Times are changing. The houses that were once home for the workers at Bunnahabhain Distillery have nearly all been demolished. Building work has begun.
Bunnahabhain was a thriving village when the Happy Farmer was a young boy. It had a school, a village hall, post office and shop. It was once home to some twenty or more families. Even when our children started at school, the bus would come from Bunnahabhain, collecting youngsters along the way and delivering them safely to the local primary school in Keills. Ceilidhs, meetings and playgroup were still held in the village hall. However as whisky production became more automised the distillery employed less workers and so the number of families living at Bunnahabhain had declined. Over the years the houses became all but deserted and when the new hall at Ballygrant opened Bunnahabhain hall closed. New workers often commuted from other parts of the island. The last of the remaining families moved out of their homes earlier this year.
Today when the Happy Farmer visited, the bulldozers had moved in. Where houses once stood, was a huge heap of rubble. An upgrade of the distillery warehouses and visitor centre is underway. It is the end of an era and the beginning of a new one for Bunnahabhain and the north end of Islay.
Ardnahoe Distillery is just along the road. The first malted barley arrived on site last week so production looks like it will begin very soon and Islay’s newest distillery will be opening its doors.
At Caol ila, which is just across the fields from Persabus, exciting upgrades are also planned. This is all much to the Happy farmer’s delight. Soon there will be three working distilleries close to Persabus, all producing more whisky, tales and experiences for visitors and locals alike. The Happy Farmer is really looking forward to supporting them all. He is already planning visits and tastings. He feels it is his duty to sample the local distilleries’ finest malts. He informs me it is ‘work related research’. He needs to keep up to date and is always looking to increase his knowledge and educate his palate when it comes to Islay malts. Apparently, this is so he can informatively discuss the delights and intricacies of Islay’s whiskies with our guests.
The island’s distilleries all employ the finest of local characters, young and old. These characters all have a distinctive ‘island way’ of weaving magic and stories into their work as they produce some of the finest malt whiskies in the world. Each adding their own unique style to the developing story of Islay’s culture and heritage.
It was the Happy Farmer’s face then when two people were making their way across the farm yard at Persabus on Saturday. The farmhouse kitchen was already buzzing. The Happy Farmer’s childhood friend had arrived with family off the ferry. Hughie ‘taxi’ was in for a quick cup between hires. Our German guests had arrived for their first ever stay at Persabus, ready for some whisky experiences, and now a young couple from Israel were here to ask the Happy Farmer if Persabus was indeed a distillery. This would seem to be the case on many an occasion, but unfortunately Persabus is not yet a working distillery.
Until next time…