Summer 2012 Trip – The Last Bit !

Thursday 23rd August

Today we were actually going off-island….. to Jura , Mickey and Mags were over at their holiday home and invited us over to see them . This was our 4th trip over to Jura (the island not the distillery) , since our last visit they shut the Gardens – which was a shame as it was a really nice walk – and as we found out after a drive up the isle , they’d also started felling some of the forests which made some of the areas look a bit desolate .

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Jura ferry Craighouse Harbour

After parking in the new Jura Hall car park we took a short walk up to Mickey and Mags cottage up the hill . It has cracking , uninterrupted views across Craighouse to the mainland . After a cuppa and a natter we went back down into Craighouse for lunch at the Antlers , various venison and beef burgers were consumed along with an Antlers Brunch , all were thoroughly enjoyed . To walk off the lunch we went back up to their cottage , collected Poppy their dog and headed off further up the hill to see the views…..



Though at one point i wasn’t sure who was taking who for a walk , the climb was quite steep at points but it was worth it to see the view……

Jura Panorama
After returning down the hill again to the cottage and a dram and more of natter we bid farewell to the Heads and went to catch the ferry back to Islay . The night ended with a few drams in front of the last real fire of the visit . 

Friday 24th August

So to our last full day on the Isle , after packing our belongings we headed off to the west to see how Mary was getting on during her “Summer Break” . She’s doing well during her temporary residency in Port Charlotte , she has a lovely view to take her mind off things…..

Port Chalotte View

We headed back to the deep south for a change of clothing before hitting the Bridgend Hotel for our last meal out of the trip . Once again The Bridgend didn’t disappoint , the food was superb , I went for Langoustines in Garlic butter for starters , followed by Islay Scallops with chargrilled fennel , parsley mash and panchetta with a saffron and leek cream sauce . For pudding i went for a Honey Bavois with shortcake and a rich chocolate sauce  . Mel went for the same starter but had a steak with peppercorn sauce and handcut chips  for the main and a vanilla and marscapone panacotta with garden rhubarb compote . Absolutely fantastic ! Kevin (ex-Old Kiln cafe) is a great chef , The Bridgend hasn’t half changed since we first set foot on the isle many moons ago and they are not resting on their laurels , during the winter there will be a bit of remodelling in the Katies Bar/ lounge area and in some of the bedrooms . A thoroughly good place to have a meal out in , no matter the occasion !

We stopped off in Bowmore on the way back to see if we could catch up with Phil (Gray) but it wasn’t his night in at The Lochside so it was back to the cottage for an early night…..   

Saturday 25th August

We left the Isle on the 9.45 ferry , starting the day with a Calmac Breakfast , the journey back to the mainland was in nice weather but we soon hit rain on the road , quite heavy in places but as soon as we got south of Glasgow they died off . So another trip over , the weather wasn’t as bad as the forecasts had tried to make out (does the Met office not know about the Islay Climate ?) Till the next time !

Lagavulin Bay

Lagavulin Bay

Cottage Stitch

360 view from the Cottage Jetty

Summer 2012 Trip – more…..

Monday 20th August

Another bright and sunny start to the day , we decided to do one of our favourite walks today , the Bridgend Woods circular . Most of it is over hard track but the Claggan strip is through muddy pathways and it was muddy ! We didn’t see much wildlife on the walk apart from loads of butterflys – which seems to fly against what is been said on the mainland that the butterfly population is on the decline .

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Bridgend Woods Butterfly 1
Butterfly 2 Butterfly 3

Just as we departed the Claggan strip and turned on to the Bridgend path the heavens opened and we got caught in a torrential down pour and got well and truly soaked ! After scampering (or squelching depending on which way you look at it ) back to the car we went home via Bowmore to pick some meats up from the butchers . After a change of clothes at the cottage and a change of weather – it went back to glorious sunshine – we paid a flying visit to port Ellen then returned to the cottage to see the day out……

Tuesday 21st August

Turned in to a bit of a whisky day today , woke up to sunshine again and headed off to walk along to Lagavulin for Pinkies now legendary warehouse demonstration . Got there in plenty of time to do the 9.30am distillery tour beforehand . Ruth gave us a very good tour before handing us over to Iain , also giving Iain a hand was Lagavulins recently appointed Local ambassador , David Woods , it was nice to finally meet David in person having spoke to him lots on Facebook . As usual Iains tour was as entertaining as ever and contained some great Lagavulins , Straight From The Cask ! We started off with New make then went onto an 2003 8yo Sherry cask , which turned out to be both our favourites of this tour . Then it was onto a 10yo refill sherry – which was actually a former Port Ellen cask – this one was still a little immature , the third cask was a sister cask to this years Feis Ile bottling , a 14yo , it was very nice but not a patch on the 1st one . The final dram was the current Distillers Edition (a 1995) . At the end we had a bit of a natter with Iain before setting off to Ardbeg for lunch (again) .

Lagavulin 1 Lagavulin 2

Once again we went for the Islay Crab Chowder to start followed by Salmon Fishcake . It was during the food that i decided i wanted to do a tour of Ardbeg (just for a change….) , Mel went back to the cottage after lunch while i headed off on the ‘Old and New’ tour with Dougie . After a comprehensive tour of the distillery we went off up to the Committee room on the top floor of the Old Kiln for a tasting . We started off with the 1981 Kildalton – A stunning Ardbeg – This was followed by the Ardbeg Still Young , then it was onto a 2006 Cask sample from a sherry cask , then it was onto a 2002 10yo 1st fill bourbon cask sample ( my favourite type of Ardbeg !) . At the end we were given the choice of 2 drams from the current Range , everyone went for the Uigeadail and Corryvrecken . It was a thoroughly enjoyable tour by Dougie , a good range of stories on top of the tour from someone who actually lived in Ardbeg Village in the early 60’s .

Ardbeg 1

The Old Malt Bins

Ardbeg 2

Dougie next to the Boby Mill

Ardbeg 3

inside the mash tun

Ardbeg 4

The Wash Backs

Ardbeg 5

The Still House

Ardbeg 6

The Spirit Safe

Then it was back to the Cottage to sober up…….

Wednesday 22nd August

Another sunny start to the day (don’t believe the weather forecasters….) , after a bit of a lie in we headed up to Bunnahabhain for a drive , it’s so nice to visit the place , even if sometimes the heart can sink at the state of the place but it was the scene of so many nice holiday memories . After catching up with Lillian we headed back to Bowmore calling in at the Perabus Pottery and Ballygrant Inn on the way . In Bowmore we picked up some Spirited Soap for home and a copy of the ‘Islay Edition’ Monopoly (had to , WBRNT !) . Then it was back to the cottage…….


Missed Views……

Islay Whisky Classics No.62 – Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (2008 Bottling)

The third and final release of the Airigh Nam Beist , this one at 18yo , this was somewhat of a bargain   at £45 a bottle ( yes £45 ) , what Ardbeg can you get for that price now ? And what age ? Not 18yo…. Served up at Ardbegs Standard abv of 46% .

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist

Bright Gold in Colour , the nose is really iodine at first , then it gets really complex , creamy fudge , lemon citrus , peat smoke , cocoa but we always return to the seashore iodine ( like standing on Ardbegs pier when the tides just went out and you get the seaweed smell immerging ) . The palate is truly amazing , more iodine than peaty , it’s more akin to a well aged Ardbeg than the youthful peat monster , there’s still the chocolate , creamy coffee , fudge  and sweetness but this is a step up from the peatiness of the youngsters ! The finish is long , sweet creamy fudge and chocolate topped creamy coffee !

What can you say about this dram ? it’s is totally different to the first release and my favourite of the three , didn’t like the second and only bought one bottle but this one…… Huge Smilie !

Summer 2012 Trip – continued – Friday 17th August

So to the the final day of our first week and it was raining when we woke up . We decided to carry on with the take it easy regime and did bugger all till we drove down to Port Ellen to get a Nippy Chippy . By the time we left for our fish supper the weather had totally changed , no wind , no rain , just a beautiful summers evening . For those that have never experienced it , the Nippy Chippy is a mobile fish and chip van and those that have experienced it will know that the Fish and Chips are pretty damn good !

See it was such a beautiful evening we went for a walk down to Seal Bay , apart from getting eaten alive by our small flying friends , we spotted a couple of deers at the other end of the bay .

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Deer 1 Deer 2

Deer 3

After returning to the cottage , i decided to head off down the road to Ardbeg Distillery to take advantage of the late evening sunshine , it was well worth the walk down there , there were stunning views over to the Antrim Coast , probably the clearest i’ve seen .

Antrim Coast Ardbeg 1
Ardbeg 2 Ardbeg 3
Scenery Scenery 2

So onto our second week…….

Saturday 18th August


What a glorious day ! After a trip down to Port Ellen for some supplies we spent the afternoon sunbathing in and around the cottage garden with a dram or two of Laddie 1970 for me and some wine for Mel……

Mel in the garden

Later on in the afternoon there was some noise from the bay , there was some activity from the Ardbeg Pier with some boats , it looked like a practice for a rowing competition , there were 2 different boats with 3 crews…..

Boat 1 Boat 2
Boat 3 Boat 4

So in the Evening it was a night out for our annual summer meal with Ella (it’s usually Mary as well but due to her “Summer Break” she couldn’t make it) . Tonights venue was the Islay Hotel , it was chosen with some trepidation as the place hasn’t been receiving very good reviews lately and it didn’t help the night before seeing the Hotels owner standing in the queue for the Nippy Chippy…..

It’s always great to have a night out with Ella and it’s always the highlight of our summer trip , so after a drink in the bar and a natter , it was off to the restaurant for our meal . Ella and myself went for the same starter , Islay Scallops on garlic potatoes and pea puree , Mel went for Duck confit with rocket and orange vinaigrette . All absolutely wonderful . could have ate the scallops over again ! For the main course Ella went for the Lamb Chop with Mediterranean vegetables , Mel went for Monk Fish with lemon rice , sugar snap peas and a shrimp sauce , i went for Wild Seatrout with new potatoes , crunchy vegetables and a lemon and tarragon sauce . Again all wonderful , beautiful flavours , we all went for the same dessert , Eton Mess with local strawberries . It was all rounded off with a cup of coffee before we made our way home . The food was similar to our first visit to the Islay in February (excellent) and definitely better than the Easter trip (not the best….) and as usual the company was a exceptional , always a joy to catch up with Ella !

Sunday 19th August

Not as good as weather as yesterday but not raining ! So todays agenda was go to Ardbeg for lunch then walk down to Port Ellen to pick the car up after last night . Lunch at Ardbeg was fantastic as usual , we both started with the Islay Crab Chowder and had the Macaroni cheese as main , Anyone remember the Cheesy Chessy Macaroni that was on the Old Kiln menu of yester year ? It was that good !

I just wish i could get as good of shots of the local Buzzards as i can of the gulls……

gull 1 gull 2

On the way down to Port Ellen we saw several Buzzards , couldn’t get too close but these were the best of the cropped ones…..

Buzz 1 Buzz 2
Buzz 3 Buzz 4

Buzz 5

On the way back to the cottage we called in at Lagavulin to book the Tuesday warehouse tour , then spent the rest of the night having a quiet dram or two……

Islay Whisky Classics No.61 – Bruichladdich XVII

This 17yo didn’t go down too well with me when i first tried it , i thought it was too much like the old style Laddie which i didn’t particularly like but it grew on me rapidly . From 100% Fresh American Oak this was bottled at 46% in 2005 .

Bruichladdich XVII

Ripe barley in colour , it has the classic Laddie nose of green apples , fudge , a touch of lemon citrus and vanilla , it also has a hint of malted barley . The palate carries on from the nose with green fruits , fudge , sea air and vanilla but also includes a sweet maltiness . The finish is long with fudge , vanilla and oak spices .

A very relaxing Laddie , a superb session dram , will be interesting to see how Bruichladdichs own spirit matches up to this at the same age . 

Wednesday 15th August

The day didn’t start off too bad , Sunny with a wind to start with but the weather gradually went downhill as the day went on and the wind picked up and by 4pm the rain was pelting down . After a late breakfast we ended up driving over the other side of the isle and ended up for a drink or two in the bar of the Port Charlotte Hotel . Got to try the 10yo Cask Strength Laphroaig i purchased yesterday…….

Batch 004 10yo Cask Strength Laphroaig 58.3% Bottled Jan 2012

Another of the wonderful Laphroaig 10yo CS Batches , on the nose you initially get quite a strong Farmyard / nettles smell then the seashore / iodine comes sweeping in . The palate is very old school Laphroaig , it actually took me back to when i first tried Laphroaig back in the 80’s , Very intense medicinal (iodine) with a lovely touch of creaminess to it . The finish is long with a lovely creamy medicinalness . A stunning Laphroaig Cask Strength , probably my favourite batch so far , may have to think about getting another one…….

We headed back to the cottage where the first fire of the trip was lit for Mel and a Laphroaig vertical was lined up…….

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The Laphroaig Haul

The spoils from the trip to Laphroaig

Laphroaig Quarter Cask (48%) – On the nose very strong seaweedy / iodine / medicinal along with creamy fudge / toffee . The palate really peaty , very little iodine / medicinalness and right at the end a creaminess . The finish isn’t very long and extremely creamy with a touch of peat .

Laphroaig Cask 7381 2003 * 14/08/2012 8yo 57.3% –  One from the Distillers Wares tour , light gold in colour , a lovely medicinal / nettles on the nose at first , then peat . The palate is a supercharged peatiness and iodine , the finish is medium , sweet and peaty . A delightful Laphroaig that doesn’t taste it’s age , really mature !

Laphroaig Cask 7305 1997 * 14/08/2012 15yo 52.2% – another from the Distillers Wares tour , light gold in colour , quite relaxed on the nose at first , then the Laphroaig iodine comes through , bags of seaweed and sea air . The palate is total iodine , seaweed in abundance , the finish is long and seaweedy . Again old school Laphroaig , Bryony commented that this was like the old 15yo , from memory i thought better than that .

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin 51.2% –  A very deep medicinal nose , quite farmyard , very relaxed . The palate is full on Laphroaig , peat , iodine , seaweed , seashore along with a nice creaminess (something i can’t remember from yesteryear….) , finish is beautifully long , iodine and  creamy . Probably the best Cairdeas….. So far……


Mel Relaxing

Thursday 16th August

Woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and here’s a photo to prove it……

View from the cottage

We spent the day relaxing in the cottage garden in the lovely sunshine shaded from the wind , during the time i took some photos of the flowers adorning the garden……

The first one was a lily……


I haven’t a clue what these are but there were two different colours of flowers…….

Flower 1

Flower 2

We decided to pop up to Bowmore for a Chinese takeaway just at the right time , the heavens opened at 4pm ! This is the second time we’d had food from the Golden Dragon (first time we ate in)  , The meals were absolutely delicious , I had the Kung Po Scallops and Mel the Chicken in Chilli Sauce .  Well recommended !!!

To see the night out i hit the Ardbeg , first of a couple of OMC 1972’s followed by a few Airigh Nam Beists…… 

Islay Whisky Classics No.60 – Ardbeg 1977

Ardbeg had released two previous vintages before this one , the 1975’s and the 1978’s , this was a total step in the other direction compared to them , it was released at 46% and  unchillfiltered ! Limited to an unconfirmed 2400 bottles when it was released in 2001 it shocked a few people after the lightness of the previous 75’s and 78s !

Ardbeg 1977

Bright gold in colour , the first thing you get on the nose is the Ardbeg-dine but then the nasal hairs are whacked with a great big brick of peat ! Lingering behind is a sweetness , fudge , also peat smoke and a slight oakiness . The palate is huge ! Incredibly chewy , peat soaked with a chocolate topping ! The finish is huge , loads of peat and cocoa .

Should a 24yo dram be this peaty ?  Who cares ! This is a wonderful Beg , huge and chewy in the mouth , When it was released i commented it’s amazing the difference a few extra % abv and unchillfiltered and uncoloured makes (very few malts at the time were this ) and i stick by it ! A few other producers should have taken note at the time…..