This year's Islay Festival of Music and Malt will start on Friday the 26th of May and will end on Saturday the 3rd June. So it's less than a month before Islay House Hotel will kick off this years Feis Ile with their traditional garden party on Friday. They have invited the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for a whisky pairing masterclass and a blues band to end the evening under the stars. Fingers crossed!
Lagavulin Distillery is the first of the distilleries to have their open day with masterclasses, special tours, food stalls and coopers who show you the craft of cask building. The musical backdrop will be provided by Tide Lines, a new Scottish Band with familiair vocals as the lead singer is Robert Robertson who left Skipinnish last year. Tide Lines will also perform at the Ceilidh in Ramsay Hall that same evening.
On Sunday Bruichladdich Distillery will celebrate their open day and it will be another very busy and hopefully sunny day. There is lots to see and do and there is a great lineup of bands playing that day such as the Salsa Celtica Celtic Band, The Coaltown Daisies, Tide Lines and The Blueswater. Ella Edgar's Highland Dancers will show their dances, there are many art and food stalls and there's a malt bar and botanist tent. Continue reading....
Caol Ila Distillery have master classes and special tours on Monday and something special on Wednesday when they organise their first annual Caol Ila festival dinner. 5 drams and a 3 course meal of the finest, locally sourced produce, to compliment some of Islay’s finest malt whisky hosted by David Graham of the Ballygrant Inn (whisky Bar of the Year winners in 2015), with special guest Eddie Thom, Manager of Caol Ila Distillery. Monday evening will close with a whisky nosing and ceilidh night in Ramsay Hall Port Ellen.
There is lots going on on Tuesday with Laphroaig Distillery celebrating their open day, there's a folk night at Ardbeg Distillery and the Rare Malt Whisky Company are organising a whisky and cheese tasting in the old school in Portnahaven. But there is more on Tuesday!
Jim McEwan, who now works for Ardnahoe Distillery, is going back in time, tasting 180 years of amazing single cask Islay Malts. Jim has a lineup of six incredible drams: 1988 Bunnahabhain (28 yo), 1987 Bowmore (30 yo), 1983 Caol Ila (33 yo), 1987 Laphroaig (30 yo), 1991 Ardbeg (26 yo) and a 1982 Port Ellen (34 yo). You can be part of his journey as he recalls his 54 years in the company of men of character and the malts that changed Islay forever. There will be two of these very special tastings, one on Tuesday 30 may and one on Thursday 1 june, both start at 7pm in Ballygrant Hall.
Bowmore’s Fèis Ìle open day will be held on Wednesday and it will be a spirited day of lively music, master classes, and more! They have the "utterly unique Edinburgh based band Corra Music" who will be mixing up traditional Scottish music with rock and pop covers throughout the day. Combine that with special tastings and tours and you have the recipe for a great day! A few miles further down the road, in Bridgend to be precise, is the Islay Ales open day with a beer tent, various stalls and a great musical lineup. What about Islay's own Angela Paterson, followed by the stunning band Reely Jiggered, Eddy Brown and finally The Coaltown Daisies. There's a Clootie Dumpling Ceilidh in Ballygrant Hall in the evening and the Rare Malt Whisky Company are organising another whisky and cheese tasting in Portnahaven.
Thursday the first of June you have the choice to either go to our neighbouring Isle of Jura to join the festivities at the Isle of Jura Distillery in Craighouse, or you can stay on Islay to visit Kilchoman Distillery. They both have a great day planned! If you decide to go to Jura you can cross directly with a boat from Port Askaig, this is only available for ticket holders so best to check with Jura Distillery. Jim McEwan will do his second tasting in Ballygrant Hall that evening, there is a traditional concert in Islay High School and the Rare Malt Whisky Company have a whisky and chocolate tasting planned in Portnahaven.
Head up north over the beautiful and winding single track road to Bunnahabhain Distillery on Friday for one of the last distillery events of this years festival. Bunnahabhain have warehouse walks, whisky talks and of course tastings! The former seat of the Lords of the Isles at Finlaggan will see an open day organised by the Finlaggan Trust, supported by The Vintage Malt Whisky Company. The evening will see a themed Disco party night featuring Playboys in Ramsay Hall.
The grand finale of this years Whisky festival is at Ardbeg Distillery, not in the least place because of their delicious smokies, and of another sea spirit which lives in the waters surrounding Ardbeg, we are talking about The Kelpie. Your challenge is to try and catch a Kelpie on Ardbeg Day. The music will be provided by Callanish and there will be lots of games and other activities. The Feis Programme ends with the traditional final fling in Ramsay Hall, this year featuring Hugo Duncan.
Many of the events mentioned above are ticketed events. Tickets can either be purchased through the Official Festival Website or through the individual distilleries. The full Feis and Distillery programmes are also available through the official festival website.
If you haven't booked your ferry now is a good time to do so, unless you travel as foot passenger, then you don't need to book in advance. Finding accommodation on Islay can be problematic if you haven't done so. Please check our late availabilities or get in touch with the Bowmore tourist office. We wish everyone who joins the festival a wonderful time. Fingers crossed for some lovely spring weather!