we were staying the night…..

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Eva hosted a great Kilchoman Tasting, then, we manoeuvered everyone onto buses heading off for ANOTHER whisky tasting….. 

but that’s a story for Part II…..