Tag Archives: Feis Ile

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.


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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Jan. 26.

Feis Ile Burns Supper 2015


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…..


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


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

We went home!



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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Jun. 13.

Storytelling & Beach Bonfire @ Feis Ìle 2013

Whisky and Stories

Some people Beach Bonfire

Whisky drinking and storytelling are interconnected. The experiences are reflections of each other.

Drinking, we experience the physical journey of the dram through our body; the smell in our nose, the taste and feel of whisky  in our mouth ~ a sensual journey over tongue and teeth, a warmth in our chest, the burn of alcohol on lips. We are enthralled in our response to the dram.

Listening  intently to a storyteller we cross a threshold and are cradled in the space of the story.  We travel the journey of the story with the teller; we hold our breath in suspense, we laugh enthusiastically, we tense in fear. We are enchanted in the life of the story.

Being in a reciprocal relationship with the story and the teller we respond bodily to the story, as we respond physically to the whisky. Whisky and stories transport us, we experience both physically, and are changed by them.  Our senses stimulated by sound and taste and smell, let us respond emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.  

Storyteller Smell, the most evocative of our senses, acts as a gateway through which we summon places, people and experiences of our lives. We nose our dram and smell vanilla and sea air, we remember an Aunt who lived at the seaside. We remember the year we went to visit; her tiny stone cottage, two hollowed steps down from sitting room to kitchen. One night, we sat outside; the sky was heavy, dark blue. After the sun went down the sand was creamy grey and dankly cold.  We made a bonfire and circled around it, our bare toes reaching for the warmth from the burning drift wood. The smell on the far away wind was salt and a  faint seaweed tang.  The warm hue of the red flames embraced us, and the crackle from the  pale, speckled wood created an intermittent cavern of sound. The huskiness of the charred wood released an old odour that we recognised, as it crinkled in our hair and caught in the woollen threads of our jumpers. Daddy poured the grown ups a dram and the warm succulent toasted honey smell spilled over the rims of the glasses and tickled the noses of us children.

As part of Feis Ìle  2013 Whisky for Girls (& Guys!) hosted  Storytelling & Beach Bonfire at Kilnaughton beach on Sunday 26 May. This event was sponsored by Morrison Bowmore Distillers ~ and this time, instead of just smelling the drams ~ I drank them!

To compliment the smoke of the bonfire we first drank Bowmore Darkest 15 years old. This dram is 43% Abv and sherry cask finishedBowmore Darkest It is double matured spending 12 years in Bourbon casks, then 3 years in sherry. It is a  robust dram with complex sherry tannins, but also smokey and cereal.  There are warm rounded treacle flavours, and the layer of smoke is like drinking a liquid bonfire.  There are strong notes of raisin and orange, sun dried fruits; so, although we were firmly rooted on the sands of Kilnaughton, the exotic notes in the drams and the stories transported us for a time, to distant shores.                                     This is a great dram to have out doors around the bonfire  (~ it also works really well in a strong, milky hot chocolate!) 

Small Batch Reserve                                                 As a counter point to the Darkest, we  sampled Bowmore Small Batch Reserve at 40% Abv. This is a mixture of first fill Bourbon casks and second fill Bourbon casks. First fill Bourbon cask  means that the Bowmore spirit has been matured in a Bourbon cask that has only had Bourbon in it previously. Second fill Bourbon cask means that there has been Bourbon in the cask first, then it has been used for maturing whisky, then Bowmore have used these cask to mature their spirit ~ these cask are holding their second fill of whisky.  This is a light vanilla and honey dram. It is very sweet with a wisp of pale smoke underneath. Also, as the Abv ~ Alcohol by Volume ~  is less, it gives this dram a softness.

The Beach Bonfire was a great success, drams and dramas in tandem. We had all the elements together in a short couple of hours ~ our visitors from Sweden  announced they had  a wonderful  ‘surreal’ experience!

The Monday after the Whisky for Girls (& Guys!) Beach Bonfire  we took our storyteller, Ron Fairweather to Port Ellen and Keills Primary Schools. He told stories to all the children before leaving Islay on the afternoon ferry.  

The Storyteller’s fee was taken care of by Morrison Bowmore Distillers.

Thank you to all who made the event such fun ~ Ron Fairweather, Morrison Bowmore Distillers, our lovely guests who came from near and far, and everyone who supported us.

Sharing a dram at the BonfireStoryteller Assistant







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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Oct. 18.

Islay Whisky Festival 2013 ~ Managers Dinner

The FEIS ILE  takes place during the last week of May every year.

In 2013 it kicks off with the Festival ceilidh in Bowmore hall on Friday 24th May and runs through till  Saturday 1 June.

The Feis Ile  is a festival of MUSIC and MALT. It celebrates the best Islay has to offer, and invites guests from all over the world to join in.

http://www.theislayfestival.co.uk/index.php  ~ link  to the Festival Website.

Each Distillery hosts an OPEN DAY.  Every establishment puts together special tours, music, drams, tastings and what ever else fun thing they can think of for visitors and locals’ enjoyment. Every distillery has their own day, Lagavulin has the first Saturday, Bruichladdich has the Sunday and so on throughout the week.

Whisky for Girls hope to host three great events in the evenings for you. These events are open to all ~ not just girls!! :-)



MALTS & MAGIC BEACH BONFIRE ~ whisky story telling event


The second two events are easy to organise.

But, the logistics of getting all the managers together on the same night,  in the same place,  during the busy week of the festival are  bit of a nightmare!

However, with your support and encouragement I’m sure I can persuade them to make a big effort for us.

All the managers are for the Whisky for Girls Managers Dinner event in principle.

It is just they all have entertaining to do for their own distilleries, and so finding a night where they can all get together for a few hours to host a table and share a few drams and stories with us is difficult.

The proposals for the Whisky for Girls Feis Ile Managers Dinner  are ~

53 tickets available for guests

9 Tables

9 Managers

Each manager brings  their festival bottle, or something special to share

Each table hosted by a distillery manager.

The dinner will comprise 9 Scottish tapas courses

Each manager will move to the table on their left after every course.

By the end of the dinner each table will have had every manager with them for the duration of one course.

Due to the time constraints, each small food course will last about 25 minutes.


The menu will comprise of ~ for example ~

3 oysters

Wee bowl of cock-a-leekie soup

Slice of venison with blaeberries


Mini haggis with one spoonful of mashed tatties & neeps

Slivers of salmon

Crab or Lobster


Cheese & Biscuits

This is just a sample of the TYPE of dishes ~ we haven’t decided yet, and will need to talk with the distillery managers to see what they think will go with the drams they will be bringing to the table.

So, there will be

9 Managers

9 Drams

9 Courses

Does this sound like a plan??

If you are coming to the festival and you would like to attend an event like this, please contact me using the contact form on the website. The more interest there is in an event like this, the more chance I can persuade the managers to make a supreme effort to get together. It is not that they don’t want to, it is just they are so busy. But, Whisky for Girls think that this would be a really great event and very popular with people.


GAELIC WHISKY TASTING ~ this event will be hosted in the Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle (link to website) ~ The Gaelic College on the outskirts of Bowmore.

The event will be in Gaelic with a translation into English. This will be a great chance for people to hear the traditional descriptions of the properties of a dram ~ because, if you think about it ~ UISGE BEATHA is the real name and language ~ the word WHISKY is just  bastardised form of the sound UISGE.

Away back in the day, all talk would have been in Gaelic and it will be a great experience for guests to hear this, especially in relation to whisky!


MALTS & MAGIC BEACH  BONFIRE EVENT ~ down the shore, big fire, sitting on driftwood seats, drams in hand listening to locals tell you old secret tales of the past.  The mischief and mayhem, the laughs and the trials. The stories from AWAY BACK IN THE DAY.

The location for this event has yet to be decided.


If you are interested in any of the above events; or if you have a comment, question or suggestion, please get in touch.

Whisky for Girls would love to hear from you.







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Jun. 02.


 Ardbeg Open Day entertained with good music, huge festival bottles of whisky and a great crowd.

 Manager Mickey Heads and Stillman Neil Philco gave masterclasses where the participants tasted six drams ~

 Still Young ~

10 year old  Cask no 2163 57.8% from 2002

14 year old from a sherry cask Cask 2722 53.9%

16 year old refill Bourbon Cask no. 2763 50.2% bottled in 1995

21 year old from a sherry cask bottled in 2002   1975

1975 ~ 36 year old  in warehouse  Cask No.4714


Frank from  Whisky Freunde Club in Cologne described the Ardbeg Festival Dram 56.7%

~ Long dry finish, fresh on the nose, young, sweet in original mouthfeel, and fruity with a bit of spice.

 In the festival bottle queue,  Whisky for Girls met John and Glenis ~ a couple whose love affair with whisky created their own love affair. They were married in Islay in a romantic ceremony with a couple of strangers as their witness. They have an amazing collection of rare Ardbegs. Glenis hunts them down, presenting John on his birthday with bottle number 4700 from the Japanese market, released in 2002. ‘I hound people until they give me what I want’  Glenis told me!

 People danced with the flags from their country as the band played

 And Manager’s wife, Margaret was crowned Queen of Ardbeg



Another great day where the sun shone and the drams flowed.

Whisky for Girls would like to thank everyone  who joined  ITS NOT JUST WHISKY FOR GIRLS CLUB.

We would like to thank everyone who granted us an interview, and/or  gave us some lovely drams to taste.

We would like to thank everyone who supported Whisky for Girls in any shape or form over the duration of the festival ~ and we look forward to welcoming you all back next year.


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