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Islay Malt & Music Festival 2009 – Day 6

Here we are Thursday morning and the gang of four are still here, but alas this is our last day together as Iain and Nicola head off home via different means at different times, but at this point we were all together organising plans for another day. The main event for our day was Kilchoman Distillery open day which albeit had tasting from 9.30 the main festivities were not scheduled until around mid day, so our intention was to arrive about 11ish. This gave us a valued opportunity to show Nicola, the Islay novice, some of the beautiful, secluded idyllic beaches.

We arrived at Kilchoman on schedule and began to enjoy the buzz developing at this new Distillery. We had a good wander around there excellent gift shop and purchased a few unusual trinkets. The barbeque was warming up at this point, and the aromas contributed to the ambiance of the day. We relaxed in the malting hall listening to the The Berry Riggers play traditional Scottish Music while having a dram or two of the young Whisky. On the itinery for the day was an auction of the First Bottle from the First Cask to be bottled at 3 year old plus an original framed water colour. McTear’s the Auction House in Glasgow had been commissioned to operate the auction on behalf of the Distillery. As time approached for the auction the crowd was gathering in the malting hall and anticipation was mounting. The bottle and the water colour were on display in a glass cabinet, chained and padlocked. As always in these situations Nicola managed to get chatting to a very elegant lady who could tell us all about the backgrounds many of the faces on the day (ideal for us nosey folks – lots of “old money” here !!!!).

So the auction began, Jacqueline just about restraining Jim on the floor to ensure he did not make any bids. Initially the bids were coming in fast and furious starting at around £200, but it was not long before four figure sums were being bid and the bidding slowed down. The auctioneer, with good humour, was encouraging all in attendance to dig deep into their pockets, by this time Jacqueline had a heel at Jim’s throat. As the bidding increased it was apparent there were only two Gladiators bidding and to everyone’s amazement the hammer went down on a final bid of £5400. You will see from the photograph Jim and Nicola managed to get a photo opportunity with the new owner of this exceptional bottle, Mr. Neils Ladefoged, who is originally from Denmark.

After a final walk around we decided we should head for Bridgend and think about a late lunch as Iain was booked onto the 3.30 ferry home. This was the first time Jim and Jacqueline had dined in the Bridgend Hotel and were delighted with their findings. The food was wholesome, and good value for money – can’t ask for more (and Jacqueline and Nicola found the wine excellent !!).

Once feed and watered off to Port Askaig we headed. It was a pleasant drive and we sat outside the Port Askaig Hotel and enjoyed the now wonderfully sunny afternoon while looking across the sound to the Paps of Jura. It is delightful watching and waiting for the ferry. Once docked the ferry is very efficient at turning things around for the return journey, all done within 35 minutes. As Nicola’s flight required her to book into “Islay’s International Gateway to the World Airport !!” around 5ish we decided to show her the Big Strand and the golf course at the Machrie Hotel. By this time the weather was glorious and walking across the sand dunes, wonderful. Once getting all the sand out of shoes we decided to pop into the Machrie Hotel and partake of a nip or two. While in the Machrie Hotel we got chatting to the bar man who had originated from Glasgow and had actually worked in a bank in Dalmuir – Jacqueline’s childhood stomping ground. The blether took us up to Nicola’s departure time.

We drove the short distance to the Airport just in time to see Nicola’s transport land. To say it was small is an understatement – it had whirly things at the front of the wings and the pilot was wearing goggles, leather jacket and white scarf. Nicola had said on the outward journey the passengers had been told to distribute themselves around the plane in order to even out the weight.

With Iain and Nicola gone it was just Jacqueline & Jim again. The next event to be visited was the Home Coming parade which commenced at 7.00 pm in Bowmore’s main street with Lord Robertson giving his welcome. The parade comprised of all the emergency services including the Coastguard, RNLI, all local clubs and Islay Pipe Band . Skerryvore had set up to play in the square next to the Tourist Information Office and was introduced by Jim MacEwan of Bruichladdich. We stayed for a while and drank in the music and atmosphere. Skerryvore were described as the “West Life” of the Western Isles – and they did not disappoint – check out the photo.

So off Jim and Jacqueline headed for Port Charlotte. The weather had been almost tropical, so on getting home they decided to grab a chilled bottle of white wine and too glasses and head down to Port Charlotte jetty to enjoy the mood of the evening. They found an upturned boat in the sand and sat on it, drinking the wine looking over Loch Indaal towards Bowmore. It had been a really full, busy and exciting day and this was a memorable way to bring it to a close.

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