Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Food(and other stuff….)

Thursday 31st July 2014

We had a lovely Wedding Anniversary yesterday , apart from have a wonderful meal at The Bridgend Hotel we didn’t do a great deal , the meal consisted of (i know some of you like our food reports….. ) Islay Langoustine with freshly made Linguine with a Langoustine Bisque for Melanies starter , i went with an Islay Crab with ginger , avocado , confit tomato  with a Filo and Sesame Crisp . We both went for the same meal , Islay ribeye steak with bearnaise sauce , wilted spinach ,mushroom and handcut chips . And as if that wasn’t enough i was a pig and had a pudding of Chocolate Fondant , Whisky Poached pear and Clotted cream ice cream , All very ably served by the lovely Hannah ! Suitably stuffed we went home to lie down in a darkened room……  

(Click on photos to see full size)

Crab_dish

Melanies Photo of the Crab starter

So back to Thursday…. We went off for a drive , Melanie wanted to look at Persabus Pottery so we headed that way . Seeing we were that end of the Isle , we went down to Caol Ila , where , after trying the Stitchells Reserve and Feis Ile 2014 i was easily swayed into buying a brace of each……. Seeing it was so nice we had a wander around Caol Ila , bumping into Lilys adorable little cat , the views around there are wonderful .

(No Swallows were harmed in the taking of these photos….)

2014_07_31_01Lilys House 2014_07_31_02Caol Ila Distillery
2014_07_31_03Up The Sound 2014_07_31_04Lilys Cat
2014_07_31_05The Harbour 2014_07_31_06Boom !
2014_07_31_07Jura Ferry 2014_07_31_08Finlaggan Arriving
2014_07_31_09Getting Closer 2014_07_31_10Steady !

2014_07_31_11

A content Melanie !

2014_07_31_12

We then went off to Port Askaig where we sat outside the Hotel with a drink and again admired the view ! Then it started to rain so we headed back to the Cottage via The Celtic House Coffee Shop taking in the Mulindry Road on the way to get ready for tonights main event , our Annual Meal with Ella and Mary at The Bridgend Hotel ! (Sometimes when something is so good…..) Mary picked us up on the way through and we met up with Ella at the Hotel . We made things easy for the waitress tonight , we split into two camps , Melanie and myself went for the same starters / mains , Mary and Ella went for the same starters / mains ! We went for the Crab starter from last night and had the main of Islay Estate Roe Deer fillet , Cabbage and Sage, Cauliflower Puree and mash and a game Jus , Ella and Mary went for the Feta and tomato salad for starters and for their main they went for the Simply Salmon fillet with New Pots and a medley of vegetables . Tonight it wasn’t just me who was a piggy , every one went for a Pudding ! Ella and myself had the Strawberries , homemade meringue  and ice cream . Melanie and Mary went for the Pain Perdu  , caramalised oranges and a orange and white chocolate sorbet with a white chocolate sauce (we can’t think of it’s name….) .

We had a great night with our Islay friends , great food , great craic and as always a good laugh !

Islay Visits goes West……. Even More Further West Than Usual !

Since last September we’ve been hiding a big secret !

Let me explain….. As everyone knows we spend every possible holiday on Islay , usually a weeks break in the Spring around about May time , our two week Summer vacation and sometimes a long weekend in the autumn/winter .Our friends who know this have been puzzled by the fact when we’ve been asked when we’re back we’ve been saying not until summer (a long time no visit for us !) and when they’ve wondered why we haven’t been able to tell them causing more bewilderment ! And what perplexed them even more was when i said i’d applied for my first passport , 2 and 2 were put together and 5 was arrived at . So lets go back to September…….

We were about to book our two stays , the Spring one at the start of May and the Summer one slightly earlier than normal in the middle of July , We couldn’t get our normal summer place – Maol Buidhe – as the owners take it then so we went for a new place Lyrabus Croft Cottage just outside of Bridgend . We were about to Book a place in Port Ellen for the spring trip when an interesting e-mail arrived in my inbox from a distant land .

It was from the organiser of a Whisky Festival , She’d really enjoyed reading about our adventures on Islay over the years , 2014 was the 10th Anniversary of their Whisky Festival and they were planning on having an Islay theme , She was wondering if Melanie and myself would be interested in being Special Guests at the event and host an Islay Whisky Lounge ?

Now to say we were slightly shocked was an understatement , this type of thing never happens to us , people offering to fly us half way round the world and have us as Special Guests . We’re not Whisky Icons like a few i could name !

So after letting it sink in for a while , we replied to Johanna taking up her terrific offer of being guests at The 10th Anniversary of the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala in Canada !

So a few firsts in May for me , First trip out of mainland UK , First Flight , First time using a Passport , First time being a Special Guest at a Whisky Festival ! Good job i’ve got Melanie to keep me right !!!!  

So the next “Islay Visit” will be from Toronto , i’m still classing it as an Islay Visit as it’s about Islay and it’s Whisky ! We’ll be taking some Classic Islay Whisky along with us to sample In the Islay Whisky Lounge as we talk about all things Islay and tell the good people about the wonderful piece of Heaven we love off the West Coast of Scotland ! 

We’ve also found out since that a good friend of ours will be there exhibiting , so it’ll be good to see Ashok there !  

A Link to the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala Site

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

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 //cottages.bowmore.co.uk/

Best of the Year 2012

Once again we’ve reached the end of a year , so time to hand out a few plaudits ! It’s been a pretty good year , we had 3 excellent trips to Islay including one for the bottling of a Port Charlotte Cask .

Islay Distillery Bottling of the Year - I actually struggled at first to think of any new Owner bottlings i’d tried this year ! I suppose our 10yo Port Charlotte is officially a Distillery bottling but for Private owners but it would seem a biased to declare it the best of the year……. So i started thinking of the special distillery bottlings i’d tried , the Feis Ile ones , the Cairdeas Origin (the best Cairdeas so far in my humble opinion) , The “Ardbeg Day” release (an excellent Ardbeg) , then i thought of the two little bottles from the Laphroaig “Distillers Wares” tour , the 15yo was an exceptional Laphroaig . Then it dawned on me , there was a rather special one…… So this years Islay Distillery Bottling of the Year is…… The Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 004 ! My notes were……… 

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

i didn’t get another one , i got another 3 ! The best 10yo CS……. So far !!!

The Laphroaig Haul

The winner with other Laphroaigs

   

Islay Independent Bottling - A few more to choose from in this category . We’ve had a few from the Armstrong family in one guise or another , the forum bottled an excellent 22yo Bunnahabhain , Whiskybroker hit us a few more Bunnas , as did Berrys . Cadenheads release a couple of 21yo Begs , the stronger of which was up there with the legendary 21yo Committee bottling but my Favourite was from Bunnahabhain . I’ve had a fair few aged Bunnas in my time including a few stunners that never seemed to make it out of their warehouses , Cadenheads released a 22yo that was up there with the best i’ve ever had a 1989 at 48.1% . Fantastic !

Non-Islay Distillery Bottling of the YearAnother one i struggled with (especially since the end of my SMWS membership…..) , the one i have tried that made me sit up and take notice didn’t even come from Scotland , from the Far East , I had this at one of Eddies Whisky and Seafood meals , I hadn’t had a Kavalan before and this was superb , The Kavalan Classic at 40% , just wish we could buy some ! For a 3yo it’s as smooth as a babys bum and goes down well !

Non-Islay Independent BottlingFor the second year in a row this goes to a Longmorn , the whiskybrokers 20yo release from Hogshead 71752 . A truly amazing Longmorn that was different to all the other aged expressions i’d tried this year .

Best Meal on IslayWe’ve had a very good year of eating out in 2012, Only a couple of meals let us down . The Old Kiln kept it’s standards high , as did the Bridgend Hotel , The Lochside improved beyond belief from it’s lows in 2011 . The best meal of the year goes to An Taigh Osda , Mels 50th Birthday meal to be exact , Paul and Joan served up a treat for my wife !

Tasting of the Year - Eddies Islay Blind Fury ! Another Islay treat from the Whisky Lounge!

Event of the Year (outside a normal tour) - Could only be the 4th Annual Whisky Lounge Newcastle Festival ! Any event that is attended by Raymond and Florence from Bladnoch has to be special !

Islay Distillery of the year This year it goes to Laphroaig ! The Distillers Wares tour was excellent , the two bottles filled on it were superb and this years Cask Strength and Feis Ile releases were outstanding .

Laphroaig Tour 6

Islay Visits Forum

For a little while now i’ve been looking at adding a forum to this blog , mainly due to the amount of correspondence lately on the blog , thought it would be nice to have somewhere to chat properly . Unfortunately WordPress.com doesn’t allow it . then i had a brainwave , why not be green and recycle (ok i know, not quite…) the old Locked down Spirit of Islay one ? So i have ! Slightly renamed it , cleaned out a few out of date threads , reorganised it a bit and bingo !  So now we have…….

The Islayvisits.net Forum - Warehouse No.4

Just click on the picture above or go to //spiritofislay.myfreeforum.org/ , i know you’ve got to register but if it was open it would soon be full of spam ! You should see how much i’ve got to clear out of this and my other Blog…….

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