The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was at Islay House for the start of the annual Islay Whisky Festival, where members and guests had travelled from around the world to enjoy some sensational celebratory bottlings, take part in our masterclass tastings and sign up for some other whisky-inspired fun

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There’s nowhere quite like the magical island of Islay when the sun is shining, and the Society’s Open Day at Islay House had the good fortune of blue skies and beautiful conditions when members gathered for the start of the Islay Whisky Festival last week.

Evgueni Yushkulis raises a glass at the Society's Open Day at Islay House.

“This is perfect…it’s all about whisky connecting people,” said member Evgueni Yushkulis, who had travelled from France to pick up some of the Society’s Islay Festival celebratory bottlings and share a dram with friends.

Society ambassador Matt Bailey had travelled from Australia to host two festival masterclasses, including an ‘Old & Rare’ tasting that had participants in raptures.

SMWS ambassador Matt Bailey in action at one of the Open Day masterclasses.

“We’ve been able to link time and place with these old bottlings, alongside our festival releases, demonstrating the Society’s history and the history of the distillate on the island,” he said. “This is also my first time on Islay, so I’ve been loving it – what an experience, to do my first ever tastings here!”

Delighted Society members capture the moment with their Festival bottlings.

It wasn’t all about whisky at Islay House. There was an island-inspired Highland Games, with Society T-shirts and other prizes for the winners in archery, tug-of-war, and even axe throwing.

Axe throwing and whisky....only under careful supervision!

And on Saturday, some intrepid members joined up for a cycle ride around all nine of the island’s distilleries, getting a stamp from each one before ending up back at Islay House for a well-deserved dram.

Society cyclists display their flavour profile-inspired jerseys at Ardbeg distillery on their Tour de Islay.

For those who missed out on a visit to Islay in person, the good news is that the Society still has some Festival bottlings available. Be sure to visit before it’s too late – and start making your plans for next year!

For a flavour of the Society’s Open Day at Islay House, tune in to the latest episode of our podcast, Whisky Talk, where Unfiltered editor Richard Goslan catches up with SMWS ambassador Matt Bailey as well as members who travelled from around the world.