The opportunity presented to go to Islay and study whisky at the Islay Whisky Academy, that is a wining idea from the start!
Firstly I love Islay and have been many times, each time visiting every distillery more than once. Islay is a beautiful place populated by the warmest of kin. Its history is deep, interesting with many connections to Ireland. Make sure to visit the seat of the Lord of the Isles, to name but one.
Islay Whisky Academy offered the combination of class room work in the morning followed by the evening at one of the distilleries, for example if one studied malting in the Am we were on a malting floor in the evening. This is the very best of worlds as it is one thing to study a subject academically and a whole other world to experience it hands on in the evening, the combination of both is perfect. During these sessions we were privileged to meet the distillery teams and managers, providing us with the chance to ask all the questions one always wanted to ask. Allan Logan of Brichleaddich almost took apart the Bobby Mill so that we could see the inner workings of the Mill in intimate detail. John Campbell of Laphoraig spent so many detailed hours discussing and explaining Malting and peating of the malt. All of this was so hands on designed and delivered to an audience of Whisky “students” at a level way above the general tour of a distillery. Professor Paul was on hand as well at all the working sessions.
We had many tastings as well of course, at least one at each distillery. Sláinte! I Particularly recall a beautiful evening at one of the Cottages at Ardbeg with Jackie who to our mind is one of the finest ambassadors of whisky in the world. Here we enjoyed Oysters and Ardbeg even an Ardbeg 42 year old. This kind of experience is precious and not available to the general person visiting a distillery.
Another beautiful evening was spent with a group dinner with Rachel, wine, whisky, song, and many stories flowed. We had a bit of tiding up to do the following day.
In our Academy experience we had 15 people from across the world all with a deep interest in whisky, everyone got on and became fast friends. Returning to Ireland I went on to get my General Cert in Distillation through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.
I cannot recommend this course enough for us and it was perfect. For me as a bar manager and teacher of whisky I frequently refer back to Islay both to the academic parts but also to the very happy stories and experiences had by all there.John Moriarty
‘A spirited experience and way of life! The Academy was the most I have ever learned about whisky in a short time. I thought I knew Islay, but you never do until you spent time with such great people, learning from local knowledge – whisky friends are the closest of friends. There is no better way to cement an appreciation of fantastic produce and this incredible industry! Slàinte na h-Alba!’Aedan Andrejus Burt
Wild and Magic Islay Tours – Islay Whisky School 2017
From October 23 to 27, my son and I attended the Islay Whisky School put on by Wild and Magic Islay Whisky Tours. If you have a passion for proper Islay Scotch Whisky or a curiosity for the distilling process, this is the event for you!!
The hospitality shown, friends made and knowledge gained can barely be expressed in words.
Our hosts Rachel MacNeill and Calum MacGregor were wonderful shepherds for this event and a great source of information and resources for exploring Bowmore and the beautiful Isle of Islay. The housing accommodations provided were first rate and literally a stone’s throw from the lecture hall, as well as several nearby local pubs.
Each of the 5 days was jam-packed with lectures, tours, and great conversations with knowledgeable local Whisky experts. Then there was the wonderful local food provided, and of course, plenty of Whisky Tastings. One great aspect of the tastings was the extensive local history and background conveyed by local experts.
We enjoyed detailed lectures on such topics as; the history and biology/geology of Peat, Barley growing history in Scotland and Barley processing, Cooperage (barrel making), and Copper Still production. Each tour outside of the classroom setting reinforced an topic delivered in lecture.
The pinnacle session of the week was the “Educational Whisky Master Class” from Mr. Jim McEwan, a great story teller and a legend on Islay. His knowledge of Islay Whisky really put the icing on the cake for an entire week of great lectures.
Every evening, there were additional lectures and events, including an incredible capstone meal at the Bridgend Hotel, hosted by Shauna Jennens of Dalmore Whisky. It was an incredible night of food, Whisky and fellowship.
Between the class related distillery tours and with the help of Rachel and Calum, we were able to tour or visit EVERY Whisky distillery on Islay!!
Every local person we encountered was friendly and helpful, making our visit to Islay even more incredible. We will be back to Islay, for sure!!
Wild and Magic Islay helped us with every step of planning and execution on this grand Whisky adventure. I cannot recommend or commend them enough for this great event. If Islay Whisky is a passion for you, I highly recommend any future offerings of the Islay Whisky School.
Slàinte Mhath !!
With Islay Whisky Academy you’ll meet and learn from top people who work in the Scotch Whisky Industry. You’ll learn through hands on training, having daily visits to distilleries. You’ll have the opportunity to taste a wide variety of single malt scotches and great food. The learning environment is fantastic on Islay!Chris Browne
Theatre of Drams is a wonderful mix of educational whisky lectures and distillery visits. Morning lectures by industry stalwarts are followed by distillery visits in the afternoon to see and hear first hand the aspect of whisky production you have learned about in the morning. Rachel’s contacts at the distilleries make sure that you hear from the main people at each. There’s also the opportunity for some hands – on participation in activity such as peat-cutting. And not forgetting the Tastings and Events that round off an inspirational week of whisky and immersion in Islay life, together with new friends from across the globe. I’ve been twice in 3 years, and can thoroughly recommend the week to whisky enthusiasts and those new to whisky alike.John McCheyne