By Dave Broom

Just a normal day on Islay

Yellow submarines, talking horses – par for the course really
It had, apparently, broken loose from a naval vessel and was drifting aimlessly in the sea off the Mull of Oa. It was easily enough spotted though, the fishermen said, being bright yellow and all that. They’d hauled it back to Port Ellen alerting their friends by singing a highly appropriate Beatles song.“They’re on the bottle again” was the immediate reaction.Now, if a yellow submarine was landed close to your town I’m sure the reaction would be close to hysterical. On Islay it was seen as being fairly normal. For Islay that is. So, like the good citizens they are, the Ministry of Defence was phoned.“It’s not one of ours,” said the man on the other end.“We think it is. It’s got MOD stamped on it!” came the reply.What was it looking for? Apparently these remote controlled mini subs are used to search for mines “in hostile waters”. That would be Lochindaal then. Or maybe the Kildalton coastline.The MOD might have caught sight of the paramilitary nature of Ardbeg’s Feis celebrations and wanted a closer look.After all, did this not confirm what the Americans had been telling them for years, that the island is a dangerous hotbed of radicalism? Witness the incident when US spooks decreed that Bruichladdich was a secret laboratory for the production of WMDs.Like that, the yellow submarine was accepted with a laugh.After all, on the west coast the surreal is the norm.Where else in Scotland would you be walking in romantic frame of mind admiring the ever changing light off the loch only to have your line of sight disrupted by an alpaca? Quite probably a Gaelic speaking alpaca at that. After all, the horses have that facility... or so one old Ileach assured me.He’d had a long conversation with one the previous night.“It’s head was hanging over the fence so I wished it a good evening,” he recalled. “It nodded back, so I believed it to have the Gaelic.” Aperfectly logical assumption I’m sure you’d agree.“So I invited it back for a dram.” You don’t need me to describe the picture which greeted him the next morning when he opened the living room door.Maybe the sub came from Speyside. Afew weeks earlier I’d been in the Craigellachie enjoying a dram or four with a local farmer. He was bemoaning not just the fact that his son would never touch a drop of the cratur but that Speyside was being ignored as malt whisky’s spiritual home.“It’s all Islay this or Islay that. It only has seven stills!’ He has a point. Why should Islay be the only region to have cult status? The answer is a complex one: being in the right place at the right time; macho whiskies for a new generation; the romance of an island.All have a part to play. Importantly, it is a coherent region. Eight stills is easier to cope with than dozens.Coherence... there’s something which is in limited supply in Duffie’s bar in Bowmore. I had a Black Bottle in hand – undoubtedly the most diplomatic of drams – when it came to me with all of the brilliant clarity that only comes at certain hours of the morning (and with so many Black Bottles).I’d been recounting how the bosun once mistook a Cal-Mac ferry for a distillery and headed the yacht straight for it.“They’re both black and white,” he said. “Aye,” came the reply, “but Ardbeg doesn’t move at 45 knots.” What if this yellow submarine was a prototype for a new type of distillery? Islay already has a wave power station and a bus powered by these waves, a swimming pool heated by a distillery’s waste heat and houses which are being warmed by some sort of geothermal device.If it is so far ahead of the rest of the country then a miniaturised submersible nano-distillery is a perfectly logical development. Don’t believe me? The alpaca nodded when I asked, it so it must be true.