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……
Tarbert_deer
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…….

the_bar

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

laph_10cs_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

laddie_72Val

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

SMOS_Bunna_1979

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

ardbeg_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…….

seal_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 .

Decades-1

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 ……..

(Click on Images to see full size )

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 )

Buzzard

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 )

Melanie_meal

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

rouge-5

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 !

lunch

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……..

Spoils

Rouges Gallery…….

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

Otter Country

I’ve just finished reading a book recommended by my good friend James Deane , Otter Country: In search of Wild Otters by Miriam Darlington (ISBN: 9781847084859) , James knew we always went out on the ‘hunt’ for otters whenever we are over on Islay and thought i’d be interested in the read . He was right , an excellent book which just shows what a hold these animals can take on you , i haven’t been as far as Miriam (Devon , Cornwall , Somerset , South East England , Cumbria , Northumberland , Highlands of Scotland , Skye…..) but i’ve been to a few places looking for them…..

Normally an obsession with Otters starts in one of two places or should i say books , Tarka the Otter or Ring of Bright Water , mine started i suppose with the Film Ring of Bright Water (wasn’t a big reader as a kid….)  . It took me a while to see a real live Otter , not a wild one , a captive one at the Bowes Otter Sanctuary – which unfortunately is now closed – it was a pretty good introduction to them in the flesh . Before we settled on going to Islay every holiday we did tour around Scotland , we visited the Bright Water Visitors Centre in Kyleakin and walked down to the Kylerhea Otter Haven Hide , a wonderful walk that ended in no otters…… For the first few years of visiting Islay the count remained at zero , always been told stories by visitors who ‘stumbled’ upon otters .

Look no Camera…….

Our first real live Otter encounter happened at Seal Bay when we didn’t have a camera handy….. we’d left the hotel early to have a drive down to one of our favourite places on the isle Seal Bay . admiring the seals Mel casually said “oh look there’s a small seal swimming past us…..” it wasn’t , it was an otter ! And just to kick sand in our faces seeing i didn’t have a camera to hand it came out of the water with a fish , sat down less than 20 yards from us and proceeded to have its breakfast in front of us , an unbelieveable experience . 

You don’t have to go that far to see an Otter…..

Now just to make matters worse on our return home there was a programme on the telly hosted by a certain ex-goodie , Bill Oddie , watching Otters swim in the Nature Reserve a quarter of a mile across the field in front of our home…… It was also backed up a few years later by another Comedic Bill (Bailey) doing a Wild Thing….. I Love You episode about Otters from the same Big Waters Reserve . Still haven’t seen one there BTW . 

Our First Photo…..

The first Otter i managed to catch on film wasn’t on Islay , it was on Jura ! If you are a regular visitor here you will have seen it on the header at the top of the Blog , but if you haven’t here it is…….

copy-otteriv1.jpg

This was just along from the ferry terminal at Feolin , there were actually two Otters and they were having great fun in the kelp ! We could have stayed for ages watching them but we had to get the ferry back to Islay.

It’s Behind you…..

Our next close encounter of the Otter kind actually happened on the mainland , for the 2003 Feis Ile we had to get the early morning ferry (7am) as the later ones were fully booked , arriving at Kennacraig early in the morning (about 2.30am) we tried to get our heads down for a few hours , after failing miserably several times there was a splash on the Loch behind us , there was an Otter swimming along towards the ferry , a lovely sight at about 5.30 in the morning…….

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition !

We stayed up at the old Bunnahabhain Distillery Cottages for a few years and heard many a story from the workers about the Otters activities around there (including a Mother bringing her cubs into the yard in front of the distillery) , It wasn’t till our last year there that we actually saw one . We were the last people to stay at the cottages in 2010 , the first week there were others there who had seen a dog otter swimming around the pier , we didn’t see anything in the first week . Not at Bunnahabhain anyway….. Bunnahabhain has a non-existant mobile signal , so to take part in the weekly whisky chats we used to drive down to Loch Indaal to get a signal . We used to always park in the same spot just along from where the Carrabus Burn flows into the Loch . This night we’d just started on the chat when an Otter swam past  ! Could not believe it , no camera again (it was dark this time…..) , totally unexpected !

Back at Bunnahabhain , for our second week we were the only occupants , no joy all week until our very last night then the Otter appeared , it swam from around the wreck and along the front of the distillery heading towards the Margadale . 

Otter 1A wonderful ending to our last night of our last stay at Bunnahabhain !

We haven’t had anymore close encounters of the Otter kind since then , though on the first night of last summer we did see one in the distance towards Seal Bay . We will be resuming the hunt in a couple of weeks time hopefully capturing some good shots and this time it’s personal !

Bring out the comfy chairs……

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…..

Poppy

Poppy

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…….

Bunnahabhain

Missed Views……

Hey , That’s Mine !

Recently i went , for some unknown reason , to another bloggers page , where upon clicking on their Ardbeg Distillery profile page i found one of my photos……..

Ardbeg Distillery

Evidence ‘A’ M’Lord……

Now normally i would be pretty chuffed that some one has thought something of mine is good enough to use ( borrow / lift /pinch *choose as you think appropriate) but this seems to be getting a regular regular thing in 2012 , earlier this year a whisky shop “used” my write up on the Geordie Laddies PC to “promote” the sale of some of a fellow shareholders bottles , what annoyed me was (apart from not asking my permission) that it looked like I was selling the bottles ! Which anyone who knows me well enough would know i’d never do….. Especially with  such an excellent whisky !!!

This problem isn’t new to me , back in the Good ‘ol days of the spirit of Islay site it was something of a regular problem , i had one site ask if they could use something and when i said no , they took the info thing anyway . If ever i got a heads up on an Ardbeg release i could put money on it would be lifted and appear elsewhere , usually a swedish forum…… Now people used to do this on my warehouse no.4 forum but i always reverted to what was an unwritten rule in internet etiquette , Post a link to the original site  NOT lift stuff ! and i’d always delete things that didn’t happen in this way .

If  i saw something i thought was of interest  to my site visitors i’d always ask the owner for permission to use it , if they agreed to it’s use , i’d always give credit and post a link to their site , perhaps i was just too honest……  

So where does this leave me now ? Well i’m going to have to stick a watermark on my photos which i don’t want to do as (a) it spoils the look of them , even discrete watermarks  (b) it means a bit more work on the actual process of the photo which can mount up if i’ve had a fruitful photographic day on Islay ! 

I’ve sent an e-mail to the offending blog but i’m not expecting a reply as i’ve since learned that i’m not the only one they’ve “took” photos from , they’ve also raided Armins Islayblog  . Another question now arises  , do i give permission in the future for someone to use any of my photos ?

Islay Whisky Classics No.45 – Signatory 1978 27yo Bunnahabhain

Signatory have a good reputation of producing some fine single cask independent bottlings and this is no exception . Bottled in the Signatory Vintage line , the extremely heavy glass bottle in the grey oval tin version , once you’ve drunk it you can always cause someone serious injury buy hitting them with it !

Signatory Bunnahabhain 1978

The way they all go eventually !

Distilled on the 30th day of March 1978 and bottled on the 8th February 2006 , this was matured in Sherry Butt #2542 and produced 509 bottles at 55.6% abv . A light amber in colour , Initially light sherry on the nose , spices , dried fruits , then Edinburgh Rock / Confectioners Sugar follow , there’s also Mint Humbug sweets , which reminds me of the first SMWS Bunna i ever had (10.49 for those interested , a rather interesting 15yo) . The palate has a really big sherry mouthfeel , quite dry , Edinburgh Rock , spices and Peppermint . The finish is Long and dry , sherry and peppermint .

A nice , aged Bunnahabhain , exactly what you’d expect , as they say “does what it says on the tin….. “

Islay Whisky Classics No.41 – Bunnahabhain 16yo Manzanilla Sherry Wood Finish

A special from the good folks at Bunnahabhain , this one has spent 12 years in traditional casks then a further 4 in Manzanilla Sherry Casks . Limited to 3792 bottles and in a striking silver packaging this was bottled at 53.2% abv .

Bunnahabhain 16yo Manzanilla Finish

Autumn Gold in colour , the nose is  of fruit cake initially , quite dry , the sherry isn’t heavy , a sweetness – fudge rather than the usual Edinburgh Rock – and wine  . Actually quite a really delightful nose . The palate has a  very dry maltiness to it , dark chocolate , bitter orange , christmas spices , well balanced with the sherry , coats the palate wonderfully , The sherry doesn’t overwhelm the spirit . The finish is long  , dry sherry , touch of cherry liqueur . It is really dry on the finish but not enough to spoil the dram .

A really , good well balanced Bunnahabhain , probably my favourite of the Finishes released so far . This was also available in a 10cl bottle pack with 2 glasses from the distillery .   

Islay Whisky Classics No.38 – A.D. Rattray 1974 35yo Bunnahabhain

A.D. Rattray wasn’t really an independent bottler i’d had a lot to do with until i tried a 1976 31yo from a Sherry cask , this 1974 was the second bottling i purchased from this bottler…….

A.D. Rattray Bunnahabhain 35yo

Distilled  the 12th Juy 1974 and bottled on the 26th October 2009 at 44.3% from ex-bourbon cask #7111 , this cask produced 164 bottles . A Straw Gold in Colour , the nose takes me back to one of John Maclellans Feis Ile warehouse tours , A beautiful , sweet Bunna spirit smell , confectioners sugar , honey , vanilla and oak , Quite spicy too . One of them malts you could sniff all day…….. A bit of Oak to start with (nice oakiness ) on the palate, still very lively for it’s age , again a spiciness along with a honeyed sweetness and cloves . dry across the mouth , which leads on to a lovely long finish , mixing the spiciness , sweetness and dryness .

Why are aged Bunnas so nice ? a stunning dram , if i was to score it i’d say 5/5 or 90+ , at one time there were a load of early 1970′s casks in Warehouse No.4 , don’t know if they are still there , we had a try of a few and they were all great , if they are still there it’s a shame but if they decided to bottle them would we be able to afford them ? 

Islay Whisky Classics No.25 – Bunnahabhain 18yo (46.3%)

The 18yo from Bunnahabhain has always been one of my favourites , there’s something special about aged Bunnahabhain  and when they took it up to 46.3% abv the moved it up another level !

Bunnahabhain 18yo 46.3%

The 18 (or XVIII if you prefer….) is a bright amber colour in the glass , from the colour you would immediately assume it’s going to be heavily sherried , it’s not , it has a quite light sherry nose , it is also sweet - Butterscotch – dried fruits , cake mix , Maritimey and also a touch of smoke ? The palate has more of a sherry touch to it , it’s very oily with spices , dried fruits and the Bunna Sweetness . The finish is lingering with a dryness , sherry and oak , Also a touch of spice and christmas cake . Absolutely outstanding !

A wonderful Bunnahabhain , a wonderful malt , slightly heavier than the 12 , i could drink this beaut all night ! 

Islay Whisky Classics No.23 – Bunnahabhain 12yo (46.3%)

In our last year of staying in the Bunnahabhain Distillery Cottages in 2010 , Burns Stewart decided in their wisdom to change a few things with the Bunnahabhain Whisky  , luckily for us it was all the right things , upped the ABV to 46.3% , dropped the colouring and stopped chill filtering it !  They also changed the packaging as well , so what’s the all new XII like ?

Bunnahabhain 12yo 46.3%

Light Amber in colour , it’s definitely more oily in the glass , there’s more of a pronounced sherry nose – i was worried about this as when LFW reviewed it Richard mentioned the dreaded ‘S’ word  but we’re safe – huge christmas cake with the Bunna Confectioners Sugar / Edinburgh Rock , that extra 6.3% on the nose makes all the difference ! The palate is still quite light but the sweetness seems more pronounced at first , loads of dark fruits and malt  . The finish is definitely longer , bags of sweetness , sherry , malt…… Wonderful !

A good dram made even better by upping the abv and leaving it natural !