Scottish whisky bard Robin Laing has compiled a CD featuring six songs in praise of Bruichladdich Single Malt, and there is a special, exclusive bottling to go with.
Islay (Ìle in Gaelic) is the southernmost of the Inner Hebridean Islands located off the west coast of Scotland. The beauty of Islay has been praised many times in song and poetry - not to mention instrumental tunes paying homage such as "Islay's Charms" (e.g. recorded by Deaf Shepherd) or the "Islay Ranters" reels (Rory Campbell or Tony McManus).
Thomas Pattison, who was a native of Islay, published a book in 1890 titled "The Gaelic Bards," featuring Scots Gaelic language poems with translations into English, most by Pattison himself. The best known has been put to a waltz tune; it is called "Moladh na Lanndaidh" (In Praise of Islay).
Chì mi thall ud an Àird Mhòr, Àit' a' choilich dhuibh 's a' gheòidh. Àit' mo chridhe is mo ghaoil, San robh mi aotrom meanmnach. Hò ro Eileanaich ho gù, Hò i rithill hò i hù; Hò ro Eileanaich ho gù, Gu bheil mo rùn san Lanndaidh.
See afar yon hill Ardmore, Beating billows wash its shore, But its beauties bloom no more For me now far from Islay. O my dear, my native isle, Nought from thee my heart can wile, O my dear, my native isle, My heart beats true to Islay.
Even better known is a song written by Scottish composer Sir Hugh S. Roberton (1874-1952), "Westering Home" (e.g. listen to its recording of German-Irish band An Rinn).
Westering home and a song in the air Light in the eye and it's goodbye to care Laughter o' love and a welcoming there Isle of my heart my own one.
Tell me o' lands of the Orient gay Speak o' the riches and joys of Cathay Ay but it's grand to be wakin' at day To find yourself nearer to Islay.
Islay has just about 3,000 inhabitants on 620 square kilometres. Its main industry is malt whisky distilling, even tourism is more based on whisky tasting than bird spotting.
The Bruichladdich distillery (pronounced brook-lad-dee) had been built in 1881 by William Harvey and his brothers on the shore of Loch Indaal on the Rinns of Islay, the westernmost part of the island. The Gaelic word is a reference to the raised beach upon which the distillery is sited.
Over the next decades the distillery changed owners several times. In 1994 it was eventually closed down as surplus to requirements, but re-opened as an independent distillery in 2001. The kilns and pipes were dismantled and reassembled, with the original Victorian décor and equipment retained. Most of the original Harvey machinery is still in use today.
The Bruichladdich whiskies are designed by master distiller Jim McEwan (formerly of Bowmore). There have been a wide number of small scale bottlings, generally less peaty and chemical than other Islay whiskies. (Though peated versions do exist under the Port Charlotte sub brand; and Bruichladdich also produces the most heavily peated Single Malt Whisky in the world — Octomore, with 167 ppm phenol in the 2004 vintage.)
Scottish singer/songwriter and whisky bard Robin Laing is enthusiastic about the distillery's output and wrote a couple of Bruichladdich songs over the past ten years. Only recently the distillery has compiled a CD titled "Bruichladdich Inspiration," featuring 6 of Robin's Bruichladdich songs.
"Bruichladdich," originally recorded on "The Water of Life" album (2003), had been Robin's first, rejoicing about the distillery being brought back to life. "A Turquoise Frame of Mind" refers to their main corporate colours and is also supposed to signifying calmness of mind. "Black Art" then refers both to the whisky's packaging and echoing medieval alchemists.
With your strange black art My defenses fall apart You can feed upon my heart I can't resist it Come the twilight time I might lose my mind It's pierced through by signs That change and twist it
In the deep black night With no starlight Owls take to flight In slow motion But the Scorpio moon Will rise above the dunes And shine on Jim McEwan Making potions
"We Can't Let Al Qaeda Get Their Hands on This" (originally recorded on "One for the Road", 2007) is mocking an incident that took place in 2003, when US agents mistook the antique distilling equipment displayed through their webcams for weapons of mass destruction.
There's a secret installation on the western seas Cunningly disguised among the Hebrides It might seem innocent to those who are naive But this could bring a super power to its knees.
Now I am a US Internet spy And I've seen what they're up to with my own eyes They say it's only whisky but I'm tellin' you, They tested it on the local folk and I've seen what it can do.
The scary thing is it's made from a kind of grass With biological action to give it critical mass And if they get it up to 90 ABV It's going to be an awesome WMD
Just like Iraq they didn't find any. But that was before Uisquebaugh Baul, Robin is musing. This is the name of the four times distilled spirit made at Bruichladdich and bottled at 89.9 abv. Uisquebaugh Baul translates as perilous whisky. Martin Martin, who toured the Hebrides in 1693, relates that more than two spoonfuls of the locally four times distilled spirit would stop your breath and endanger your life.
Uisquebaugh Baul is four times distilled Some say it cures and some say it kills Take my advice and make out a will Before you try Uisquebaugh Baul
The island of Islay has numerous wrecks Mostly from flinging it over their necks And now here's a dram that's better than sex Four times Uisquebaugh Baul
One spoonful your heart's beating fast Two spoonfuls you're feeling quite gassed Three spoonfuls you've breathed your last You're in the past - Oh, What a blast Uisquebaugh Baul
Eventually, "The Bruichladdich Dram" maintains that life could only be better with the mystical, magical potion from Islay (and maybe a CD or book of Robin's).
When you wake up in the morning and you're just feeling crap Wi' fits or faints or fevers - don't get into a flap For tinnitus or shingles or a lack of inner calm The cure is in a bottle of the Bruichladdich dram
If life isn't quite turning out the way you'd planned The people that you work with are like the Klu Klux Klan The kids are bad, the wife is mad and nags ad nauseam The chances are you need a little Bruichladdich dram
When you're far away from Islay and wishing you were there There's little point in fretting and pulling out your hair A book of Whisky Legends and a CD by the Man Kick off your shoes and pour yourself a Bruichladdich dram
Quite fittingly, Bruichladdich have created a special, exclusive single malt to go with Robin's CD - also called "Bruichladdich Inspiration" - which is a 2003 port hogshead bottled at 55.3% abv. This unique whisky is only available through Robin himself.
So got to one of his concerts, listen to a fine song and have a wee dram. Slàinte mhath!
Bruichladdich 10 Years Old Single Malt
Bruichladdich 10 Years Old Single Malt
Nose: Fresh, clean, flowery. Primroses. Palate: Lightly creamy. Peaches. Summer fruits. Passion fruit. Zesty, almost effervescent. Finish: The flavours meld, with a touch of sharpness. Comment: Not only the liveliness of youth but also the least wood influence. The use of second-fill casks leaves the fruity flavours of Bruichladdich to express themselves more freely.
Nose: Very light and fresh. Floral, with crunchy green apple, verjus, lemon, fresh malt. Palate: Clean, zesty and direct. Apples, lanolin, cream. A perky little number. A port finish version would be pinky and perky. Finish: Feisty and breezy. Comment: Best as a wake-up call at 10 a.m.
Bruichladdich 10 Years Old Single Malt
Photo Credits: (1) 'Sip & Sing - Whisky & Wine' (by Wise Publications); (2) Scotch Whisky Regions, (3) Bruichladdich Distillery (by Wikipedia); (4) Robin Laing, (5) Bruichladdich 10 Years Old Single Malt (unknown); (6)-(11) Book & CD Cover (by Luath Press & Greentrax Recordings).