Meet the Isle of Arran Distillers poetry competition judging panel

With the hunt for the official poem of the Isle of Arran Distillers new Lagg distillery well under way, the independent whisky maker has assembled an eclectic team of judges to consider each of the entries put forward by budding writers.

Although they all share a passion for whisky, poetry and the unique landscape that makes Scotland so remarkable, the panel bring a wide-range of backgrounds and experiences to the discussion.

The judging panel consists of –

Rachel McCormack:

Rachel is a broadcaster and writer, best known as a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Kitchen Cabinet’. In 2016, Rachel set out to discover why Scotland had little tradition of cooking or eating with whisky. The answer to that question and her search for the essence of whisky became the subject of her first book ‘Chasing the Dram, Finding the Spirit of Whisky’.

Rachel also broadcasts on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and ‘The Food Programme’ as well as appearing on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Breaking the News’ and ‘The Chris Evans Show’ on BBC Radio 2.

Jim Carruth:

Jim is the current Poet Laureate of Glasgow. He has two collections and nine chapbooks published, starting with Bovine Pastoral (2004). In 2009 he was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship and his work continues to attract both praise and awards, most recently winning the McLellan Poetry Prize 2013 and the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2014.

‘Killochries’, published in 2015, was shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year, the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize and the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize for first collection. His follow up book Black Cart came out in 2017.

Hamish Whyte:

Hamish has published several collections of poems, the latest being ‘Things We Never Knew’ (Shoestring Press, 2016) and Now the Robin (HappenStance Press, 2018). He has also edited many anthologies of Scottish literature, including ‘Mungo’s Tongues: Glasgow Poems 1630-1990’, ‘An Arran Anthology’, ‘Kin: Scottish Family Poems’ and, most recently, ‘Scottish Cats’ (Birlinn, 2013).

Hamish runs Mariscat Press, publishing the poetry of Edwin Morgan, Gael Turnbull, Stewart Conn, Jackie Kay, Douglas Dunn, Christine De Luca and Jim Carruth, among others. He has compiled bibliographies of Edwin Morgan and Liz Lochhead, reviewed crime fiction for Scotland on Sunday and is an Honorary Research Fellow in Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow.

He was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship with his partner, poet and children’s writer, Diana Hendry. He is also a member of Edinburgh’s Shore Poets.

Faye Waterlow:

Faye started working for Isle of Arran Distillers on the day of the grand opening in 1997. She worked her way up from waitress, to tour guide and was then appointed visitor centre manager in 2011. In 2014, a cask was bottled and the resulting expression, which was released exclusively for the Isle of Arran Distillers in Lochranza, was named Miss Black. Miss Black is Faye’s maiden name and was commissioned in celebration of the 17-year anniversary of Faye’s time with Isle of Arran Distillers.

As the longest serving member of staff at the distillery in Lochranza, and longest serving visitor centre manager, it is exciting that Faye will be able to bring all of her years of experience down to the new Lagg Visitor Centre.

Graham Omand:

Graham was born on the west coast of Scotland and spent his early years on the Isle of Tiree, before moving to the Islay, renowned for their peated whisky production, when he was just four years old.

He has worked as a stillsman at the Isle of Arran Distillery in Lochranza for over eight years, a position which has allowed him to develop his skill set. Graham has taken full advantage of the tutorage from his uncle and master distiller James MacTaggart, who has over forty years of experience in the industry.

With years of experience at producing fantastic expressions of Arran Malt, there is no doubt that Graham is more than prepared to oversee the production of a perfectly rich, earthy and complex expression of peated Lagg Single Malt.

Kenny Smith:

Kenny is the web editor at lifestyle magazine and website Scottish Field. He has spent over 20 years working in newspapers, on titles including the East Kilbride News, Rutherglen Reformer and the Ayrshire Post, and also had work published in the Daily Record and Daily Mirror. Outside of the newsroom, Kenny he keeps on writing – mainly about Doctor Who, as editor of Vortex magazine for audio production company Big Finish Productions. He is also the author of the book The Big Finish Companion, volume two.

Since joining Scottish Field, he has rediscovered his family’s long-standing passion for whisky, and loves a peaty whisky… with ginger beer.

Earlier this year, the Isle of Arran Distillers, in association with Scottish Field, launched a competition to find the official poem for their Lagg Distillery. The winning entry will take pride of place onsite at the new distillery that is due to open in the spring of 2019.

Budding writers have been tasked with producing a poem that beautifully captures the Isle of Arran’s history, landscape or, quite simply, it’s spirit – whisky or otherwise. The closing date for entries is Friday 14 December and the winner and two runners-up will be announced on Burns Night, Friday 25 January 2019.

As well as having their poem immortalised at the Lagg Distillery, the winning entry will be exclusively published in Scottish Field magazine, the official media partner for the competition. The winning poet will also be invited to the official opening of the new Lagg Distillery & Visitor Centre in Spring of next year. The two runners up will receive an exclusive Lagg Distillery Goodie Bag.

All entries can be submitted to Scottish Field magazine by emailing Kenny Smith at ksmith@scottishfield.co.uk with the subject ‘Isle of Arran Distillers – Poetry Competition’. Entrants will also need to include in their name, contact information and date of birth as this competition is only open to those over the age of 18.

Poems can also be submitted by post using the following address:  Kenny Smith, Scottish Field, 496 Ferry Road, Edinburgh, EH5 2DL.

Please be sure to also include within your entry letter your name, your contact information and your date of birth.