District News, November 26 2021

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Island’s dram fine support for air ambulance

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) is raising a toast to two of the most respected names in the world of whisky after receiving a donation of more than £20,000 to support its crucial lifeline to the country’s islands.

Master distiller Jim McEwan and bottler Dramfool staged a series of special events to mark Jim’s retiral after a lifetime in the whisky industry.

Living on Islay, Jim and his family know first-hand the value of air ambulance support for island and outlying communities and he had no hesitation in naming SCAA to receive funds raised during his swan-song sell-out events.

A virtual masterclass tasting and a special single cask bottling were among the events which attracted support from whisky enthusiasts throughout the world.

Dramfool’s Bruce Farquhar explained that the support from Jim’s army of fans was ‘overwhelming’, with global interest particularly piqued by the single cask bottling of Jim’s beloved Bruichladdich from his personal collection released to celebrate his contribution to the whisky industry.

‘We were absolutely blown away by the interest and support we received for the online event and the special bottling,’ he said.

‘Having more than 260 people over at least eight time zones and 12 countries tune in for tasting was amazing.

‘Then to sell 314 bottles of the celebration Bruichladdich in just seven minutes was beyond all expectations – among the fastest sell-outs of any release we’ve ever had.

‘It is this enthusiasm and affection for Jim McEwan, Islay and the work of SCAA that resulted in such outstanding support from our clients.’

Jim joined Bruce and Colin Fraser from Dramfool to present a cheque for £20,549 to Islay-based SCAA volunteer Katherine Urquhart and expressed his pleasure at being able to support a charity close to his heart.

‘I’ve worked in Scotland’s greatest industry all my days and now, as I hand over to the next generation, it seems appropriate to give something back to a charity that has proved a lifesaver to the people of Islay and other remote communities across Scotland,’ said Jim.

‘SCAA is funded solely from public donations and it is crucial that we all try to help fund its life-saving flights. Everyone who supported our special events is helping to keep these guys in the air.’

Nick Harvey, director of fundraising and communications at SCAA, said the support shown by Jim and Dramfool would help save lives.

‘SCAA is a regular visitor to islands such as Islay and Jura to tend and airlift those seriously ill or injured,’ he said. ‘Our pre-hospital care and speed in getting patients to mainland care can literally prove a lifesaver.

‘We’re extremely grateful to both Jim and Dramfool – and the many hundreds who supported the events – for recognising the value of SCAA’s life-saving service. Our thanks to everyone concerned.’

Distillery warehouse plans approved

Plans to build new whisky maturation warehouses on Islay have been approved – after councillors heard a plea from one of their colleagues not to treat the island like ‘Craggy Island’.

Concerns were raised by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency over the proposal for the island’s Ardnahoe Distillery.

Those objections were later withdrawn before the proposals went before Argyll and Bute Council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee on November 17.

At that meeting, Councillor Jean Moffat expressed concern at the amount of extra traffic on Islay resulting from the expansion of the island’s world-famous whisky industry.

Nine new warehouses planned at distillery in Port Askaig

But Councillor Alastair Redman, who lives on Islay, pushed for the plans to be approved.

It was he who asked the committee not to think of Islay like Craggy Island, in a reference to the fictional setting of the hugely popular 1990s Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted.

‘My island is famous for its distilleries,’ he said. ‘You can stand and see warehouses that are huge. The notion that these buildings are not in setting with Islay is nonsense.

‘Islay is not Craggy Island – it is an industrial island. A growth in our industry is not something unusual, and merely returning to normality in my opinion.’

South Kintyre councillor Rory Colville also welcomed the plans, saying: ‘This is a private investment and people are putting a lot of money into it.

‘They are not going to get a huge investment for years as whisky has to be matured.

‘I think this needs to be welcomed with open arms. I am absolutely delighted that people have the confidence to bring this to the area.’

The plans were approved without an amendment being moved.