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All that jazz...

By Rob Allanson
Jazz fans flocked to Islay in mid-September for the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival and there was a new hook for whisky fans this year with the launch of an official Festival bottling. Now in its 13th year, the event draws audiences of locals and visitors alike who cram into distilleries, community halls and even bird reserves for some spectacular performances. “It’s always good to play for people who’ve just been given a free glass of whisky” remarked the leader of the Tom Bancroft Trio Red on the opening night in Malt Mill at Lagavulin Distillery. The expressive drummer captivated the crowd with his deft touch across the dynamic range and his witty banter. There’s something magical about the intimate set-ting of a distillery at night; the arclights piercing the shadows while the stone walls echo with the rhythm of the waves lapping the shore. Across the weekend the omnipresent Mario Caribé plucked his bass and strummed his cavaquinho in a variety of styles through musical collaborations including the late night dancing in Bowmore Hall with the Subie Coleman Band which really turned up the heat. Between shows, festival goers devoured local produce that perfectly complemented the drams from scallops, oysters and smoked venison to indulgent treats from the Islay Chocolate Company. On the closing day, the Swedish Jacob Karlzon Trio blew the clouds away as the grinning pianist presented his compositions with verve and a delicate brilliance including his take on U2’s “In God’s Country”. Fiona Alexander, director of the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival commented: “In the last couple of years, the festival has exploded internationally with visitors com-ing from across the UK, Scandinavia, India and the USA. Whisky and jazz are an interest-ing combination as the ingredients of both involve heritage, creativity and skilled craftsmanship. The whole idea of freeing your mind and stepping out of reality appeals to those who appreciate jazz and whisky.”

The single cask Lagavulin Islay Jazz festival bottling, quite a rarity from this distillery, was matured for more than 18 years in a warehouse at Caol Ila.