A friend just returned from Eilean Ile with a bottle or two of 'real ale' from the 'boutique' Islay Ales. Interesting, at first. But, if ever there was an example of small not being beautiful, then this is it. In short, the Islay 'Single Malt' Ale is one of the foulest tasting liquids i have ever tasted. Notes? Well, carpet-underlay gives way to motor oil and the general heavy and dark consistency would no doubt go a long way to protecting any natural wood you may have outdoors.
This stuff is virtually undrinkable. Apparently, Bruichladdich provide some of their wort to Islay Ales for production into ale. I hope it turns out better than this. Otherwise Bruichladdich would be better leaving it where it is and distilling it. As to their other products, I have tasted their 'Saligo', which while drinkable, hardly sets the heather alight.
Which leads me on to question the existence of 'Islay Ales'. Apparently a small enterprise set up by a couple of English ex-pats and a German, it seems to offer negligible local benefit, such as employment, to the local community. The locals, as far as i can tell, prefer the 'big bad' brands available in local pubs. If Islay Ales conform to the strict German purity laws, then Scots' Law has interfered somewhere along the line. I'll stick to my Becks, danke sehr.
If you wish a good Scots ale that actually tastes good, then go for the superb Innis and Gunn. Matured in oak for 3 months, as opposed to Islay Ales' bottle-conditioned', it has to be one of the tastiest beers on the market.
Final conclusions? Incomers often bring a lot of good to communities, but is Islay Ales just a pastime for some middle-class English/German ex-pats? Even the Gàidhlig on the label is dodgy - Leann an Ile? - why not Leann Ileach? Unless it's a clever pun on the well-known port-à-beul 'Sann an Ile'? Lastly...
- not every beverage from Islay is worth buying
- 'real' and 'small' are often used to cover up 'crap' and 'amateurish'
- sometimes the native culture - i.e. the Islay whiskies - is far superior to fashionable 'boutique' enterprises
- Bruichladdich should leave their wort where it is and distill it
- incomers should have the freedom to develop their little hobbies but it would be nice if it benefited the local community in some way