Islay Summer Visit 2013

Saturday 10th August
So once again we head off to Islay for our summer fortnight . Setting off at the crack of dawn the journey up was in decent weather , it was even sunny at Inverary ! After the now traditional Coffee and cake break at Tarbert , we set off for Kennacraig catching our first glimpse of wildlife on the outskirts of Tarbert……
The Journey over on Finlaggan wasn’t the smoothest for a summer trip , odd bit of sway and a bit of wind but the Malt of the Month was Bunnahabhain ! After a stopover at Bowmore to pick a few supplies we headed off for Maol Buidhe . After unpacking and having a bite to eat we went out for an evening walk along the Kildalton Road stopping just before the dip down to Dower House . We did manage to get caught in a shower before arriving back at the Cottage . Once we’d dried off we settled down for a drink , The Maol Buidhe bar for our visit was opened…….


Tonights pleasures were A 1973 O.b. Ardbeg , A Laddie 1972 Valinch and a Whiskybroker 29yo Tormore (tasting notes to follow at some point) .

Sunday 11th August

The first full day on Islay , bit of a lie in after yesterdays early rise then off to Ardbeg for Sunday lunch . We both went for the same food , Ardbeg Crab chowder for starters and Pan-fried Duck Breast for mains , both were superb (as usual) , after a natter to Jackie it was off for another walk along the Kildalton Road , this time along to the bay just past Dower House .

Cat_in_bay melanie1
melanie2 melanie3

On the way back we had an interesting experience , after just missing what appeared to be an Eagle (it screeched like an Eagle) we were heading back approaching Seal Bay when an otter bounced across the road , we were gobsmacked ! We weren’t near any visible water and it happened so fast i couldn’t get my camera off my shoulder , there was a guy parked in a car and he didn’t seem to see it .

An enjoyable afternoon walk carried on with a good evening dramming with my 3 own bottlings , the two PC casks and the Bladtub , and an appearance on the front lawn by a herd of 5 deers , gotta love Islay for wildlife !

Monday 12th August

A bit of a mixed day weather wise and a bit of an easy day for us , a drive over the other side of the Island to catch up with Paul and Joan at An Taigh Osda and pick up a cask sample at Bruichladdich . Then it was off to Bowmore to get some supplies and a coffee and cake at the Coffee Shop in Roys Celtic Shop . Then it was back off to the cottage calling in at Laphroaig to pick up some Cheese for nibbles , bumped into Christine (Logan) who was dropping off a Japanese couple , always nice to see Christine and catch up . Was good to see James (Deane) as well who’d just returned from a tour up to the Laphroaig water source .

(Click on Images to see full size )

Port Ellen Port Ellen

After tea i left Melanie in the cottage and took a walk along to Seal Bay , it turned into a beautiful evening on this side of the isle .

Seal Bay Panorama

Ardbeg Pagodas in the evening Sunshine

Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 005


57.2% Bottled Feb 13 , initially very smoky on the nose then sea shore – sea weed , sea air – , nettles and a touch of farmyard , quite relaxed as well . It definitely isn’t relaxed on the palate , wow , intense medicinalness , peat smoke and nettles . The finish is long, peaty and iodiney . Another cracking batch of 10yo Cask Strength , like i said the nose is quite relaxed but the palate more than makes up for it !

Tuesday 13th August

Not a bad morning when we got up so we packed a picnic and headed off to the west side of the Island and Saligo Bay . Was busier than we expected but had a nice little walk

Saligo Bay Panorama

Melanie at Saligo Bay

On the way back we stopped off at The Bridgend Hotel for a coffee , they’ve done a real nice job of the recent refurbishments , looking forward to having a meal there on saturday night . Then it was back to the cottage for a few drams in the beautiful late afternoon/early evening sunshine…….

Bruichladdich 2008 SOI II Sample

Still quite pale for a 5yo from a fresh bourbon cask , The nose is still a little bit spirity at first but then malt , lemon and green fruits (gooseberries and apples) appear . The palate shows more of the youth , very spirity but after a while the laddie traits are slightly noticeable (fruits , malt, hint of caramel toffee) .

With water the palate cools a bit but still quite youthful .

Half Term Report – Progressing nicely !

Bruichladdich Valinch 1972


From cask #9 , bottled 8th May 2002 at 48.8% .

The Colour of Orange Marmalade , The first actual thing that grabs you on the nose is Orange ! Then Vanilla and oak spices , the palate is slightly overwhelming with the vanilla and oak spices but after a short while you get a slight hint of some laddie notes but not many .

Nowhere near as good as the 1970 valinch i opened on my 50th birthday but it will be interesting to see if it opens up a lot more when it’s had a bit exposure to air .

SMOS 1979 28yo Bunnahabhain


Distilled 31st October 1979 , Bottled 22nd April 2008 from cask # 18831 at 46%

The colour of ripe straw , straight away you get the Bunnahabhain Sweetness ( Edinburgh Rock / Confectioners Sugar) on the nose , then a slight maltiness , an absolutely beautiful nose . This dram glides across the palate , again the Bunnahabhain sweetness is out in force , it is just such an easy dramming and relaxed malt . It actually brings back so many memories of the Feis ile Warehouse tours with John the former manager . The Finish is so long and smooth .

A superb dram , probably my favourite bunnahabhain , ideal for sitting out in the Maol Buidhe Garden on a sunny summers evening !

Ardbeg Single Cask #1143


Distilled 16th March 1973 , Bottled 22nd December 2004 at 49.3%

Bright Gold in colour , straight away you know what you’ve got here from the nose , an early 70′s Beg loaded with the Ardbeg-dine ! It catches the nasal hairs , then you get Creamy Coffee , orange and peat smoke…… Ardbeg Heaven !!!

The palate pretty much carries on the fine tradition , the Ardbeg-dine is so distinctive , silky smooth over the tongue , seducing it into submission , Wonderful ! The finish is long , smoky-iodine and as smooth as a babies bum !

There are Ardbeg casks and there is cask # 1143 !!!!!! You just have to drink Ardbegs like this……..

So after our drams we headed off for a walk in the sunshine along to Seal Bay…….


geese_seal_bay yacht_seal_bay

and then along to Ardbeg to admire the evening views from the pier before returning to the cottage .

Wednesday 14th August

A pretty lazy day today (we’re on holiday we can !) , headed off to Ardbeg for lunch , once again the crab chowder was on (Nom – Nom !) so we both went for it ! Then Melanie went for the baked Tattie Prawn Marie Rose and i went for the Pan Fried Halibut . Tried the Islay Ales Single Malt Ale which i have to say was very good . After a natter to Mickey , we booked up a couple of tours to do during the holidays . Then it was a relaxing afternoon at the cottage before heading off for a drive along the coast .

Thursday 15th August

Probably the worst morning of the week , chucking it down , so it was lucky that we’d decided to go to Ardbeg this afternoon and i was going on the “Decades” tour . After a lunch of Cajun chicken with fluffy rice and Strawberries and cream , Melanie headed back to the cottage and Dougie took us off on the Decades tour . The first dram was at the start of the Distillery tour while Dougie told us the history of Ardbeg .


I’ve had this one a couple of times before , it’s a very good 1974 but lacks the oomph of the Provenance . We then proceeded through the distillery going through the production procedure .
We then went in to the chairmans study for an informal tasting of four other Cask samples

Decades-2 Decades-3

First up was a 1975 38yo , where do they keep finding these casks from ? Not a bad little Ardbeg from a Refill sherry cask but has probably seen better days (not in a bad sort of way , just an observation) , they have a few 75′s apparently , if they ever do release them i’ll put good money on it i can’t afford a bottle…….

Warewolf , Minotaur , Fairies at the bottom of the garden……

In the normal world there are lots of Myths and legends , in the Ardbeg world a 1989 Distillation was the big one , bottles had been doubted , no one confirmed that such a thing had happened . Today in my eyes it became the truth , a 1989 Cask Sample ! Taken from one of several casks ( NOW where did they find these casks ?) from a run of about 600 in late 1989 (Oct – Nov) this 24yo was stunning ! Everything you could ask for from an Ardbeg , Flows across the palate wonderfully and smells like a dream , this was definitely my holiday treat !

Decades-4 Decades-5

Number three was a 1994 and another rumour was finally confirmed , apparently in 1994/5 the purifier wasn’t working properly , it had a split – Now it wasn’t said if it was turned off completely but the stories were always that it was during the allied ownership – this was a lot heavier spirit than the others and a lovely dram . The last Sample was a 2003 , this one was to show what the TEN is like at cask strength and from a single cask . Yet another cracking dram !

I thoroughly enjoyed this tour , Dougie was an excellent , knowledgeable host , The drams on this tour were superb and well worth the cost above a normal tour (£35 for this one) especially if you want to taste the Mythical 1989 !

So after returning to the Cottage and having a bite to eat , we headed off for an evening walk along to Seal Bay , by now the rain had passed (for the time being) and the sun had come out . On the way back we got a couple of surprises , first up my mobile decided to spring into life about 100 metres from the cottages (there is no signal at the cottage but a slight one jus about 100 metres towards Ardbeg) and then a Young Stag appeared in the bushes just behind the cottages ……..

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hello deer

Friday 16th August

Another Dreary Morning so we went off for a drive up to Bunnahahbain , we went over the Mulindry Road , a beautiful wild scenic route . When we got to Bunnahabhain there was a mountain of casks at the entrance , probably the most i’ve seen piled high outside of a cooperage ! Andrew was manning the shop as everyone was out on tours and Lillian was away on holidays . Soon got to the bottom of the cask mountain (not literally) , they’ve just spent a wee bit of time reracking some of their casks , 600 Bourbon and 200 sherry ! No news on what’s happening with the new owners but they have had several visits . After making a few purchases and enjoying a dram we bid our farewells and headed back to “Other Places” .
As usual on islay the weather completely changed and we were now in bright sunshine ! We stopped off at Bridgend to have Coffee and Scones at the Hotel . To think up until recently there was a slight lack of Coffee machines on the Isle and you struggled to get a cappuccino now they are all over the place ! When we left Bridgend we got a beautiful view over Loch indaal…..

Loch indaal Stitch

After a drive back to the cottage we headed back to Port Ellen to enjoy one our favourite holiday treats , a fish supper from the Nippy Chippy ! Always a joy , we went along to the tables just beside the Port ellen warehouses to enjoy ours in the late afternoon sunshine watching the Finlaggan set sail back to the mainland , a perfect way to end the day !
Revisiting 1976 Ardbeg Single casks……

Cask 2398 27yo 24-11-76 / 05-05-04 51.4% …… A bright amber in colour , unmistakeably an Oloroso cask , beautifully balanced on the nose between the sherry and the Ardbeg spirit . Glace Cherries , coffee , Dark chocolate and a waft of peat smoke on the nose . The palate is silky smooth and pretty much the same as the nose but with a delightful peatiness . The Finish is long , smooth dry sherry and Cherry Liqueur….. WOW !!!
Cask 2390 25yo 24-11-76 / 27-04-02 53.1%……. Bright amber in colour again , Cheery liqueur on the nose with Ardbeg-dine , Cola cube sweets , peat smoke , coffee and cream . Again the palate is silky smooth , really nice dark chocolate and cherry liqueur leading to a long , sweet , iodiney , sherried finish . Another stunnins single cask Ardbeg …… Enough said !

Saturday 17th August

The really good thing about the summer visit is that when you hit the middle Saturday you know you’ve still got another week to go ! So we headed into our second week , starting off with a trip to Bowmore to get some supplies in ! After a visit to the Co-op and the butchers a refreshment break was needed so we went to Roys for a coffee and cake ! Todays treat was dinner in Katies Bar at the Bridgend Hotel , We both went for the same things , A Crab Salad with a chilli and Lime dressing with Pancetta and dried chillies for starters and a Lamb Burger with Mozzarella and salad and chips . Absolutely Delicious !!! After a few coffees and drinks and a natter to Lorna we headed off stopping in Bowmore to catch up with Phil (Gray) at The Lochside , always good to see Phil at work behind the bar , always good patter and i always try and catch him out with a couple of drams , did this time with the Amrut Greedy Angels and the Beg 1973 , he was very impressed with the Amrut and stunned by the Beg . Then it was back off to Maol Buidhe for bed……

Sunday 18th August

Another lazy sunday at Maol Buidhe , Melanie sat out in the Garden , i went for a walk down the road to try out the video part of the 7D , eventually i cooked us two of the hugest , tenderest , sirloin steaks i’ve ever seen from the Butchers in Bowmore , melt in the mouth stuff ! We need our evening walk down to Seal Bay to help start digesting these beauts !

Monday 19th August

The second Week commences….. We had the Deconstruction tour booked at Ardbeg this afternoon so we had lunch before , Melanie went for the Crab and Salmon Chowder to start with followed by the Roast Beef Dinner , i went for the Smoked Salmon and Halibut Fish cakes followed by the Beef . We went off for a walk to the pier before the tasting……

(Click on Images to see full size )

Melanie on the Pier Melanie at Ardbeg

Then at 2pm it was off on the tour , Heather was our guide today (this was only the 2nd time she’d done this particular tour but you couldn’t tell) . It was a tour of the distillery before we headed off to the Warehouse to try 4 cask samples that were used to make up the 3 standard bottlings – The Ten , Uigeadail and Corryvreckan…..

Ardbeg Deconstruction tour

First up was a 2003 Refill Bourbon Cask 2337 at 56.5% , not a bad start , a bit strong for some on the tour . Next was 2003 Fresh Bourbon Cask 2783 at 58.1% , A lovely sweet Ardbeg , i do like fresh bourbon casks ! Third was Melanies favourite , A sherry cask #2340 from 2007 at 61.4% , at 6yo’s it was dangerously drinkable ! Last was the Virgin French Oak Cask #4586 from 2004 at 57.5% , totally different from the previous 3 casks but still enjoyable . We also got to play a little game , we were given 8 little bottles containing smells that are found in Ardbeg tasting notes , to say we failed miserably is an understatement , we got 1 out of the 8 . We headed back to the Old Kiln for one final dram , the 1974 that i’d had on the previous tour . Heather done a great job on the tour and as i previously said we couldn’t tell it was only the 2nd time she’d done this one !
So which tour is for you ? If you are new to Ardbeg i would say the deconstruction one – you get to understand what makes up the bottlings and the notes you should be looking for , if you are a connoisseur the Decades – you get to try stuff only seen in your dreams !
A quiet night in the cottage finished the day off……

Tuesday 20th August

A bit of a dull day again when we woke up , we drove off to the other side of the Island for a wee walk . Todays destination was the Loch Gruinart Reserve , on the way we got to see our first Buzzard (there seemed to be a slight lack of them on the island )


We’d never actually walked around the reserve , first off we did the Woodland walk then The Moorland section , a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon…….

Graylags at Loch Gruinart Dragonfly
Painted Lady Butterfly Peacock Butterfly

Young Chaffinch-

On the way back we stopped off at The Bridgend Hotel again for Tea , Coffee and cakes , They do a lovely Cappuccino ! By now the rain had returned and we headed back to the Cottage via a drive along to the Cross .

Wednesday 21st August

Not a very nice morning to wake up to , we had intended doing a walk today but by the time we got to our destination it was quite wet so we headed off for a drive , first stop was Caol Ila Distillery to see if they had any of the Feis Ile bottling left , they did so after trying it 2 were duly purchased ! They thought Lagavulin had some left as well……
We then headed off for a drive on the Rhinns Circular route , down through Port Charlotte to Portnahaven then back up the West Coast to Port Charlotte . A lovely little scenic drive when you’ve got nothing to do . Then it was into Bowmore for Coffee and Cakes at Roys , before driving back to the Cottage stopping at Lagavulin to pick up another feis ile bottling .

(Click on Images to see full size )


After freshening up it was off to Port Ellen for our annual Dinner out with Ella and Mary at The Islay Hotel . Things didn’t get off to a good start as my first drink ( an Islay Ales Angus Og) didn’t taste right , it was flat and yeasty out of the bottle , now i’ve drunk quite a bit Angus Og – it is my Favourite from the brewery – and it’s not often i complain but to be made feel the guilty party in this wasn’t too clever . Did you pour it right ? have you had it before ? What happened to customer service and the customer is always right ???? Eventually i got another which was a whole lot better but still feel like i was the bad one in all this !

It’s always really nice to spend an evening in the company of Ella and Mary , the craic was exceptional and the food superb , For starters Mary , Ella and myself went for the Islay Scallops in Garlic Butter and Melanie went for the Ham Hock terrene with Chutney and ciabatta bread. First Scallops of the holiday and they were superb ! For the mains , Ella , Mary and Melanie went for the Corn Fed Chicken with Sauteed Potatoes , asparagus and hollandaise sauce . I went for the Argyll Lamb Cutlets with Ratatouille and Mashed Pots . Not being suitably stuffed we all went for a pudding as well , the girls had Strawberries shortcake with cream and i went for Cranachan . The food in the Islay was excellent tonight but not as good as the company !!!! We bit our Farewells and headed off to the Cottage .

Thursday 22nd August

We awoke to Bright sunshine so we headed off for a walk , our original destination was Loch Uigeadail , the ground was quite soggy underfoot and when we reached Solam the Hills up ahead were covered in low cloud so we decided to halt our walk there . After a picnic we headed back down the hills and returned to the Cottage where i sit writing this in bright sunshine in the garden , totally different to the past few days !

Solams Plaque

Solams Plaque

One of the Remains

One of the Remains

Uigeadails up there.... Somewhere!

Uigeadails up there…. Somewhere!

Across to Loch Iarnan

Across to Loch Iarnan


A wee Butterfly , need to find out what.....

A wee Butterfly , A Small Copper

It was such a nice night that after tea we headed off for a drive in the Car up to Bunnahabhain , It’s still a special place for us , where Melanie decided it would be a good idea to have a fortnights holiday on Islay rather than a week and it’s always sad to see the Cottages in such a sad state of decay But there still is something special about the place !

Some of the previously mentioned casks at Bunnahabhain…….

casks1 casks3
casks4 casks2

On the drive back we made the mistake of going through Bowmore , a portion of chips from the Nippy Chippy was called for…….

Clouds coming into Kilnaughton Bay

Clouds coming into Kilnaughton Bay

Friday 23rd August

Our final day of this stay and yesterdays good weather had vanished ! In between packing our stuff away we managed to fit in a couple of Meals ! First up was Lunch at the Old Kiln , what a delight it was ! Pan Fried Halibut on a bed of Sweet Potato and Spring onion mash with a creamy prawn sauce topped with a langoustine , this photo by Melanie doesn’t do it justice !


It was delicious and if it had been at a hotel (on the Isle) would have been twice the price ! Our second meal was from The Nippy Chippy , must say their Fish Supper is rather good and worth hunting out , then it was back to the Cottage to finish off the packing and tidy up……

The View i'll miss most......

The View i’ll miss most……

Saturday 24th August

So we packed the car and bid our Goodbyes to Maol Buidhe for this year, off to Port Ellen to Catch the Finlaggan back to the Mainland . Of course there was one last treat , Calmacs legendary Traditional Scottish Breakfast ! Sets you up for the day ! The drive home was pretty good , did notice there was no Roadworks on ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ , the first time for many a year !

Finlaggan approaching Port Ellen

Finlaggan approaching Port Ellen

This years Spoils……..


Rouges Gallery…….

rouge-1 rouge-2
rouge-3 rouge-4

Spring 2013 Visit

Saturday 4th May

So once again we head to Islay for our Spring week , this time we’re stopping in Port Ellen in a Cottage on Frederick Crescent , it’s a little while since we’ve stayed in Port Ellen ( 2009 festival at Tigh Cargaman ) so it will be a nice change . As usual it’s an early start to get the lunchtime ferry from Kennacraig . The weather was mixed on the way up Cloudy/rainy till Dunblane , nice and sunny till Tarbert then back to cloudy at Kennacraig , it was a wee bit choppy on the Ferry crossing . Once on the Isle we headed down to Port Ellen to take up our residence in Frederick Crescent . After watching a bit of the rowing going on at the harbour , we had a bite to eat and then headed to the Islay Hotel for a drink or two . Then it was back to the Cottage for the rest of the night .

Sunday 5th May

After a lie in we drove down to Ardbeg to have lunch , after a wee natter to Christine (Logan) in the car park – who was taking a Japanese couple around the Isle after their wedding yesterday in Bowmores Round Church (First Japanese couple to be married in there) – it was into the Old Kiln for some of their scrummy food ! Melanie went for the Cream of tomato soup followed by Lighlty Spiced Noodles with terryaki Chicken , i went for the Cullen Skink followed by the Lamb and Haggis Burger . Few new things we noticed since our last visit , new Menus , new Place mats and a posh coffee machine !

Afterwards we went for a drive along to Kildalton , when we stopped at Seal Bay we had another “Melanie” moment….. ” look there’s a baby seal on them rocks……” This time i had my camera ! You’ll have to indulge me for a moment (see previous posting to this one….) , this time the Otter was in the middle of the bay , but i had a 400mm lens (oh-er missus)….. 

(Click on Images to see full size )

Otter 1 Otter 2
Otter3 Otter4
Otter5 Otter 6
Otter 7 Otter 8
Otter 9

We spent nearly an hour watching this wee beastie ! What a pleasure and what a start to the Holiday , even though he was half way across the Bay ! We continued on to Kildalton then returned to the metropolis that is Port Ellen……

Monday 6th May

Not a very nice morning but after a bit of a lie in (that’s what Bank Holidays are for !) we headed off for a drive to Kilchoman and a bite of lunch . Must say we were slightly disappointed in our lunch there , not up to their usual standard , The Cullen Skink wasn’t up to the previous days offering at the Old Kiln .

Afterwards we headed off to Laddie to see Mary . She’s nearly back to her old self after last years accident , still a wee while to go with the treatment but she’s getting there ! Everything seems hunky-dory at the distillery , a few new faces and i gather a few to depart .

We headed back to Port Ellen to freshen up and go out to The White Hart for a bite to eat , we nearly didn’t get to eat there as they were very busy but they managed to squeeze us in . We both started with the Potato skins (Delicious) and Melanie went for the Chinese Chicken Stir fry and i went for the Hebridean Chicken , both fantastic . Then it was back to the cottage for a night cap .

Tuesday 7th May

Sunshine ! An absolutely glorious morning so the walking boots were pulled on and we headed for Bridgend Woods . Spring is definitely a few weeks behind looking at how far the flora is (or isn’t !) on . I’m teaching Melanie to use my old camera on this trip , i’ll post some of her results at the end of the trip .

(Click on Photos for full size versions)

Melanie in bridgend woodsMelanie in the woods

Melanie The PhotographerMel The Photographer !


BluebellSingle Bluebell

BluebellsA few more…..

FernA fern getting ready to burst into action

We had a great walk through the woods , a little bit of a chill in the wind but in the shade of the trees lovely and warm . As a bit of a treat after the walk we headed into Bowmore to try out the new Coffee Shop in the The Celtic Book Shop , very nice it is too for a cappucino and a bit of cake ! Seeing it was still lovely when we got home i went off on a bit of a romp around the Ard behind us .

The Hebridean IslesHebridean Isles

Swan PoolView across Swan Pool To Laphroaig

Port Ellen StitchPort Ellen Panorama (Quite large file !)

For our evening meal we headed off to the Lochside in Bowmore for a belated Birthday meal for Melanie (we were both ill with Flu when it was actually her Birthday ) , She had a Prawn Cocktail to start with followed by Cajun Chicken with Flatbread , i went for Scallops as my starter and a Steak as the main meal . To say we were stuffed at the end would be an understatement ! HUGE portions !!!! Very tasty though !

Wednesday 8th May

Bit of a quiet day today , weather wasn’t great so we headed up to Bunnahabhain to see what was going on . Was quiet when we got there and managed to catch up with Lillian , they are all looking forward to working with the new owners and the future definitely looks bright at Bunnahabhain ! When we left the shop was busy with people eagerly buying Bunnas products . It’s always a nice drive out to and back from Bunnahabhain whatever the weather , we both still miss the cottages and the views…..

On the way back we decided to stop for a bite to eat at the Ballygrant Inn , it’s one of the only places we haven’t ate in on Islay , we have heard so many good reports about the food there……. Unfortunately it remains that way on this trip as they were having some work done there and weren’t serving food , maybe next trip ! We did have a drink and got to meet the cute , resident 3 legged cat !

The rest of the day was spent in Port Ellen , We called in to see Ella and catch up and Later on i saw out the rest of the evening on the Daftmill Chat .

Thursday 9th May

Early start this morning , we were booked on Iains Warehouse Tour at Lagavulin , To say the walk along from Port Ellen was ‘bracing’ would be a bit of an understatement ! Luckily the proper rain held off , just an odd spot , it was actually quite a nice walk , blew off a few recent cobwebs !

What can you say about Iains Tour that hasn’t been said already ? Another highly entertaining morning with one of the great characters of Islay and superb whisky ! I think this is the busiest tour i’ve seen , Iain told me not to put it on the net that it was busy , but what the hell ! LOL ! Todays whisky selection was….

  • Lagavulin New Make
  • 2004 8yo From Sherry cask 7746
  • 2002 11yo 4th refill sherry
  • 1998 15yo from cask 1712
  • 1982 31yo Cask 681

Like i said superb whisky , we both prefered the 15yo but the 8yo was a close second !

Then it was a short walk along to Ardbeg for a bite to eat , we seem to get in just before the rush , don’t know what’s been going on but everyone’s been commenting on how busy the Isle has been this last fortnight . So down to business , we both had the Ardbeg Crab Chowder to start with , then Melanie went for the Baked Tattie with Prawn Marie Rose and i went for the Seafood Medley (Sea bass , Salmon and Scallops in a creamy white wine sauce) . Not being fully stuffed we decided to finish off with one of Ardbegs wonderful Scones , who ever makes their scones must have the lightest of hands as they simply just melt in your mouth , delicious ! Before departing we managed to have a wee natter with Mickey and then headed back to Port Ellen….. On the bus this time !

While eating at Ardbeg something came up in the conversation about the food , now in the past (while i was doing the website) people would say i was very biased towards Ardbeg (you never said a bad thing about their whisky , we take his reviews with a pinch of salt , Blah blah blah…..) but this is the 15th year we been coming to the Isle and in all that time we’ve never had a bad meal in The Old Kiln ! The food is constantly to a high standard and just when you think you’ve had the most delicious meal ever and nothing can top it , you come back the next time and there’s something else delicious on the menu . And Melanies still raving about the Terryaki Chicken with The slightly Spiced Noodles , i think she’s just doing it on purpose because i didn’t have it !

Friday 10th May

The Final full day on Islay of this visit , once again it was a wee bit dreich but where better to be in the rain ! For lunch we once again headed to The Old Kiln and once again the Crab Chowder was on the menu ! For the mains i had the Bolognese and Melanie went for the Haggis Burger . We bumped into some familiar faces at lunch , Willem and Rita from the Netherlands , they used to go the Festival many moons ago . After a natter and a catch up over lunch , we headed for a drive along the South Shore to Kildalton . When we arrived back at Port Ellen we bumped into Ron from outside the Co-op . Then it was back to The Cottage to pack .

Saturday 11th May

So it was farewell to Islay on the 9.45am ferry ! The only good thing about departing on a morning ferry (it’s never good to departing Islay….) is the Calmac Breakfast , a good start to the day . The crossing wasn’t too bad and the drive back was relatively dry . We stopped off at The Inverbeg Inn for a bite to eat on the way back . So to the next visit……

Some Samples……

Every now and again a kindly soul gives me some samples to try , this time they are courtesy of Mr Bobby Banford Esquire (can someone from East Kilbride be an Esquire ?)……..

WhiskyBroker 27yo Auchentoshan

From Bourbon Barrel 4474 , bottled at 53.9% , 209 bottles

11/12/84 – 16/11/12

Quite sweet on the nose (opal fruits) , oaky spices , quite pleasant on the whole . Very smooth across the palate , again sweet and oaky spices , the finish is medium to long and spicy . I was pleasantly surprised by this Auchentoshan , i’ve never been a fan of this lowlander , a very nice dram .

WhiskyBroker 28yo Tormore

From Bourbon Barrel 3674 , Bottled at 54% , 184 Bottles

24/2/84 – 16/12/12

Quite a restrained nose at first but then the oak spices explode , very fruity with Confectioners sugar , seems quite malty as well . Very unusual on the palate , again sweet with a strong maltiness , The finish is very long and strong , almost takes your breath away , very warming with sweet fruitiness . The only Tormores i ever tried were SMWS ones and i was very impressed with them , i’m well and truly impressed with this one , wonderful !

WhiskyBroker 17yo Caperdonich

From Bourbon Hogshead 95068 , Bottled at 55% , 30 Bottles

13/5/95 – 13/2/13

Initially very synthetic on the nose ( acetate / nail varnish remover) then strong vanilla and spices , it gets very pleasant after standing for a while . The palate is very spicy and hot , certainly warms the mouth up ! There is a touch of exotic fruit in amongst the spiciness , the finish is long and warming with opal fruitiness . A very good dram , could go a bottle of this…….

Croftengea 8yo (unknown bottler)

Sherry Finished Hogshead #283 , Bottled at 45% , 380 Bottles

Jan 1996 – Sept 2005

Very dark in colour , on the nose Struck matches , plastic buckets and acetate  , Oh dear…… left it for a little while and it’s still as bad . Almost frightened to taste it , luckily , at first , it doesn’t taste as bad as it smells , but then the sulphur overtakes the sherry . In one word Awful ! I’ve had a few Croftengeas from the SMWS (bought Casks 1 to 4 !) and they were all drinkable , this isn’t…….

Douglas Laing OMC 16yo Ardbeg

Rum Finished , 50%

1991 – 2007

Typical 1990′s Beg nose ,  big peat then the sweet lemon creamy coffee , nothing of the rum so far . On the palate again there’s the big Beg peat but there seems a strong sweetness to it , the rum influence ? There’s also the lemony creaminess across the mouth , the finish isn’t as long as i’d hoped but qute pleasant , very lemony . Not a bad Beg but one does wonder why rum finished……..

Thanks again to Roberto for the Samples !

Winter 2013 Visit

Just a short visit this time , a long weekend but every visit to Islay is worth it !

Thursday 28th February

Another early start to the day , very frosty and foggy on the way up to Glasgow but by the time we hit Lomond it was lovely and sunny , Just before getting to Kennacraig we had our customary stop at Tarbert for tea and cakes……

Tarbert(Took with a Blackberry Z10 and un-instagrammed !)

Melanie in tarbertThe Ferry across this time would be the Hebridean Isles as The Finlaggan was away on Winter Maintenance duty .

Hebridean IslesOnce on Islay we made our way to our residence this trip , the Bowmore Distillery Garden Cottage . After settling down and freshening up we made our way to The Lochside  to get a bite to eat and see the night out with a dram or two , unfortunately no Islay Ales tonight as they’d run and were waiting for new stock.

Friday 1st March

A new day , a new month ! A Beautiful morning , we went off down to Ardbeg leaving the car behind and getting the bus down (£4.70 return for those that are interested) . As it turned out this first time on an Islay visit we only used the car to get from the Ferry to the Accomodation then back to the ferry ! Bus and walked the rest of the time . It was good to catch up with everyone at Ardbeg , even though it was briefly with Jackie , after having a natter with Mickey and Emma we had lunch , the Cullen Skink was wonderful ! I won’t bother mentioning about the Ardbog as it’s been covered elsewhere on the web…… After lunch Margaret gave us a look around Ardbegs latest project , a holiday let ! You too could stay on the distillery site , it’s a beautifully furnished house (next to the managers ) , downstairs consists of 3 Bedrooms ( all ensuite , 2 doubles , 1 twin) and a rather posh bathroom . Upstairs there’s a combined Kitchen / Dining room with log burner and underfloor heating with a balcony with views across to Kintyre and Antrim , i’ll not say the price but it’s not your normal run of the mill holiday let……. details soon on the website…….

So it was back to Bowmore to freshen up and a look at the Japanese Garden we had access to from the cottage .

The Japanese Garden

The View down the garden (our cottage is the one with the patio doors)

Melanie at the Loch end of the Garden

Melanie at the Loch end of the Garden

Melanie on a stroll.....

Melanie on a stroll…..

Once again we headed out to the Lochside for a bite to eat and some refreshment…… The Islay Ales were back on ! A pint of Finlaggan if you please ! We finished off the night in the Schooner Bar of the Harbour Inn . Actually got to try the 2010 Feis Ile Caol Ila tonight , a cracking dram , wish i had a bottle…….

Saturday 2nd March

Quite an early start for a holiday , first up we were on the 10am tour of the Bowmore Distillery (in with the Cottage rental) , a very good tour by Heather , we also got to see Phil Gray working (some say a rarity……but i wouldn’t……) and became very popular with the tour , due to our presence ( i.e. cottage occupents ) the usual end of tour dram was changed from a 12yo to the 15yo Darkest as we get a bottle of it included in our let….. Lots of Woo-hoos all round ! So after making a few purchases in the Visitors Centre shop , great staff now btw after our experiences of a few years ago , we headed back to the cottage to change and go and meet Ella for Lunch at the Bowmore Hotel…….

The Bowmore Hotel was a place we hadn’t frequented a lot in the past (once in how many ever visits) and we got a bit of a shock this time when we went in , it’s been done out ! And very nicely too ! It was great to catch up with Ella , she’s doing really well after her recent hip replacement . The food was very tasty and flavoursome and it was good to see proper homemade chips ! After saying farewell we went off for a shop in Bowmore , some more supplies and bits and bobs purchased before heading back to the Cottage to get ready for the evenings fun and games .

Melanie ready to hit the Town !

Melanie ready to hit the Town !

We had a bite to eat in the Chinese Restaurant before heading off Back to The Lochside to watch Phil work , Twice in one day ! This’ll not do his reputation any good…… It was good to catch up with him and see him in action behind the bar , It turned out to be a really good night , Lots of Swedes (the people not the vegetables….. )in , had a good chat with Michael and  mob , and the patter was flying from behind the bar , we both said it ‘s the first time when we’ve been in the Lochside in recent years that it reminded us of when we stayed there under Alistair and Ann . After much 15yo darkest (i’ve took a shine to it….) we thought we best retire back to the Cottage as we had the morning ferry to get . Cheers Phil and Michaels Mob for the great night !

Sunday 3rd March

So it was off to Port Ellen for the 9.45am ferry , a lovely morning to end our flying visit . A Calmac Breakfast was on the menu to see us off on journey home , we didn’t really do a lot this visit ( apart from eat and drink by the look of it !) but it was a nice relaxing time without doing any walking or chasing photographs . Till the next time…….

For those that are intrested this is what the cottage looked like inside……..

The Sitting Room

The Sitting Room

The Main Bedroom

The Main Bedroom (there is another twin Bedroom)

The Kitchen

The Kitchen from the Patio Doors

The Kitchen

The Kitchen looking towards the pation doors

Details of the Cottages can be found at //

Two from WhiskyBroker…….

Ardbeg and Longmorn , a perfect Combination ! Ardbeg independent Bottlings are getting harder to find , when Whiskybroker put this one up on line last Wednesday it sold out in 15 minutes . He also put several other Single Cask bottlings up at the same time , i was predictable and ordered the Longmorn…….

Ardbeg and Longmorn

Ardbeg 20yo Cask #434 , 46.6% , Distilled 16th March 1992 , Bottled 12th February 2013 , Outturn 222 Bottles .

From a Hogshead , it is a light Gold in colour for it’s 20 years in the cask , well nearly 21….. The nose is initially peaty which is a bit of a surprise given it’s age ( normally the peat would have dissipated at this age and be more iodiney so may suggest a not very active cask) , quite citricy (Lemon) , there’s also a hint of the Ardbeg creamy Coffee ,chocolate and pine nuts . After a bit of breathing the peat subdues . More of the same on the palate , a tad more lemony , very relaxed across the mouth with the Ardbeg-dine appearing but still not as prominent as say in a 1970′s bottling . The finish is long with peat , lemon and creamy coffee. A very good Ardbeg which seems to have been in a decent cask given the time at which it was bottled ( Allied were filling mainly for blending so casks weren’t the best at times) . A BIG Thumbs up to Martin ! Especially at £65 a bottle…..

Longmorn 20yo Cask #71773 , 55.5% , Distilled 25th May 1992 , Bottled 13th February 2013 , Outturn 220 Bottles .

The Longmorn is also from a Hoggie (same parcel as the last two i bought off Martin) , the colour is also very similar ,  The nose is quite sweet and spicy , lots of oak spices , almost bourbony , there’s opal fruits there as well . A really nice nose . The palate is almost identical , spicy and fruity , with a touch of wood . It glides across the mouth . The finish is medium with wood spices (bourbony) . A very good dram , i still wonder about this parcel , either it was special casks ( along the lines of toasted etc) or they were very fresh ones . Worth a punt at £44.60 a bottle .

Have a look at Martins site at

Islay Whisky Classics No.63 – Connoisseurs Choice 1979 Ardbeg

Connoiseurs Choice was the Gordon and Macphail label for UK releases of Single malt whisky at 40-43% , at one point (late 90′s , early to mid 00′s) there was an abundance of Ardbeg releases , you could pick up a load from the 70′s (73 , 74 , 75 , 76 , 78 , 79) .

cc79begThis particular one is a 1979 (September) bottled in 2005 (December) from refill Bourbon Barrels at 43% . it has quite a nice golden colour to it. The nose is quite relaxed ( as would be expected at 43% ) but you’ve got all the Ardbeg traits there , the Ardbeg-dine , creamy fudge , coffee , a slight hint of lemon and a touch of oak . The palate is very smooth , lots of oak spices , again Ardbeg-dine , and creamy coffee with a hint of sprinkling chocolate . The finish is medium and smooth as a babies bottom .

Not many 1979 Ardbegs about ( the 21yo Committee and another G&M branded Spirits of Scotland ones are the only that spring to mind) , the only disappointing thing about this one is the 43% bottling strength…….

Cadenheads 1991 21yo Ardbeg 44.7%

I’d heard rumours of an impending aged Ardbeg released by Cadenheads from my good friend Willie not long ago but thought i’ve got no chance of (a) been near a Cadenheads shop when it’s released (b) getting one as it’ll be pre-sold out and (c) too expensive ! So last weekend we headed up to Auld Reekie on a spur of the moment visit and on the Saturday lunchtime hit Cadenheads shop . So i was informed that both had sold out but i could try them , then Mark said the magic words “Willie told me to put one of each aside for you incase you were interested…….” Woo-Hoo ! Good old Willie ! So there are 2 casks both 1991 21yo’s , both from ex-bourbon Hoggies , both 132 bottle outturns , both £85 a bottle but one at 52.6% and one at 44.7% . It is the later i’ll be trying here…….

Cadenheads 21yo Ardbeg
A very pale colour for a 21yo , straw , straight away the nose tells you it’s from the South Shore  , quite medicinal , peat , farm yardy , kelp on the seashore and peat smoke . Doesn’t smell like an aged Beg (i.e. the 21yo committee bottling ) initially but eventually you do get it  . The palate does have more of a Beg taste (i seem to remember on tasting in the shop it was the other way around with the smell/taste) , peat , iodine , lemon , creamy fudge , pine nuts and a hint of coffee . The finish is long , chewy and peaty .

A very enjoyable Ardbeg , blind i wouldn’t have said 21yo , The Lads in Cadenheads seem to thing the reason there is a hell of a difference between this one and the other ( the other IS like the 21yo Committee bottling) is that this was is from a less peated batch , having tried it a few more times i tend to disagree , I think this is from a less tight and more used cask , my reason been that (a) the abv is greatly reduced and (b) in 1991 Allied was mainly filling casks of Ardbeg for blending in their Ballentines range hence they didn’t need to think of using top of the range casks . When i get around to opening it i’ll post notes of the other 21yo cask……

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 .

(click on the photos to see full size images)

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 .

(Click on pictures to see full size image)

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 !