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Issue 25 - The real Islay spirit

Whisky Magazine Issue 25
August 2002


This article is 16 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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The real Islay spirit

Brian Palmer, whisky Magazine's first ever tee-total contributor, reveals the Ileach view of Islay's famed annual whisky celebration

It's a fact not lost on many visitors to Islay that those of us who live here have the ‘benefit' of being surrounded by malt whisky distilleries, some of the most famous in the world, and that it is possible to meet with a manager or two in the supermarket on a Saturday morning. An Islay malt whisky aficionado's dream.

And every May – or at least the last week of it – for the past three years, ever-increasing numbers have descended upon this small Western Scottish isle to partake of the island hospitality and of the distilleries' spirit (in both senses of the word).

I'm sure the residents of Speyside feel much the same as we do. The prosperity of the distilleries on Islay and Jura is an integral part of the island economy. Not just because of the employment they provide, but because of the visitor numbers referred to above. Many of the visitors to the Islay Festival spend inordinate amounts of money. And the local economy is the better for it. And the personalities created by these distilleries – and vice-versa (I'm thinking of Stuart Thompson, Iain Henderson and Jim McEwan to name a few) – are the islands' ambassadors across the globe, a fact corroborated by the numbers arriving on our shores from all four corners of the world.

That those living on Islay and Jura are not first in the queue to visit on each day of the Islay Whisky Festival should not be regarded as disinterest. Those arriving for the Fest generally have only a week to sate their ‘thirst'. We ha...

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