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.
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.
This picture shows men unloading sacks of barley destined for Loch Indaal Distillery from a small 'flitboat' on to horse drawn carts just off Port Charlotte beach. The photo was probably taken very early in the twentieth century. Barley was imported for malting at the Islay whisky distilleries from the mainland in flat bottomed coal fired steam ships called 'puffers', one of which can be seen standing off.
The manual labour involved in moving the barley must have been considerable.
This picture shows fields at Octomore Farm during the harvest, high above the village of Port Charlotte on Islay. The lady, dressed in the clothes of the early 1920's and probably the farmer's wife, is proudly standing in front of 'stooks' of corn. Each stook was made of six 'sheaves' stood on end to dry with their ears still intact. Once dry, the stooks would be gathered and built into 'corn stacks' - some completed ones can be seen in the distance. The corn stacks would then be thatched to protect them from the weather.
This picture is one of the best we have of the old Loch Indaal Distillery in Port Charlotte. Unfortunately it was taken in tragic circumstances.
The Ilich, the people of this island, are a superstitious lot.
They say that the Gods shine on Bruichladdich like no other, and no matter how appalling the weather has been, the sun will always shine on Bruichladdich Day.
Last year a fierce hurricane battered Islay, but by some divine intervention the eye of the storm passed on the Bruichladdich Sunday - and the sun shone. This year, our twelfth Bruichladdich day, the weather was unbeatable, just magnificent: the breeze was warm and temperatures soared to 30 degrees.
In a wood in Bridgend, tucked away off the road, there is a damp, stone monument encrusted in a vibrant orange lichen there is a grave. Scrape away the slab’s grass covering, and there is the engraved name: George Montgomery, Distiller at Octomore.
Octomore farm sits on a commanding position on a hill over looking the village of Port Charlotte near Bruichladdich. There are dramatic views over the whole island, away to the Northern Irish coast twenty-five miles away, around to the Paps of Jura. A peaceful place with a tragic story.
The 2012 ploughing has now largely been completed by the Islay farmers who are growing barley for Bruichladdich this year. There is still lots to do however and some of the fields are being prepared before being sown with seed.
Some great photographs of Port Charlotte village and distillery have come to light.
John Rucklidge posted on the internet some photos of Port Charlotte from around 1890 that were discovered in a house in Hexham, Northumberland.
The album belonged to Helen Orchard and the images were taken by William Miles (her father) who was the Customs & Excise officer at the Lochindaaal distillery.
Tantalizingly, some of the images show his children, including Helen, playing around Port Charlotte.
Helen still lives at Hexham in the North of England.
Most Hebridean place names are derived from either the Gaelic or Norse language, and denote a precise geographical location or landmark.
Bruichladdich is usually translated rather poetically as ‘brae by the shore’, but this is a rather vague concept in the context of Loch Indaal and its environs.