As I write this I am also writing up a few notes for the bottles we have on tasting at our Islay Festival bottlings events starting tonight (that wasn’t meant to be a plug btw, but it does sound like one!).
I couldn’t remember all of the prices for the whiskies at the distilleries, and obviously this is quite an important piece of information. So I consulted Madam Google. I was shocked. And appalled. In equal measure.
The number of whisky retailers who obviously shuttled over to Islay, bought as much as they could and have already slapped a 100%+ mark-up on them is, frankly, disgusting. The Bunnahabhain Moine 2008 French Oak for example. At the distillery (where it is quite possible there are still bottles) it cost £85. One retailer has it for £169, another at £179. It is just out-and-out profiteering. Shame on them.
Distributors and Distillers should take a stand, simple as. Do not sell these people product. Do not support them. It is these guys and the ‘whisky flippers’ – those who just buy bottles in order to sell them at auction and make a quick buck – who give the festival, the brands and the industry a bad name. Taking a stand is the only way to stop this. Unfortunately, there is seemingly no way of stopping the whisky flippers, unless the distilleries install an Interpol-like system of identifying these crooks.
I don’t know how many people who made the pilgrimage to Islay this year missed out on bottlings due to people buying simply to turn a profit. It’d be interesting (but impossible) to find out.
We had a great time. I think I am finally getting the gist of it, after 10 years (of the Feis, I mean. I’m a 20 years veteran of the island itself). It isn’t about the bottlings. It isn’t about the weather. It isn’t even about the distilleries. It is about the people. Not just the Ileachs themselves, but the people you meet on their mission to the island. Some you see every year (and perhaps only once a year), some you meet just the once. But the common linkage is there. We are all there to enjoy ourselves (some of us with a bit of work thrown in, obviously…) and some days the feeling between people is intoxicating in itself.
It was the same in Campbeltown, where we began our adventure. The place is so different to when I first visited 15 years ago or so. Now, I realise that the influx of people – albeit far less than Islay – has a lot to do with this, but I feel a new sense of optimism in the ‘wee toon’, that was once at the vanguard of the whisky-making industry. I am also not suggesting that, by us and others descending upon it, we somehow bestow it with energy, but I would like to think that those that do whizz past Kennacraig for an extra 40 minutes of driving do contribute. The Campbeltown Festival is now one of my favourite events of the year. ‘Nuff said.
Right, I have to go and do some work. It’s been emotional. Laters.