Every year in the last week of May our wee town swells with dram-seekers from around the globe. The Islay Festival (or Fèis Ìle to give it its Sunday name) is perhaps the biggest event in the whisky calendar. Here on the West Coast, Inveraray is a natural stopping place for the hordes of whisky pilgrims on their way to the Queen of the Hebrides. We have almost every nationality you can think of passing through our shop’s red doors, each one looking to sample the water of life and find that dream dram.
Long time no see auld pals! I haven’t been doing too much writing lately what with the freezing cold winter here in Inveraray, but now that things have started to thaw a bit I thought I’d pick up the proverbial pen and get back to it! First up on my to do list: Campbeltown.
For peat’s sake! Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
The beautiful whisky mecca of Islay is home to eight operational distilleries, with another one in development at Ardnahoe, and the island is renowned for its peaty, smoky drams. While not all Islay drams fall into the smoky category, there is one that goes above and beyond. Bruichladdich’s Octomore range has achieved cult status among peat-heads, being responsible for some of the most heavily peated whiskies in the world. The latest series from Head Distiller Adam Hannett isn’t just peaty, it’s a Masterclass.
Douro Valley: a sprawling majestic wilderness in the northern provinces of Portugal. Campbeltown: a fishing town on the Kintyre peninsula of Scotland. What do they have in common? Both are dedicated to the production of a quality beverage that can’t be produced anywhere else in the world. For Campbeltown we know, of course, of the great history of the Victorian Whisky Capital of the World, while Douro has its own claim to fame as the sole origin of port, a fortified wine – at least in the EU, our friends in the US don’t have such a restriction on the term – formally dating to at least 1756.
The Smugglers’ Series of limited edition bottlings from Arran distillery has really captured the imagination, with a story that harkens back to days of illicit stills and casks stowed away on boats to the mainland. The third in the series lands tomorrow and although limited to just 8,700 bottles worldwide, we’ve managed to smuggle a few bottles for our customers.
We whisky folk are obsessed with being single. Sometimes single malt isn’t even enough, we need a single cask! Perhaps it’s a longing for the days of our youth. When I was a lad of 18 summers, before I met the future Mrs Hamish, I would run wild and free around Inveraray, dropping into the bar at the George whenever I fancied, staying till all hours of the night without a care in the world. Once I met the lady in my life, after a whirlwind romance, I settled down and inevitably my visits to the George became much more organised. “Be home by 10” she’d say. And I’d nod.
Ah it’s that wonderful time of year again! The birds are singing, the flowers are in bloom, that huge, mysterious fireball has been sighted in the sky over Scotland, and the shop is flooded with pilgrims on their way to the magical isle of Islay. The annual Islay Festival of Music and Malt got underway at the tail-end of last week and will have the Hebridean island rocking until this Saturday. We may not be Ileachs ourselves, but we can’t help but get that festival feeling and as part of our celebrations we’ve had a very special Islay single malt bottled just for our customers!
When I hear the word Valkyrie, only one thing comes to mind: a horde of choppers flying across Vietnamese forests, the trees bending beneath the force of the air from their blades as orchestral music swells. “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning!” Of course, Apocalypse Now has nothing to do with the Norse mythological creatures beyond Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. The image is a powerful one though, and the latest release from Highland Park, the first in the Viking Legends series, is a powerful dram!
I love nothing more than a wee courie up with a good book and a great dram. I have to admit that my 1999 New Year’s resolution to read more of ‘the classics’ hasn’t made as much progress as I’d hoped – War & Peace stands out as a major culprit – but I keep trying all the same. And it’s a lot easier when your Friday night dram gives you a recommendation!
We like to remind our Islay-loving customers that Inveraray is often described as the Gateway to Islay, and our Living Cask 1745 pays tribute to that title with an award-winning blend of Islay malts. Otherwise known as the Queen of the Hebrides, Islay is famous among whisky drinkers for its intensely peaty flavours, but there’s one distillery that is known for being different.