After months of anticipation, this Friday evening a lively parade will wind its way through the town of Port Ellen on Islay, marking the official launch of the 2024 Fèis Ìle .

It’s a calendar highlight for Scotland’s ‘whisky island’, first established in 1986 in an effort to boost and lengthen the summer tourist season and now attracting thousands of visitors from across the globe.

While it’s not all about the drams, with plenty of live music and entertainment scheduled throughout the eight-day celebrations, for many, this is a rare chance to attend a series of open days hosted by some of the biggest names in Scotch whisky.

The Scottish Farmer: Pictured: Cara Baillie, marketing manager for Scotland’s Brand Homes at DiageoPictured: Cara Baillie, marketing manager for Scotland’s Brand Homes at Diageo (Image: Supplied)

Cara Baillie, marketing manager for Scotland’s Brand Homes at Diageo, said: “I used to go to all of the distillery days with my family so have seen them growing and growing over the years.

“I could never have guessed that one day I would be responsible for delivering the Fèis days at Lagavulin and Caol Ila.

“There’s a great sense of camaraderie between the distilleries on Islay throughout the year, and we see each other as a community of whisky producers and brand homes rather than competitors.

“With the Fèis bringing a huge number of people to an island which usually has a population of around 3000, having our own days really allows each of us to shine and show off whatever the team has come up with.

“It’s a chance to get really creative and think about how to make the best use of our beautiful, historic sites.”

The Scottish Farmer: Pictured: Fèis Ìle is an annual festival celebrating the culture, whisky, and community of the Isle of IslayPictured: Fèis Ìle is an annual festival celebrating the culture, whisky, and community of the Isle of Islay (Image: Supplied)

From Friday, May 24 to Saturday, June 1, distilleries including Lagavulin, Coal Ila, Bruichladdich Bowmore, Bunnahabhain and Ardbeg will take their turn to host a day of special events, tastings and one-off visitor experiences developed exclusively for the Feis.

“The atmosphere is absolutely incredible and attracts people from all over the world,” Baillie continued.

“Some stay for the full week as a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list experience and others might come for a few days every year with their families.

“But it’s not just about those who are travelling from overseas, it’s a chance for Islay locals to come along and enjoy a really interesting lineup of live music, food trucks and ticketed events.

“Lagavulin is the first day of the festival, so we’ll be kicking it off in style.”  

Both the Lagavulin and Caol Ila days of the festival are free to attend with a selection of garden games, music from the likes of Mànran and Rhuvaal and food from a mix of local favourites and mainland street food vendors.

For those looking to delve deeper into the world of some of Islay’s most famous smoky malts, there are still a limited number of tickets remaining for special events.

Asked for her highlights, Baillie recommends the “Manager’s Big Challenge” at Lagavulin, offering the chance to win prizes by putting your whisky knowledge to the test or “How Do You See the Sea” where you’ll sample three Coal Ila drams while “connecting with the colours, patterns, and textures of Islay’s wild, and beautiful seascapes” led by local artist Rosemary Fletcher.

The Scottish Farmer: Pictured: Lagavulin and Caol Ila Fèis bottlingsPictured: Lagavulin and Caol Ila Fèis bottlings (Image: Supplied)

There will also be the opportunity to purchase limited-edition bottlings that highlight each distillery’s unique character, available on-site during the festival.

“I know that a lot of the whisky aficionados who come to the Fèis every year have been waiting with bated breath to see what we’ll release, and all of the feedback we’ve had so far locally and from around the world indicates they’re going to be a big hit.”

The Scottish Farmer: Pictured: Experiences include talks and tastings led by whisky expertsPictured: Experiences include talks and tastings led by whisky experts (Image: Supplied)

Eager to see the festivities kick off once more, Baillie said: “Islay is a magical place that’s worth visiting all year round and I’d really encourage anyone who hasn’t been yet to come over and see it for themselves.

“We’re really pleased to be able to support Fèis Ìle and their continued efforts to make this such an iconic festival in Scotland.”

Fèis Ìle will run from Friday, May 24 to June 1.

Lagavulin will host an open day on Saturday, May 25 followed by Coal Ila on Monday, May 27.