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Palin's Pillaged Malt

by Gavin D Smith, 07/06

During 2003, Lagavulin distillery worker Kevin Campbell and a team of charitable Ileachs rowed around the coastline of Islay, collecting malt whisky from each of the island's seven distilleries. The whisky was duly married in casks and bottled at Bruichladdich before being offered for sale via the internet. The ten-year-old Islay Pillaged Malt raised 25,000 for the RNLI and the Macmillan Cancer Relief Fund.

Encouraged by the great success of this venture, Campbell and fellow Lagavulin fundraiser Marjorie Orr set about going one better, and proceeded to turn the Islay Pillage into a Celtic Pillage in 2005 by including Jura and Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland on their itinerary.

Last June a team of volunteers rowed and sailed to all of Islay's distilleries and to Jura, 'liberating' 40 litres of cask strength 12-year-old whisky from each distillery. They then headed the 20 miles from Bruichladdich to Antrim on the Irish skiff James Kelly, braving forced eight gales in the process. The boat was a replica of a 19th century fishing yawl and shared many similarities with the Viking longboats that would have plundered the shores of Scotland and Northern Ireland many centuries ago.

The 'pillaged' malt from each of the nine distilleries was subsequently vatted together and married at Lagavulin to create 500 bottles-worth of Celtic Pillage Malt. This was then bottled and labelled at Bruichladdich in February. The unique whisky was only available by bidding in a silent auction, with bids starting at 100 being accepted until the end of March. Money raised will be shared between the Children's Hospice Association of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.

According to Kevin Campbell, "Everyone has been so supportive. The Irish boys were great and very hospitable. Fishermen from Port Ellen supplied support boats and there were plenty of volunteers to raise our spirits. The distilleries gave us the whisky for free and paid the duty on it."

Marjorie Orr added "It makes sense, living on an island known the world over for its whiskies, for us to use it to raise money for charity."

    Broadcaster, writer and former 'Python' Michael Palin is a keen supporter of the Celtic Pillage, and after sampling the whisky he declared "This Pillage Malt is terrific stuff. Forget Nectar, this is what the Gods should be drinking.

"This is the drink that gives pillaging a good name. There are few things I'd row though force eight gales for, but malt whisky from Islay, Jura and Bushmill's are three of them. The results of this selfless pillaging have been bottled by the masters of their trade at Islay's Bruichladdich distillery - one of my favourites. Never has more trouble been taken to provide a fine whisky. Do whatever you can to pillage the 2005 Pillaged Celtic malt. And make a lot of children very happy too."


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