It's Sunday morning and I'm doing that finger poised over the checkout button on Amazon thing. My digit's currently dangled over the recently remastered Born to Run, Grant-Lee Phillips' 'The Narrows' and 'Paradise is There', Nathalie Merchant's reimagining of 'Tigerlily'. They'll be bought on vinyl (£20 each? Really?) but... can I get a witness? Someone who has perhaps tasted Ardbeg's Uigeadail and moved on up to their Corryvreckan.
The last time I tasted Uigeadail?
Can I tell you about that?
This is how I remember it:
It was last summer at the end of the Aarhus Festuge.
Folmer Jepsen's last stand as Festival Director.
After a fabulous late dinner of Spanish Tapas (understatement) at Jimmy Holm's CanBlau we sat outside our hotel on wicker sofas and in good company: I'd scared Joe Henry and Jim White away with my over attentiveness. Some saw it as 'stalking' but... sometimes admiration cannot be contained or suppressed, nor should it be. With Joe and Jim harangued and dispatched to their rooms I'd moved on to Dylan's bassist Tony Garnier who giddily enthused about Bob's latest album - appropriately entitled 'Shadows in the Night' - which he'd arranged and MD'd. Grant Lee Phillips chewed the fat with M Ward, Diego Schissi and Gustaf Ljunggren whilst Rhiannon Giddens demonstrated her Operatic vocal dexterity to Billy Bragg with an Aria or two. People in the bedrooms above hushed us when they should've been buying tickets. Daniel Lanois lingered in the shadows after his brilliant show of dub 'n' folk. We knew he was there but tried not to stare. Howe Gelb had earlier mischievously danced his way through a chaotic but inspired 'Deconstructing Standards' performance with Yasmine Hamdan, Steve Shelley & Thøger T. Lund. Mr Gelb shoots his cuffs and holds your eye with a cantankerous twinkle; like a second hand car salesman who's actually offering you the ride of your life. Thankfully he wasn't selling puppies...
Yup, Howe was happy but unwell. Man Flu. The bar was closing. Where was Sylvie Simmons? She owed me a drink or two... I looked to Folmer. I'd just gifted him a bottle of Uigeadail; Ardberg's finest, as a present to recognize past kindnesses and as a salutary send off. Everyone took a belt leaving poor Folmer with nowt but a couple of fingers of his prize. Howe took it as medicine. And medicinal it is; at 54.2% its potent smoky sweetness never fails to reinvigorate. A couple of tumblers however sent Howe to bed with a sidewards shuffle and seaside smile, at which point Lanois came forth, out of the shadows offering an empty glass. Everything after that is a bit of a blur but the next morning I woke up in a cheap Las Vegas motel, between Daniel and a sheep's head (betwixt a crock and a herd's face so to speak) wearing nowt but a tutu, a wedding ring and Howe's seaside smile...
That last bit isn't true but truth and a bad joke are uncomfortable bedfellows... All of the other name dropping stands. I've got witnesses...
It was an appropriately stellar way to see off Folmer and one of my more memorable nights out on the tiles. Amazing what you can take for granted when you're standing too close to see it.
Thanks Folmer. Thank you for placing me in such fine company and reminding me that musicians are the salt of the earth; wounded but walking conundrums: lusty and liberal; anxious and cocky; strutting and stumbling souls; vital and verbose vagabonds. Strong and silent partners. Always intriguing. Always engaging. Always needing...
Which brings me back to my need of Ardbeg's Corryvreckan.
Can I get a witness?
Anyone got a thought or two?
Particularly my Scottish mates who are closer to the source and surely the wiser for it.
Apparently its 57.1% charms offer a 'wonderfully wild and complex experience'.
At £75.17 a pop perhaps it is best to buy as a present for a good friend and then just... hang with them.
At £75.17 a pop it would need to be a beloved friend.
At £75.17 a pop I'm expecting smoke and sparks...