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Laddie sponsorship of INHT


Tuesday, 18 March 2014 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN News

Bruichladdich has agreed to sponsor the Islay Natural History Trust for a period of two years starting immediately. The Trust was formed in 1984 and aims "to encourage the study, documentation and enjoyment of the natural history of Islay".
Since 1992 the Trust has occupied the "Wildlife Centre" which comprises much of the ground floor of an old whisky bond in Port Charlotte owned by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association. Originally the bond formed part of the Lochindaal Distillery which closed in 1929.

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First lambs born at Coull Farm


Saturday, 4 January 2014 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN News
As the wind howls round the barn and the rain hammers on the tin roof, the first lambs of the year have been born at Coull Farm on the Rhinns of Islay.  Kept warm by a big bed of straw that is an important bi-product of the Bruichladdich barley harvest, these are pedigree Suffolks, top quality sheep owned by Andrew Jones and Jacinda Poland.  Jacinda and Andrew have a small flock of pure bred animals from which they supply tups to the main flock of 700 hybrid ewes at Coull.  These two black lambs are just two days old and are being kept in their own pen for a  couple of days while they build up their strength.
Andrew says that he feels it is important to have home-bred tups servicing the flock as they are used to the extreme conditions prevailing here on the wild west coast of Islay.  Imported rams can find the weather too tough for them.  “They tend to melt” says Andrew.  “The have a tendency to hide behind a dyke at the first sign of a November wind instead of getting out there and working.”  



Farming and Distilling on the Rhinns of Islay


Friday, 8 November 2013 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN Library

 The Rhinns of Islay is the western peninsula that comprises around a third of the total land area of the island. The Gaelic version is ‘Rinns’,  ‘Rhinns’ being an English spelling invented by romantic Victorian cartographers who thought that the extra letter looked more authentic.    

It is fascinating to see how dramatically the farming regimes have changed over the years and how this reflects the development of whisky distilling.  Islay saw a huge rise in population in the 18th century driven by the availability of the potato and basic health care.  The census of 1831 put the population at over 15,000, but changes in the political landscape and then the potato famines saw a steady decline, which continues to this day.  Anyone walking the moors is likely to come across the rather sad remains of runrig surrounding villages that were abandoned during the Highland Clearances.  

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Researching Islay's Barnacle Geese


Wednesday, 30 October 2013 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN Library

120 Barnacle geese were captured on Nonday morning on the RSPB nature reserve up at Loch Gruinart using a cannon net. The geese feed and roost in huge flocks and it is possible, but by no means easy, to lure them within range of the net by baiting the ground with corn.
Once caught, various measurements are taken, and three rings placed on the legs. One is a red 'locality ring' which can easily be seen with binoculars and shows that the bird was caught in a particular location (it might be a red ring for Gruinart, but a blue ring for Bowmore for example). There is also a white 'Darvic Ring' which can be read, with luck and skill, while using a telescope, and then there is the standard metal British Trust for Ornithology ring which can only be read by recapturing the bird, or finding it dead. So each bird captured is eventually released adorned with a fair amount of leg ornament.
 

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The geese have arrived


Tuesday, 15 October 2013 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN Library

The arrival of the huge flocks of wild geese is a real seasonal marker on Islay.  Winter is approaching.   Our picture was taken yesterday and shows Barnacle geese, which have spent the summer breeding in Greenland.  These are the birds whose tiny goslings can be seen on TV wildlife programmes leaping off cliffs and bouncing impossibly on the rocks below before running the gauntlet of Arctic foxes.  

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The Mackerel are in


Monday, 23 September 2013 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN News

The natural world serves up some extraordinary bounty - particularly so perhaps at this time of year as the harvests are gathered in.  One of the less predictable sights is when literally hundreds of millions of  young herrings, called "shielachan" in the Gaelic, gather in enormous shoals to feed on the rich plankton blooms that develop in the warmer waters of Loch Indaal.  Following them are huge shoals of mackerel that gorge thenselves on the little fish.  The mackerel are hunted in turn by predators such as tope (a kind of shark), seals and dolphins.  We had a pod of bottle nosed dolphins in the loch last week that were photographed by Kevin Wiggins.  They can be seen on the Islay Natural History Trust blog.

The villagers of Port Charlotte like to catch and eat the mackerel too.  We enjoyed four for lunch yesterday, sold to us at our door by a proud young fisherman.  They are best eaten grilled with plenty of salt and lemon and fresh brown bread.  The shielachan have been in such numbers this year that the water has been literally thick with them at times, and they are driven up the beaches and onto the rocks by the voracious mackerel which themselves become so excited by the chase that they sometimes launch themselves up the beaches and become stranded on the sand.

The young shielachan are a delicacy too.  Eaten whole as whitebait, one scoop of the net provides far more than a family can eat at a single sitting.  


The recipe for shielachan was provided by Bob Paget, father in-law of Duncan McGillivray who is distillery manager at Bruichladdich.  Bob recommends that we dry them and roll them in flour before deep frying them in oil for about five minutes, until they just start to turn crispy.  Serve them with salt and parsley and lemon or garlic.  Perfect with a dram of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, they were a lovely starter last night, just before enjoying a shoulder of roast Islay lamb.





Rockside Farm Barley Harvest


Thursday, 29 August 2013 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN News

Mark French took a calculated risk back in March this year, when a prolonged spell of dry weather provided a window of opportunity to sow his crop of malting barley for Bruichladdich early.  He decided that the potential benefits from an early sowing outweighed the risks of heavy damage from migratory Barnacle geese, or a late frost nipping the germinating grain.  The crop did get a good early start, and was coming on, albeit slowly, throughout the late, cold, wet spring. He is now seeing his early gamble paying off in spectacular fashion because his harvest in almost complete in August, which is great news.

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Evidence for Scotland's first people?


Monday, 26 August 2013 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN News

Professor Steven Mithen of Reading University has been leading teams of archaeologists to the Southern Hebrides in general, and Islay in particular, for many years.  Last year we were able to host his group at The Academy in Bruichladdich, and while they were unfortunately unable to stay with us again this year, they were able to take a few hours off from digging to tour the distillery with our general manager, Duncan McGillivray.

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Sowing malting barley at Rockside Farm


Monday, 8 April 2013 POSTED BY Laddie Editor IN News

Mark French of Rockside Farm is pictured sowing a variety of malting barley called ‘Concerto’ in the big ‘Minister's Field yesterday under a mackerel sky.  Mark has chosen to sow early this year, taking advantage of the extended period of dry weather – but that sky tells of a change to come.

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Peat Smoke and Spirit


Tuesday, 15 January 2013 POSTED BY Bruichladdich Administrator IN Library

Andrew Jefford's book 'Peat Smoke and Spirit' is the most comprehensive account of Islay and its whiskies to appear to date. Published back in 2004 following two years of island-based, almost forensic enquiry, it successfully weds elegant prose and meticulous research to the enquiring mind of the investigative journalist.

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