Whisky Magazine Issue 11
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Whisky pilgrims , tourists, locals- this summer's Islay Festival attracted fans from around the globe. Michael Jackson reports on a time to remember, while Marcin Miller travels east to catch up on the festivities in Speyside.
Do young people enjoy whisky? 13-year-old Joe Byrne certainly does. Nosing but not tasting, he identified four out of eight local malts in a competition at the Islay Festival of Whisky and Music. His prize was a bottle of Laphroaig. Joe was there with a his nine-year-old brother Alexander and their parents. The Byrnes seem to be quite a family: they run a successful wine merchant's, with a good selection of malts, in the small and economically depressed northern English town of Clitheroe.
The only people who did better than Joe in the nosing (all with five correct) were his father Andrew; my professional colleague Martine Nouet, from Paris; and Bert Hellige, of the Inner Circle Whisky Club, Berlin. Possibly the loudest applause was for the highest-scoring local nose: Isabel McAllister, who until her retirement worked in the Port Ellen post office. Like Joe, she correctly identified four of the malts. Another competition, in peat-digging, was coached by a professional, Norman Campbell. The contest, in lightly blustery conditions, was won by England, but it was a disputed result. Any international tension was dissipated by generous drams round a peat bonfire.
The sea, the wind and the peat are ever-present aromas on Islay, making it easy for visitors to understand these key elements in Scotch whisky. The extent of Islay's dependence on malting and distilling, and the close nature of an island community added to the intensity of the experience.
As a veteran of distillery tou...