Whisky Advocate

Guest post: Review of “Whisky. The Islay Edition”

April 7th, 2011

Jonny McCormick joins us today with a review of “Whisky. The Islay Edition” available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Whisky. The Islay Edition.
Blu-Ray and DVD (Limited release of 7000)          
P-O-K Productions | 60 minutes

Can I have a show of hands as to how many of you would rather be on Islay right now compared to wherever you are at the moment? Really? Almost everyone! If you’re a single malt lover, then making the trip to Islay is something you’ve got to do at least once in your lifetime. Every sip of gentle Bunnahabhain coaxes you to make plans, every glass of Laphroaig insists you pay a visit and that’s before the heavy(ly peated) mob like Ardbeg Supernova and Octomore muscle in to make you an offer you can’t refuse.

Could this movie be the next best thing to planting your feet on Islay? This ambitious high-quality documentary promises to be the first in a series of whisky films, and the young filmmaker Olav Verhoeven has to be congratulated for his originality and vision. The opening titles would not be out of place in a forensic crime drama with cool, sterile laboratory imagery flickering against tolling piano chords. The film crew have had unfettered access to the distilleries and admirably convey the beauty of the polished copper and the symmetry of the washbacks as each site reveals a different element to whisky production.

The storytelling in the distillery interviews are first rate; Mickey Heads talks in front of an enviable wall of Ardbegs, the respected John MacLellan discusses barley in Kilchoman’s warehouse, Eddie McAffer’s leather armchair sits amongst the germinating grains at Bowmore’s maltings and Bruichladdich’s Jim McEwan enthuses about his passion for casks from the eyrie of his racked warehouse. The managers of Lagavulin and Caol Ila are conspicuously absent however their respective distilleries share equal billing.

The film is hosted by Bob Minnekeer whose grand mustache must be one of the broadest in the whisky world (and that’s up against some pretty stiff competition). Between the distillery set pieces, Bob stalks the land resplendent in a bow tie and three piece suit. One minute he’s crossing fields of barley and peat bogs, the next he’s supping water from a gurgling stream or perusing the Bruichladdich warehouse inventory. He tastes the featured whiskies without water from his large brandy snifter and confesses his penchant for cork sniffing.

An ad-man’s eye is apparent in the beautifully lit product shots making excellent use of narrow focal lengths which excel in the high-definition quality. The voiceover narration is crisp and unhurried with a Scottish delivery imbued with gravitas and emphasis like many a distillery tour film. Unfortunately, the place name pronunciation is a rather irksome with Is-lee rather than Isl-a and the Bow of Bowmore rhyming with how amongst others.

Indubitably, Islay is the star of the film and she’s never looked better. The intensity of the ocean blues, the unmistakable black distillery names on the whitewashed buildings standing defiantly against the elements and the gentle blend of greens and browns on the mountain slopes near Finlaggan Castle cause a deep yearning for the majesty of Islay’s landscapes. Verhoeven’s cinematography creates an authentically vivid feel through the use of accelerated tracking shots as sweeping panoramas are revealed and picturesque time-lapse sequences unfold as the clouds race home when dusk marches across Loch Indaal. Sound quality is superb and supported by a lavish soundtrack that incorporates North African influences and a stirring theme fit for a Hollywood blockbuster.

The product is presented in an elaborate numbered gatefold sleeve which includes both a Blu-Ray disc and DVD version of the movie plus a 40-page color booklet with tasting notes on the eight featured whiskies. The Blu-Ray plays fine in the U.S. but the DVD is in PAL, so depending on your set-up, you may need to play it through a laptop. Perhaps you won’t make it to Islay this year, but you could do a lot worse than opening a bottle of your favourite Islay single malt and experiencing this stylish whisky film with a group of buddies. Drink it all in.

Available for purchase online by clicking here.

10 Responses to “Guest post: Review of “Whisky. The Islay Edition””

  1. Shai says:

    Hi John,
    This is the second post in a row about a book/DVD I have but not yet read/seen.
    So – in order no to spoil for my self, I will not read this post or the one about the miscellany book, but promise to read after I watch the film and read the book my self.

    Looks nice though from a quick overview.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Barry Jay says:

    Looking at the website, it’s 34,95 in what currency? Not sure where it’s shipping from. Anyone familiar with this conversion? Wish it were at the MA store…

  3. Jonny McCormick says:

    I hope you enjoy them Shai – looking forward to hearing what you think of them!

  4. Mark Dermul says:

    The most amazing part is that it’s made by folks from Ghent, Belgium (my neck of the woods). A stunning piece about Islay that no fan should have to be without!

  5. Olav says:

    Hi Barry,

    The currency sign you see before the price is “Euro”, we ship it from Belgium, Shipping is quite fast. Enjoy!

  6. JMF says:

    Does anyone know if the DVD’s would play on American DVD players? I believe there are zones between the US and Europe.

  7. Olav says:

    Hi JMF,

    The dvd will not play on American dvd players, it isn’t realy due the zone but because of the format of American TV’s (NTSC vs PAL in europe), the DVD is for all regions so it will play only on laptops, computers and not on TV in America (and other countries whiwh have NTSC).

    The Blu-Ray will play on your TV (all countries can run this format).

    Don’t hesitate to drop us an email if you have any questions or something is not clear.

  8. Barry Jay says:

    Well, I just ordered mine..will give everyone a full report….

  9. bj reed says:

    I was in a short clip of the Malt Project’s Islay DVD when I was at Whiskyfest umpteen years ago – This one sounds great as well.

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