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Issue 137 - Fèis Ìle

Whisky Magazine Issue 137
July 2016


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Fèis Ìle

A grand tour on the SS Glen Etive

I can't help remembering the film Whisky Galore, which was inspired by a real event in 1941 when a cargo ship sank and its 264,000 bottles of whisky washed up on shore. That was on Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides, but I'm a long way further south on Islay in the Inner Hebrides.

It's Fèis Ìle 2016, the week-long Festival of Malt and Music, and each of the island's eight distilleries take their turn to open up their doors and offer free samples. There are also guided tours, tutored tastings and local folk music. Even better, I'm on a ten day whisky cruise sailing round the islands, putting into a different port each night.

I start in Oban, in the pouring rain, delaying my visit to the distillery there until my return, and board the brand new Glen Etive, pride of the Majestic Line. It's certainly exclusive, with just six cabins, nine passengers, and three crew and this is only its third voyage. An hour's sailing from Oban brings us to our anchorage in Loch Spelve, on the island of Mull, and it's turned into a fine evening. We sit together, round a large rectangular table, and Captain Dave Wheeler briefs us about the cruise. There's no set itinerary, as it all depends on the weather and the state of the seas, but he's confident he'll be able to make it to Islay.

Next day dawns bright and calm, so much so that he decides to brave the whirlpools of the Gulf of Corryvrekan, between the islands of Scarba and Jura. This is a treacherous stretch of water and the combination o...

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