Category Archives:EVENTS

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Nov. 23.

What’s in a Whisky Festival?

There are many different types and syles of whisky festival. If you can’t find one to suit you, then perhaps you should return to drinking milk…

Glasgow Whisky Festival ~ exactly what it says on the tin. More drams than you can shake a stick at. A well run, whisky presenting event. No faff, no falderal. This whisky festival reminds me of the shipyards on the Clyde in days of old. Engineered, good craic, full of wit and camaraderie. Haggis and Neeps to eat, and friends are well looked after.  A good Scottish Festival.

We have the glamour of Paris Live… HUGE number of stands, big names, expensive whisky tastings. A lot of glitz and glamour –  fur coat and no knickers….? the people who ran the stands were complaining they were packed in too tighty…. all for style, never for comfort. Lots of World drams and glamour. A place to see and be seen.

Then, we have Maltstock & Dramboree ~ whisky hippy dreams. Fires, Birkenstocks, sharing bedrooms, and swimming with whisky!   Do you need to be young or have a beard for these? A celebration of friendship and whisky. The whole weekend is a session.

Next we have Independent European Festivals – mostly Dutch, German and now, Austrian.   A celebration of Scotch and Scottish culture. I love how people are playing the pipes (sometimes with more luck than judgement..) are singing Scottish songs, have kilts on, and there is tartan and shortbread all over the place. And lots of obscure Independent bottlings. This is good. These people are way ahead in whisky repertoire.  Big commercial festivals can be rather generic in relation to drams..

Then, we have the Speyside Whisky Festival. So overwhelming because everything is so far apart. But, if one has a driver who knows where they are going it is fantastic. Cooperages are opened up, Maltings are available to view. This is a mixture of the practical side of whisky and whisky drinking, with big names and glamour thrown in for good measure.

Next up,  we have our very own Feis Ìle.  A celebration of the culture of Islay, which has been hijacked by the distilleries. However, this is good. This grounds people in the distilleries and lets them experience whisky where it is made. A week of  mayhem involving Islay distilleries, whisky and friendships.

Last, but not least we have a newcomer to the festival scene. My very own THEATRE OF DRAMS Whisky Symposium . An Educational Celebration of Whisky.  An alternative, or a complement, to the week of the Feis.  Whisky drinking & whisky heritage. Pick and chose the events you want to attend. Create your learning schedule. 

There is a place for ALL kinds of festivals. We need a variey of events. These are a few to demonstrate diferent STYLES.

There are hundreds of whisky events world wide. 

Seek them out!

Enjoy your #Scotch.

Slàinte!

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May. 31.

Feis Ìle 2016 ~ Islay Festival of Music & Malt

Too much whisky, too many people….. Can’t wait for next year?!

Avarice has created a monster. The infrastructure of Islay is stetched to breaking. 

The week of the feis now turns Islay into Ibiza. It’s a whisky club scene….

More and more outside agencies are jumping on the band wagon. People who profess to be in the industry have no clue about the nature or the history of Feis Ìle. I told one guy that the festival committee was a voluntary organisation. ‘And what do they do?’, he asked!

Yes, we meet friends, yes we have fun… but we do this on other weeks too. 

The Islay roads are falling to bits, we have bin collections every 3 weeks or so. People have to pay for themselves to get to hospital in the mainland ~ by boat!

Once one’s hotel or guesthouse is full for the week, what more money can be made? Once one’s restuarant or cafe has fulfilled it’s quota of covers in a day, how much more money can be made? 

Who actually makes money from Feis Ìle?

Lagavulin Distillery (Diageo) brought in £750,000 on their festival bottle ALONE.

Even if the festival was not on, visitors would still come. So, the beds would be filled, the tables would be sat at…..

I like when people buy festival bottles and put them on German ebay ~ why should Josephine Blogs not make a bob or two on her festival bottle? Why should all the money go to big companies?

Yes, I know people can argue about the money the craft people, the taxi drivers, etc etc. make during the week. I know all these things…. it’s just once anything becomes so commercialised it becomes dehumanised and out of control.

The Festival Committee host events to maintain the Islay hospitality and intrinsic nature of the week. There are so many external events, that we are now seeing a division as at the Edinburgh Festival … where the Feis fringe is overtaking the Feis itself: which would be fine, if we were not an island with a limited physicality ~ and it’s not all meant to be about money.

One lady in Bowmore was sitting having her lunch in her garden, when flying over the wall, came dog waste thrown by two people in a camper van parked outside her gate for days!!!

Where do we go from here…?

Maybe the Feis will be like Daisy World. Once it reaches absolute saturation (this year?) it will collapse and rebuild itself in another way.

Maybe we should discuss having TWO Feis weeks. One in May and one in October, say?

I am not in favour of having a two week long Feis. It is fine for those who come and go, and whilst on Islay are on holiday. It would probably be too much for the Ilich (the Islay people) to cope with. But this is obviously open for discussion. 

Anyway…. even with all the above,

I love seeing everyone, I love Feis Ile, I love whisky & music

and, everybody is somebody’s friend,

Slàinte Mhath!

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Mar. 11.

All Woman Distillery ~ working title…

Bruichladdich Nostalgia BAROLO 017 (2) (1024x959)After speaking at the Women in Whisky Lunch and appreciating the talents, skills & abilities we have ~ and after a few great drams…. I decided to tell everyone my plan for women to build and run a distillery.

This plan is not meant to exclude men, certainly not. But the idea is for us women to start our own distillery.

‘All woman’ refers to the make up of individual women, as oppose to ‘All womEn’ which would be women only…

We have female distillers, blenders, marketeers, ambassadors, financiers, architects, builders, promoters, distributors ….. and most importantly….. DRINKERS!

This distillery would not make a ‘women’s whisky’…. what is that?

It would make great whisky & spirit. Full Stop.

 The business would have an awareness of women and try to think differently and inclusively.

It is just a plan, an idea…. but I am working on it, as from today.

And, why not?

It will be hard work, great fun, an achievement, a learning experience, a heart stopping adventure….it will be life.

So, what do you say Girls? 

Let’s create  Uisge Beatha ~Let’s make the Water of Life

Let’s have our own WHISKY DISTILLERY.

All those who are interested in anyway, please contact me. 

rachel@wildandmagicislay.com 

Let’s see where this goes….

Slàinte!

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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.

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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.

Slàinte!

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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…..

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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…..

Slàinte!

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Jun. 03.

FEIS ILE 2015

Feis Ile agus Dhiura 2015 ~the busiest we have seen yet!  We had extra open days & nights and millions of events ~ 

Friday ~ SMWS Open Day at Islay House ~ with two new Festival bottles……. one from SMWS and one from Islay House 

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 And the first time meeting a great gang of Whisky Girls from all over the world!

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 Next up, Saturday ~ Lagavulin Day

With the Festival bottle put up on German ebay as soon as money changed hands in Islay ~ and the bottle sold out by Tuesday……..  German ebay ~ the life of high finance on Islay….

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Well, Sunday is just mental ~ It’s Bruichladdich Day!

‘The Boss’ hosts his last Master Class for 500 people (but, let’s hope we see him guest hosting tastings in the future…) ~ and some of the Whisky Girls Gang get our photo taken with him

Bruichladdich McEwanMonday is Caol Ila Day ~ weather is not that great, some people take great photos though, and plenty of great whisky is drunk…..

Festival 2015 0Tuesday is Laphroaig Day ~ weather doubtful ~ 200 Anniversary Birthday cake? splendid ~ secret still in the woods? ~ even MORE splendid!

And at night we had a great #whiskyfabric gathering with more bottles and people than you could shake a stick at…

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Wednesday was Bowmore Day ~ and the rain poured from the Heavens ~ but, then so did the whisky! So, I don’t think people minded too much…. 

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and Lucci at Bowmore Hotel stocked up on his festival bottles for us all….

2015 Festival Bottles

Thursday is Kilchoman & Jura Day ~ Kilchoman celebrated their 10 Year Anniversary ~ their first spirit came through on 14 December 2005, but the Visitor Centre was open earlier in that year. Richard Paterson represented Jura well ~ as he always does; with his wit and his cigars and his lovely drams….

Festival 2015 6Festival 2015 18Festival 2015 2Friday is Bunnahabhain Day ~ lovely drams, great music, good craic…..

I arrive just as Islay Bart was leaving…. I told him it was nothing personal…..!

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Saturday was Ardbeg Day ~ 200 Anniversary ~ lots going on ~ lovely drams, Arbroath Smokies, people from the future, ice bars, tract Tours and drams from probably the most expensive bottle of the Feis ~ 1815 Ardbeg, a snip at £3,000 ~ Bill only bought two…. and Bino only bought three….!! 

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Slàinte!

Thank you to everyone I met who made the week so fantastic. Great new friends and great old friends. We will see you again next year ~ if not before.

And until we meet again ~ 

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Thank you to anyone whose photos are here.  I couldn’t find exactly who took which pic, so please accept my inclusive thanks if you recognise your own.

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Mar. 29.

LOVE WHISKY? TASTING

Whisky for Girls hosted a LOVE WHISKY TASTING in Colonsay for Grace & Keir of ‘THE DRESS’ fame, and their wedding guests.

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That night, there was no hint of the ensuing media tumult  ~  ‘was ‘THE DRESS’ worn to the wedding by Grace’s Mum, white and gold, or was it blue and black?’ they were only concerned with the drams they were about to taste…..

Two things I can tell you ~ 

1)  The drams we tried were GOLD 

2) The Dress is blue and black!

This future furore aside, we had one of the best tastings ever. It was so informal and so much fun.

Many of the guests had never tasted whisky before ~ but, said they will drink it in future…..!

The drams we had were:

BRUICHLADDICH SCOTTISH BARLEY

50% abv  with no age. A pale summer sun in colour.  This is a young, fresh, light dram. A lunchtime or early afternoon dram. No peat in the Bruichladdich range. A bit citrus, slightly malty, oranges. Very soft. Only in Bourbon cask.  Another time it would be good to try the Scottish, Bere & Islay Barley whiskies all at same time and taste the subtle differences. Short Finish.

BUNNAHABHAINN 12 YO

46.3% abv, a fruity, nutty dram. More oily than the Bruichladdich with a tiny edge of smokey brine. Fruitcake, fudge and a hint of Christmas tangerines. Sweet and warm. This would be a late afternoon dram. Medium Finish.

ARDBEG UIGEADAIL

54.2% abv luscious, raisiny, smokey. A mix of new bourbon and old sherry casks. The sherry casks used to be the old Ardbeg ones from the past, but they are getting younger now. This dram is heavier and ‘meatier’ than the first two. Honey, treacle, walnuts, pine needles. It feels like you can chew it! Longer Finish.

KILCHOMAN MACHIR BAY

46% abv A vatting of 5 & 6 YO bourbon & Oloroso sherry casks. Vatting means the malt whisky from these casks has been poured together, then bottled. It tastes summery and peaty with fruitiness and vanilla tones. The length of the finish is in between the Bunnahabhain and the Uigeadail.

LAPHROAIG SELECT

40% abv This is a very interesting dram. It has been created by Laphroaig to be an introduction to it’s own style.  It is Laphroaig without the strong character. Think of ‘Rocky’ in his youth, and think of him now…… this is the difference between Laphroaig and Laphroaig Select. Everyone is making whisky like this now. We have Bowmore Small Batch, Glenrothes Vintage Reserve. And the interesting thing is that they say the customers chose it! I am sorry that customers want to dumb down the character of Laphroaig. But if you approach it as a whisky in it’s own right, it is a palatable, smokey, peatey dram that is sweet. It has a finish about the length of the Bunnahabhain, and would be an early evening dram.

 The favourite dram of the evening was the Ardbeg Uigeadail.

Whisky for Girls wish Grace & Keir all the best for their life together.

A shared love of whisky is a good bond for any couple to have!

Slàinte!

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Just to test you ~ before and after your next dram, checkout ‘the dress’ and tell us what colours you see……

The Dress

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Jan. 26.

Feis Ile Burns Supper 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RABBIE BURNS

The Star o Rabbie Burns

 On 25th January,  a Scottish Poet’s birthday is celebrated the world over. A birthday which falls on 25 December is celebrated by a percentage of the world ~ but Rabbie’s birthday is celebrated in every country in the world; by everyone, everywhere. What an achievement. What an Immortal Memory!

The traditional Feis Ile Burns Supper was held in the White Hart Hotel in Port Ellen.

Burns Drams

There was a peat fire roaring in the grate when we arrived, we were welcome with a dram of Lagavulin 16 yo.

The dining room was beautifully decorated with red roses and white heather .

We said the Selkirk Gace before dining ~

Some hae meat and canna eat

And some wad eat that want it

But we hae meat and we can eat

And sae the Lord be thankit

 Dinner was  lovely:  soup was peppery,  mashed potatoes were creamy,  haggis was fresh…..

Dinner

Our top table, comprising Donald Gillies. Jackie Thomson of Ardbeg fame, our MC Calum Murray formerly of Islay High School, John Campbell Manager of Laphroaig Distillery and John Findlay of Kilbride Farm.

Top Table

Their speeches were brilliant. Donald’s witty, clever homage to Burns and Scotland in The Imortal Memory

John Campbell, entertained us with his Toast to the Lassies.

  Jackie had us roaring with laugher at her truthful, cheeky and very daring Reply from the Lassies

We had more Lagavulin 16 yo, we listened to great singers from all over the island and a young piper from Port Ellen

Piping in the haggisJackie

Eating

And then after laughing, eating, drinking, singing,  & enjoying each others company into the wee small hours ~ 

We went home!

Slàinte!

 

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Jan. 23.

#BSWA

Whisky for Girls kicks off our Big Scotland Whisky Adventure on Sunday 8th February 2015.

#BIGSCOTLANDWHISKYADVENTURE is a journey through the land of Scotland visiting ALL the whisky distilleries of the country ~  there are in the region of 100 or so ~ and tasting the beautiful UISGE BEATHA (whisky) for which  Scotland is justifiably famous.

Whisky Map

We will be away from Islay for as long as it takes…. There is no hard and fast organised schedule. Whisky for Girls (& Guys!) will wander through the beautiful country of Scotland.

We will enjoy the scenery, the people, the atmosphere, the wildlife, the public transport, the weather ~ but most of all, we will enjoy exploring the world of whisky that is Scotland.

We will experience the land of Scotland which makes the Whisky of Scotland and endeavour to share this with you.

Please join me on the #BIGSCOTLANDWHISKYADVENTURE 

Follow  

@WildandMagic on Twitter

and 

Whisky for Girls on facebook

and

Whisky for Girls (& Guys!)

Slàinte!

wonderful whisky map of Scotland by 

amcmurchieprints

 

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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Dec. 21.

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath Ùr

Nativity

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath Ùr

bho

Uisge beatha airson Chailean (& Fir! )

~ Mac na Braiche agus Draoidheachd à Ìle agus àitean
fad’ air falbh ~ 

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Merry Christmas and a Good New Year 

from

Whisky for Girls (& Guys!)

~ Malts and Magic from Islay and Beyond ~ 

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