The Isle of Islay is the beautiful island off the West Coast of Scotland. It has garnered almost mythical fame due to its nine working distilleries, and as such heralds visitors from the four corners of the world who travel to sample the ‘liquid sunshine’ they produce.
I have been visiting Islay each year for five years now and by each passing visit I feel more connected to the place and its people. Twice I have been to The Islay Academy – a residential course for whisky fans and industry types run by the wonderful, Rachel MacNeill. Once as a customer, and then invited back again in 2019 as a guest speaker. It attracts people from around the world, with expert lessons in the morning held at the Gaelic Language Centre, overlooking Loch Indaal – surely the best classroom in the world! Then afternoons spent at distilleries having in-depth insight into production and distillation from the people on the ground. A most fascinating week and I don’t know of any other whisky courses like it
The other two occasions I have been there with friends, some whose first time it was on the island. When they experience everything you have been telling them is quite a special moment. Seeing their faces when you round the corner on the walkway out of Port Ellen en route to Laphroaig, and that view comes into play… Well, if you’ve been there, you’ll know exactly the spot I’m talking about!