Summer 2012 Trip – The Last Bit !

Thursday 23rd August

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

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Jura ferry Craighouse Harbour

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



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

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

Friday 24th August

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

Port Chalotte View

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

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

Saturday 25th August

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

Lagavulin Bay

Lagavulin Bay

Cottage Stitch

360 view from the Cottage Jetty

Wednesday 15th August

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

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

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

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

(Click on images to see full size)

The Laphroaig Haul

The spoils from the trip to Laphroaig

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

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

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

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


Mel Relaxing

Thursday 16th August

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

View from the cottage

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

The first one was a lily……


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

Flower 1

Flower 2

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

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

Summer Trip 2012 – Monday 13th August

Woke up to pretty dreary weather this morning , it had rained overnight and as the day went on there were more showers , we headed up to the middle of the isle to pick up more supplies at Bowmore and also visited Bruichladdich to pick up a cask sample . While a Laddie we had a chance to have a natter to Allan and Duncan . All seems well in Laddieland , both were in good spirits and looking forward to the new challenges ahead , which include larger production , provision of more warehousing and extending the bottling plant . We also got to try the current valinch (1992 calvados ace) and the recent 2006 local barley . The valinch was very nice , added a little something different to the Laddie spirit , The Local barley i thought was still a tad too young on both the nose and palate for my liking , will be interesting to see what it’s like at 10/12yo+ .

We spent most of the afternoon visiting an old friend in…… hospital ! Mary from Bruichladdich had a slight accident the previous Sunday or as she put it , i decided to take a summer break ! She was hanging out the washing (HSE please note how much more dangerous domestic chores are to a building site !) when she slipped and fell on some steps , causing 5 breaks at the ankle , she doesn’t do things by half our Mary ! After a flight out and back to Paisley Hospital in an Air Ambulance she is in Islays Hospital for a few days before taking up residency in Port Charlotte for a short while . She was in very good spirits as well as a cast right up to her thigh ! We had a good laugh especially when she said there were two Tom Cruise lookalikes as pilots to the aircraft and there was me looking a right mess !  After saying our farewells (we’ll be catching up again later) , we went and got the rest of our supplies and headed back to the cottage for some lovely Islay Steaks , a relaxing evening and a try of the “Spirit of Islay 1 “ cask…….

Spirit of Islay 2002 Port Charlotte Refill Sherry Hogshead

Now rapidly approaching 10yo (in October) , it’s been 2 years since this cask was sampled and i wasn’t too happy about its progress at the time , so hows it fairing now ?

The colour seems to have moved on , it’s got a lovely golden colour , it’s very similar to the fresh bourbon cask we bottled recently . The nose is quite strong at full strength , Port Charlotte has a pretty unique peaty profile , not at all like the south shore giants , there’s also a slight maltiness and fruitiness to it as well as a hint of sherry (not a lot just a background hint) . The palate at full strength is definitely a lot better than what i remember 2 years ago , a peaty sweetness along with creamy fudge , coffee and chocolate . There’s also a slight hint of the sherry here too , the finish is long and malty .

With water – it seems to bring out the sherry in it and the malt (the bloodtub i had was extremely malty) , the peat is more subtle and it becomes more chewy and fudgy , my initial thoughts are it actually tastes better at reduced strength but after a while a youthfulness seems to appear  , i’d still like to decide how much water i add to it and when !

It’s very drinkable now but i’d still like to see how it pans out as a teenager , i think it still needs some extra maturing .   

Later on as the sun was setting (and a few drams drunk…..) started messing about with the camera after Mel lit a tea light…..

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Lantern 1

Nice Reflection on the double glazing

Lantern 2

Nice colours from the Laddie 1970

Lantern 3

……Produces almost a laser like light

Tuesday 14th August

Expecting the worst from the weather after the media weather forecasts , we booked the Distillers Wares tour at Laphroaig for this morning , we set off to walk in lovely sunshine with a nice cooling breeze (another forecast that was spot on…..not !) , it’s a lovely walk from Maol Bhuide along to Laphroaig , about 2 ½ miles passing Ardbeg and Lagavulin on the way . We arrived in good time for the 10.30 tour in good time to find a rather busy Laphroaig visitors centre . Our tour guide this morning was Bryony , We started off in the FOL Lounge with a history of the distillery then headed off to the Floor Maltings . They weren’t doing their own malting at the moment due to a vital piece of machinery being out of use . It was then a quick look in the Kiln……

Laphroaig Tour 1

After a look at the kiln fires , it was into the usual production areas , first the mashing / washback room……

Laphroaig tour 2

At the moment Laphroaig are producing unpeated spirit (yes we all went Unpeated ! on being told this ) and are in the process of changing from dry yeast to liquid yeast (the pipes in the photos at the bottom right are part of the new machinery for adding the liquid yeast)  . Then it was off to the Stillhouse…….

 Laphroaig Tour 3

 Laphroaig Tour 4

Then after a quick look at the Peat store  it was off to the Filling store……

Laphroaig tour 5

All the casks here are full of Standard Laphroaig spirit , it was the last run before the last Silent season . We then headed off to the No.1 warehouse to fill our tour bottle .

Laphroaig Tour 6

One of Laphroaigs Dunnage warehouses

Laphroaig tour 7

No Entry !

On this tour you get to try 3 Laphroaig casks and pick one to fill a 250ml bottle…..

Laphroaig Tour 8

The 3 Casks !

 The 3 were a 1997 15yo , a 1999 12yo and a 2003 8yo , we went for a 1997 and a 2003 , the 2003 actually tasted more mature than the 1999 .

How to do it…….

Laphroaig Tour 9

Insert Valinch slowly not disturbing the sediment……

Laphroaig tour 10

Remove , keeping thumb over hole…….

Laphroaig tour 11

Remove thumb , releasing spirit into receptor !

We had a great morning and Bryony was a fantastic guide , it was the first time i’d done a full tour of Laphroaig since the festival when Iain Henderson left and i won’t be leaving it so long the next time ! We headed back to the VC to purchase the current 10yo Cask Strength Batch (004 Jan 2012) and an 18yo , then it was the walk back to the cottage with a slight diversion into Ardbeg for lunch . A very nice lunch it was too , one of our all time favourite Old Kiln dishes to start with , Islay Crab chowder followed by Peking Duck in toasted wrap which was absolutely gorgeous ! It was washed down with a pint of Angus Og and a coffee by myself and a couple of glasses of wine by Mel .  The Old Kiln has definitely been the most consistently good producer of fine food on Islay in all the years we’ve been going , always very tasty and always good value ! After a walk around to the distillery we headed back to the cottage to catch some rays in the back garden – the wind had gone and it was really hot by this time – and then have another relaxing evening in the cottage .   

Laphroaig Càirdeas Origin

For a few years now Laphroaigs Feis Ile offering has also been a Friends of Laphroaig (FOL) offering , very reasonably priced (usually around the £45 a bottle mark ) and very drinkable . This years bottling celebrates 18 years of the FOL programme , “it combines some of original liquid used to first create Càirdeas , further maturated and complemented with newer Laphroaig spirit that has been fully matured in quarter casks .”

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin

Bottled at 51.2% abv , it is ripe Golden Barley in colour , A very distinct Laphroaig nose , iodine , peat , smoke etc but with quite a bit of citrus ( Lemon) and a hint of creamy fudge . The Palate is a good mixture of Laphroaig medicinal , peat , sweetness and  my old favourite nettles . It is actually quite a relaxed palate but well and truly Laphroaig  , a very good session dram (says he on his second pour……) . The finish is quite long , with peat , iodine and chocolatey coffee .

I actually really like this , it is a very good Laphroaig , good balance , pleasant on the nose , palate and finish . A first Class way to celebrate 18 years of FOL !

Full Laphroaig

With the previous offerings……


Islay Whisky Classics No.15 – Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 002

In Early 2009 Laphroaig changed their policy with the 10yo Cask Strength , gone was the standard abv and in came small batches with different abv’s for each batch……

Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 002

Batch 002 was bottled in January 2010 at 58.3% abv , almost Golden Syrup in colour , the nose is really (and i mean really ) medicinal , vegetal , quite farm yardy , sea shore , potent i think is the word and really nice ! The palate is…… pungent , like Laphroaig of old , medicinal , iodiney , peaty , sweet  and nettles……. Bloody hell that is good ! The finish is long , medicinal , peaty and creamy .

This is bloody good stuff , takes me back to the 80′s , a cracking dram ! I do own Batches 001 and 003 , they are un-opened but i have tried them in a bar and they do not disappoint ! Probably the best bang for bucks Laphroaigs on the market !  

Islay Whisky Classics No.14 – Laphroaig Quarter Cask

There was a time when there was a lot of discussion going on about Laphroaig not being as Strong (pungent) as it used to be , i was on the side of the “it isn’t”  , i first had Laphroaig back in 1984 and it was like nothing on this planet…… well maybe hospital antiseptic ! Even my wife had noticed it had lost something , when we were first going out in the early 90′s she knew from the other side of the bar i’d bought a Laphroaig , she didn’t like it . By 2006 she was drinking the stuff not knowing it was a Laphroaig ! This release started the come back in my eyes for Laphroaig……

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

After spending some time in normal casks , this spirit is then moved into smaller “Quarter Casks” for further maturation before bottling at a higher abv of 48%  . Polished Gold in colour , the initial nose is very medicinal , seaweedy / iodine , damp moss and my old friend the nettle ! There’s a creaminess hiding in there as well , it does take a little while to open up . The palate is very vegetal , again there’s a sweetness to it , it’s actually quite short over the palate , luckily there’s a long , medicinal finish with Highland Toffee and you know what….. 

A thoroughly enjoyable Laphroaig that re-ignited my interest in this distillery , as a well known game show host said “super,great,smashing” !

Islay Whisky Classics No.13 – Laphroaig 18yo

I was a bit wary of this one because i wasn’t a huge fan of the old 15yo which this one replaced , i actually got to try it when a former Laphroaig employee bought me one as a Birthday dram in September 2011 . When i got my FOL Birthday discount i bought a bottle with it……

Laphroaig 18yo

Bright gold in colour and bottled at 48% abv (to whom it may concern , can we have the 10yo at 48% as well please ?) , as with all Laphroaigs there’s a lovely oiliness in the glass ,   there’s more of an earthiness to this on the nose . relaxed peat , a farm yard with nettles (where the hell do i keep getting nettles from in Laphroaigs ?) and right at the end a whiff of iodine . The palate is wonderful , peat , iodine , heavily medicinal ,  the taste of the air after a storm on an Islay shoreline , a tremendous mouthfeel , boy is this good ! The finish is long , medicinal and fudgy sweet .

I think this is possibly my favourite Laphroaig , has everything you expect of Laphroaig , keeps giving after it’s gone and is so bloody satisfying !

Islay Whisky Classics No.12 – Laphroaig 10yo

This is perhaps the most famous Islay Single Malt Whisky , it certainly was the first one i ever saw back in 1984 . Famous for people either loving it of loathing it , i loved it when i first tried it , fell out with it later on when it seemed to lose something but have fallen back in love with it recently……. 

Laphroaig 10yo

Bottled at 40% – i don’t know why they haven’t upped the abv in line with most of their competitors , would be nice to have it at 46% – and a bright gold colour in the glass , the nose is heavy on the medicinal , it’s a bit like standing on a rugged shore on the south of Islay , heavy sea air with sea weed , also there is a strong touch of farm yard and nettles , finally a smokiness appears . The palate is a heady peatiness with iodine , a nice sweetness to it , almost creamy fudge , silky smooth across the entire palate until the back of the throat when the peatiness and a brittle toffeeness bite in . The finish is long and medicinal .

Laphroaig 10yo back to it’s best , a really enjoyable dram…… if you like this kind of thing…..

The Best of the Year

On the Old Spirit of Islay Site at the end of the year i used to do a sort of yearly awards so i thought why not do it here ! So here are the things that we thoroughly enjoyed this year and we thought deserved some recognition in the 2011 Islay Visits Awards……..

Islay Distillery Bottling of the Year - Not a lot of new releases this year , a few specials and a few relaunches . My favourite has been the Lagavulin Jazz festival Bottling . A 1993 ex-bodega Sherry cask selected by Iain MacArthur . A stunning Lagavulin that shows off the distillery characteristics to a tee !
Lagavulin 1993
Islay Independent Bottling - There were quite a few candidates in this one , including ones from the SMWS , Whiskybrokers 20yo Islays and the Queen of the Moorlands 10yo Bruichladdich , all worthy winners ! But it was one that sneaked in at the last moment that stole it . We went to The Whisky Lounges Islay Blind Fury 2 Tasting recently , sitting in glass No.4 was a beaut , dark colour compared to the rest and then when we tried it we both said Old Sherried Bunnahabhain ! So our Fav in this section is Berrys own 1979 Bunnahabhain Cask #1795 at 54.7% . The perfect Christmas day dram ! We managed to track down a bottle of this and if you can find one i would say grab it with both hands !!! Doug , Rob and the gang at BBR have managed to find a classic , Sherry aged , Bunnahabhain that is getting up to the standard of The famous Auld Acquaintance .

Berrys Own Bunnahabhains

The 1979 with a brace of the current 1990

Non-Islay Distillery Bottling of the YearNot had a great deal of these but there is one distillery that had 3 i had a great deal of difficulty choosing between . It was a choice between their Distillers Choice (a stunning 4yo ) , A 10yo from a 2001 single sherry butt and a 1992 18yo from a sherry butt . In the end i went for the 10yo , simply because its a stunner filled with the New owners spirit . Raymond has been putting out some fantastic bottlings of the spirit he’s distilled since he bought Bladnoch and this is probably the best !
Non-Islay Independent BottlingOnly one winner here ! from the SMWS 7.67 ‘Breakfast Dram’ , a killer 7yo Longmorn at 61.4% (all the best drams are bottled at 61.4%….) , This is so good i bought 4 ! Very drinkable at 7yo and at that strength .
Best Meal on IslayThis year we’ve had some very disappointing meals on Islay (some verging on inedible ) which is strange as the food is usually to a very high standard on the Isle . Luckily the Bridgend Hotel came to our rescue , In September we took some of our friends out for a meal here to celebrate my 50th birthday , They’d just took a new chef on , Kevin , and he has set up a superb menu . We had a fantastic meal (see the September visit report) . It was so good we went back later in the Holiday and bumped into others who had been with us doing the same ! And we’ll be back on future visits…….
Tasting of the Year - Only one winner here , The Johnstons Choice at Laphroaig Distillery , The host David was great , the Whisky Superb and Mel found some Laphroaigs she liked !
Event of the Year (outside a normal tour) - My 50th Birthday ! Fantastic Company , Great malts , great tours on Islay and the remains of a hurricane ! A fun filled two weeks for sure !
Islay Distillery of the year Has to be Bunnahabhain . The owners finally got their arses in gear and turned the standard bottlings 46.3% , NCF and uncoloured . Took the 18yo up another notch and made the 25 worth spending so much money on ! It’s not the prettiest looking of distilleries but it has 3 important things……. Really nice people working there , A great view and most importantly , Stunning Whisky ! A vastly under-rated Distillery , not just on Islay , that has produced some of the all time greats , The 65 and 66 Feis ile  , The Auld Acquaintance , the 1990 Feis Ile , not forgetting a lot of independently bottled stuff .

Bunnahabhain Bay

September 2011 Visit

So once again we head back to Islay for our Annual fortnight on the Isle . This time slightly later than usual due to us celebrating my 50th Birthday and to a new place , Maol Buidhe , due to Bunnahabhain having stopped the rental of their Cottages . Maol Buidhe is situated at the other end of the Isle on the South Shore just along from Ardbeg Distillery .

Saturday 10th

We set off at our usual departure time of 4.30am , the weather was fine on the East Coast but by the time we hit the west we were in showers / wind /low cloud . When we arrived at Kennacraig it wasn’t too bad infact by the time we were sailing down West Loch Tarbert  it was sunny !

(Click on any of the photos to see larger version)

First sighting Getting Closer
Into the Mist Open Sezza Me !

The new ferry Finlaggan isn’t too bad , apart from the Tacky lighting feature in the downstairs bar area and what i consider to be a slight oversight these days given the amount of money spent , NO Wi-fi ! One thing they could look into is an announcement before it docks for people parked on the Mezz Deck , so they know what to do and also an announcement to tell people to be sharpish in getting back to their cars so the rest of us waiting can off the boat !

New Bar Area Finl;aggan Sculpture

Anyway when we did get ashore the weather was sunny with a strong wind . We drove straight down to the cottage , got settled in , had something to eat then drank !

As this is a special Birthday i’ve brought some bottles with me i’ve been keeping to open on this occasion , i can now hear people saying “do you know how much that is worth on the Secondary market ?!?!?! “ Yup i f*$&ing do and i bought it to drink it not make money on it ! So onto the first one……

Bruichladdich 1970 Valinch Cask #5085

Bruichladdich 1970 Valinch

Distilled Dec 1970 , Bottled 29th May 2001 at 47.3% From a Bourbon cask . A lovely Golden Syrup colour , the nose is of a wonderful old , well matured Laddie , bags of oak spices and vanilla , very citrusy  , a dram you could smell for ever and a day . Quite fruity as well , an English summer green fruit salad . On the palate it again is very spicy , quite oaky but in a nice way , again very fruity , apples and pears , apples with cinnamon . The finish is long , spicy and oaky with a hint of citrus at the end . The 1970 O.b. is one of my favourite Laddie releases , this single cask is another step up from it , if you’ve got one of these squirreled away , open it , you are in for a nice surprise . If you had one of these and you sold it on , no matter what price you got , you don’t know what you’ve missed .

Sunday 11th

Woke up to a howling wind and rain , after a lie in and breakfast we headed off to pick up some supplies at Bridgend and Bowmore . There was a brief lull in the rain but it’s been persistent all day , heavy one minute , the fine drizzle the next . We’ve decided just to spend the rest of the day in the cottage , get the home fires burning and pour some drams ! After something to eat of course…..

I Beg your Pardon….. What could be better on a Wet and Windy Autumn Evening on Islay in front of a real fire than a Handful of Begs……

Five Begs

Very Old Ardbeg 30yo

Bottled in 1996 at 30yo ( Aah 1966 , a good year for the English not so good for the Scottish……), i love the old fashioned  style of label , looks old before you even try it ! An Amberish colour , the nose is a wonderful  Ardbeg Iodine , no peat at all , again the palate is iodine but with an oakiness  , very silky across the palate with a slight touch of oak spices , very warming . The finish is medium with iodine and a touch of spices . A wonderful Dram ,not lacking at 40% but still makes you wonder “What if they’d bottled it at…… ?”

Very Old Ardbeg

Ardbeg Kildalton 1980 24yo Lightly Peated

Bottled for the Committee in 2004 at 57.6% , a lovely burnished Gold colour , the nose is very un-Ardbegish , very fruity , Malty and biscuity . The highlight of the nose is definitely the fruitiness , apples and pears bursting out all over the place . The Plate does have a touch of the peat and smoke underneath a fruitiness . There is also a hint of chocolate and cocoa . The finish is long and beautiful with green fruits . A cracking aged dram , not what you’d expect from an Ardbeg .

Ardbeg Committee Reserve

Another Committee Bottling , Made up of Ardbeg from the 1970’s , 1980’s and 1990’s , vatted into 3000 bottles at 55.3% . Again a burnished gold colour , a right old mixture of Ardbeg Smells , peat , smoke , iodine , chocolate , coffee…….. along with Marzipan and cloves ! The palate  is youthful and elderly , the peaty youthfulness and the elderly iodine . The finish is long , warming , peaty and chocolate . An Ardbeg with everything !

Ardbeg Renaissance

The End of the Peaty path , a 10yo Ardbeg at Caskstrength (55.9%)  from 1st Fill Bourbon Barrels . Well where do you start , straw in colour , a fantastic Ardbeg nose , a classic Ardbeg palate , a whopping Ardbeg finish .  I once gave this 9.95 out of 10 at a tasting , i know why , this is a fantastic Ardbeg , on the nose bags of peat , creamy fudge , cocoa , seashore and dunnage warehouse . On the palate  Peat , smoke , Cocoa , Dark chocolate , creamy , wonderful ! Fantastic finish……. Heaven !

Ardbeg Feis Ile

This years Feis Ile bottling , 2 PX matured casks , hence the lovely amber colour . The nose is a perfect mix of Ardbeg Spirit and sherry casks , very smoky , dry and sherried  . The palate is very dry , sherry , chocolate , peat and gorgeous . finish is long , dry , sherry and peaty chocolate . Absolutely gorgeous , a stunning example of an Ardbeg matured away from the usual Bourbon / Sherry casks .

Monday 12th

Let the wind blow High , let the wind blow low……   with the remains of Hurricane Katia on our door step it was a wee bit windy ! After a trip into Port Ellen we headed along to The Old Kiln for lunch with Serge Valentin and his wife and Mark Gillespie of Whiskycast fame . On arrival we found a few familiar faces in the OK due to a Ardbeg Embassies trip including Martin Grant from MHUK  and Arthur Motley from RMW . The lunch got off to a good start with a try of the recently released Alligator , i thought it tasted better than the Committee release but i was informed by my learned friends it was exactly the same spirit batch ! We ordered lunch and then the electric went off !!! We   managed to get some of it (The Crab Chowder , Lamb Burgers , salad but Serge had to change his Baked Tattie ) . After a couple of drams i’d took along , Jackie appeared with a couple of Cask samples for us to try , a 1999 12yo 1st fill and a 1999 12yo refill , that the Embassy mob had been comparing . Must say they were both stunning , i slightly preferred the 1st fill , very Renaissance-y .

It was great catching up with Serge again after 6 years and finally meeting his wife , it was a pleasure meeting Mark in the flesh after so long talking over the internet and listening to his excellent WhiskyCast . We headed back to the Cottage for another Evening of Real fire and Islay Drams…..

Port Charlotte 4yo Cask R23

Decided to bring a new bottle of this with me to open up on the Isle  , what can i say…… Best port Charlotte ever…..So far…… Wonderful nose , like an old dunnage warehouse at first then Maltiness and peat smoke . Delightful ! The palate is a dry smoky maltiness and a dry peat , very pleasant and tastes a lot older than it’s age . The finish is very long , dry with a smooth smokiness .

Caol Ila 10yo Unpeated Style

Bottled in 2009 at a whopping   65.8% . A pale gold in colour , the full strength nose is very fruity , green fruits , caramel and shortbread biscuit . The palate is quite strong (obviously !) , needs reducing , so with water it brings out the fruitiness . The finish is long and slightly sweet , nearly opal fruitish (that’s Starbursts for the youngsters…..)  . A very nice dram from a distillery that doesn’t usually fail to deliver !

Tuesday 13th

Woke up again to rain and wind , the left overs from yesterdays storm , it looks like it’s going to be like this all day . Today is the first of the booked tours , first up is the Laphroaig ‘Johnstons Choice’ Tasting so after lunch at The Old Kiln we headed off to a busy Laphroaig for the 3pm appointment . There were only 4 of us on this tasting hosted by David , a former warehouseman . We were given 4 drams to try….

Mel at the Laphroaig Tasting

  • Laphroaig 10yo 40%
  • Laphroaig 25yo 48.6%
  • Laphroaig Cairdeas 2008 Feis ile 55%
  • Laphroaig Cairdeas 30yo 43%

David talked us through what made up each expression , the original tasting notes and gave us a few pointers on how to enjoy each one , loved the tip for the Feis Ile bottling involving putting water in the palate then drinking the whisky through it , really brought out the full Laphroaig flavours in that one . Obviously our opinions were asked and given , it was a nice relaxed tasting intermixed with stories from David , a great way to spend a late afternoon with some fantastic whisky and a bargain for £25 . After purchasing the latest 10yo Cask strength batch (003) and a few other bits and pieces we headed back to the Cottage for a bit more Laphroaig…..

Laphroaig 10yo 40%

A lot better than the last 10yo i tried , seems to be regaining more of it’s former glory , getting more of the medicinalness on the nose , farmyard and nettles (don’t know why i started finding this from ) , also seems to be a lot more peaty . Pretty much the same on the palate with a long warming finish , now if only they’d go the full hog and bump it up to 46% without the chill filtering……. Was very surprised to see Mel drinking this one !

Laphroaig 25yo 48.6%

Was taken slightly aback by this one as the last 25yo i tried wasn’t too clever , this is superb ! Still holds a slight ‘Laphroaig’ taste to it , the nose is quite fruity with a hint of medicinalness , pear drops definitely shine through along with a slight sherry hint , The palate very medicinal again with the farmyard / nettles thing and green fruits . again a lovely long and warming finish . Mel liked this one too .

Laphroaig Cairdeas  2008 Feis ile 55%

Have a bottle (or two) of this one  , an excellent Laphroaig , Very medicinal , seashore , peaty , ozone etc etc . Mel wasn’t too hot on this one probably because she knew what was coming next……

Laphroaig Cairdeas 30yo 43%

30 years in a sherry cask can make or break a spirit , thankfully this one was the former ! Where do you start ? A delightfully fruity nose , lots of red berries , not overly sherried . The palate is classic Christmas cake with loads of dried fruit and again red berries then in the finish there is a blast of Laphroaig medicinalness and a hint of peat , wonderful ! Mels favourite of the tasting , she always does like old things…..

What's getting opened this holiday

Wednesday 14th

We woke up to beautiful sunshine this morning , totally different to the previous 2 days , at least it gave us a chance to have a look at our surroundings and local fauna before heading off to todays festivities .

Maol Buidhe Cottage

Our home sweet home this fortnight .

Geese over the Bay

Geese flying over the bay (took handheld at full 300mm zoom)

Cormorant in the bay

Cormorant over the bay (took handheld at full 300mm zoom)



We headed off to the other side of the Island for the Afternoon Managers tour of Kilchoman . We went over early to have some lunch in their cafe beforehand . The tour was took by someone we’ve come to know quite well over the years during our frequent visits to the Isle , John Mac lellan , it was good to see him again and as always his tour was informative and humourous  . This is the first real tour we’ve done of Kilchoman and it was good to see the different methods and approaches of the distillery . It ended with a tasting in the warehouse of New make and a 2006 cask sample and trying two of the recent releases in the visitors centre , the 2011 spring release and the 100% Islay release (50%abv) . It will be interesting to see how the single malt develops over the years .

Kilchoman Mill

Kilchoman Stillhouse

On our way back to the cottage we stopped off in Port Ellen to see a good friend of ours Ella Edgar and find out how her retirement was going and how her recent rubbing shoulders with royalty went .

On our return to the cottage we got an answer to a question that had been bugging us….. We noticed some animal poo on the grass and we wondered what had deposited it…’s amazing the conversations you have in remote cottages when you’re on holiday……  as we pulled up to the cottage we seen the culprits on the lawn……. Deer !  The ran off straight away . The local Animals seemed to go wild after the recent storms tonight . We had bats flying over head , some strange sounds coming from the bay , what sounded like deer rutting coming over the fields and a ginger cat appeared from nowhere !

Like late last night , tonight we had a beautiful moon lit night , last night at about midnight i tried to take some photos but i cocked up the manual focusing , tonight i done a wee bit better , yes that is the full moon…….

Moon Shine

Thursday 15th

We were spoilt this morning to wake up to our second day of beautiful Islay sunshine ! Today we were booked into the afternoon Warehouse tour at Lagavulin with Pinkie . Now as followers of this blog will know from past visits it’s always a good idea to have a good meal before doing one of Iains Warehouse demonstrations (isn’t it Willie !) so we felt it was our duty to go to the Old Kiln again for lunch on the way along . Mel once again went for the Crab Chowder  (she really likes it ) and had an old favourite to follow , Baked Tattie with Prawn Marie Rose . I went for the new edition to the menu , Venison Sausages in a 5 bean gravy with a mash which was very nice and also extremely filling ! I got a bit of a surprise at the Distillery when Janey appeared with a parcel that had been delivered there for me , addressed to ‘Gordon (Auld Yin) Homer’ , what was it and who was if from ? Well you’ll have to wait to find out……We then headed off in the direction of Lagavulin .

The one good thing about staying on the South Shore (apart from having 3 of the best distilleries in the world on your doorstep !) is the fantastic scenery as you walk between the aforementioned distilleries , you get some cracking views of the distilleries , remote bays , views across bays to the mainland  and if you’re really lucky you see some of the fantastic wildlife Islay has to offer .

When you walk along from Ardbeg to Lagavulin you climb a small hill (if you can call it that ) where you get to see one of my favourite views of Ardbeg Distillery .

Ardbeg Distillery

Upon reaching the top you get your first view of Lagavulin Village and Distillery .


It is a beautiful walk along the road , especially if you do the full 3 miles from Port Ellen to Ardbeg along the rugged coastline , breathe taking in places and it gives you a chance to drink in the landscape that has formed the 3 South Shore distilleries characters without speeding along past it in a car .

We eventually got to Lagavulin and went into the warehouse for Iains demonstration . Once again Iain was in top form , he never fails to deliver  , the whiskies tried this time were……

  • 10yo from a 2nd fill cask
  • 14yo from a 4th fill cask
  • 18yo from an ex-sherry cask
  • 1994 Distillers edition
  • Distillery only bottling

On the way out we purchased one of the Distillery  only Bottlings and also a Caol Ila Moch . We then had a pleasant walk back to the Cottage where we settled down for a relaxing evening with a few drams .

The Lagavulin Warehouse Tour Drams….

10yo from a 2nd fill cask – Pale Gold in Colour , very young smelling initially , quite peaty . The palate is quite fiery and peppery with very peaty undertones . The Lagavulin character isn’t quite there yet but it is definitely an Islay .

14yo from a 4th fill cask – Straw in colour , the nose is quite closed at first , then a soft peatiness emerges with a stronger smokiness . On the palate it is very peaty  but with a more distinct Lagavulin taste than the nose , the finish is long and peaty  . Hasn’t taken much from the cask still a touch spirity .

18yo from an ex-sherry cask – Burnished gold in the glass , this is more like it , a lovely sherried smokiness  on the nose , The palate is classic Laga , sweet and smoky . This one was very popular on the tour .

Distillery Only Bottling – This is the same stuff that goes into the Distillers Edition , spirit that was left over and matured for an extra period and bottled at Cask Strength . A lovely smooth Lagavulin , very dark fruits and smokiness with a nice long finish . On the tour you were given the choice of this one or the DE , we went for 1 each to compare and quickly came to the conclusion that this was the better dram .

Friday 16th

The last day of my 49th year , a fairly quiet one , drive up to Bowmore for some supplies , lunch at a very busy Old Kiln Cafe and then back to the Cottage for a relaxing night of drams .

The Birthday Drams !

Seeing it’s a special Birthday i’ve been keeping back some special bottles for the occasion , i’ve opened some up as the weeks progressed but last night i went for the final three……..

What's getting opened this holiday

Gordon and Macphails 1961 Glen Grant Bottled 2011 40%

A lovely Ruby Red colour in the glass , loads of red fruits on the nose , oaky spices and sherry trifle , a very relaxed nose . On the palate a lovely balance between the sherry , spirit and wood , again red berries , spices and what can only be described  as the bottom of the sherry trifle (the jelly and sherry soaked sponge ) . The finish is medium with dry sherry and oak spices . A lovely dram for it’s age , very drinkable .

Bunnahabhain Auld Acquaintance

Distilled in 1968 , bottled in 2002 at 43.8% , 1 of 2002 bottles . Deep Amber in colour , a wonderful nose , the archetypical Christmas cake , cake dough , dried fruit , bags of sherry , there is also more than a hint of Bunnahabhain sweetness . A seriously superb sherry palate ! Beautiful mouthfeel , lots of dark fruits , sherry and cola cube sweets , very aromatic and spices . A lovely long sherry finish , with Christmas spices . This is possibly the most perfect sherried Bunnahabhain ever if not best sherried malt ever . Absolutely perfect , if i scored it would be in the very high 90’s…..

Old Malt Cask 1967 Ardbeg Bottled 2000 49%

Amber in colour , the nose is an un-mistakable Ardbeg , a lovely soft Ardbeg-dine mingles with a vanilla – spiceness   , another gorgeous mouthfeel , still quite lively , again a mixture of Ardbeg-dine and spices , quite a classic Ardbeg taste Mmmmm…..   The finish is medium , very pleasant and really  Ardbegish   . Another fabulous old Beg from the 60’s .

Very Old Ardbeg 30yo

Bottled in 1996 at 30yo ( Aah 1966 , a good year for the English not so good for the Scottish……), i love the old fashioned  style of label , looks old before you even try it ! An Amberish colour , the nose is a wonderful  Ardbeg Iodine , no peat at all , again the palate is iodine but with an oakiness  , very silky across the palate with a slight touch of oak spices , very warming . The finish is medium with iodine and a touch of spices . A wonderful Dram ,not lacking at 40% but still makes you wonder “What if they’d bottled it at…… ?”

Previous Notes……

Bruichladdich 1970 Valinch Cask #5085

Distilled Dec 1970 , Bottled 29th May 2001 at 47.3% From a Bourbon cask . A lovely Golden Syrup colour , the nose is of a wonderful old , well matured Laddie , bags of oak spices and vanilla , very citrusy  , a dram you could smell for ever and a day . Quite fruity as well , an English summer green fruit salad . On the palate it again is very spicy , quite oaky but in a nice way , again very fruity , apples and pears , apples with cinnamon . The finish is long , spicy and oaky with a hint of citrus at the end . The 1970 O.b. is one of my favourite Laddie releases , this single cask is another step up from it , if you’ve got one of these squirreled away , open it , you are in for a nice surprise . If you had one of these and you sold it on , no matter what price you got , you don’t know what you’ve missed .

Port Charlotte 4yo Cask R23

Decided to bring a new bottle of this with me to open up on the Isle  , what can i say…… Best port Charlotte ever…..So far…… Wonderful nose , like an old dunnage warehouse at first then Maltiness and peat smoke . Delightful ! The palate is a dry smoky maltiness and a dry peat , very pleasant and tastes a lot older than it’s age . The finish is very long , dry with a smooth smokiness .

7.57 SMWS 25yo Longmorn ‘Hallelujah Dram’

Haven’t got around to writing up notes for this one but it is an Excellent Longmorn……

Saturday 17th

The big 5-0 has been reached ! Woke up to another day of Sunshine and Showers , Didn’t really do a lot during the day except for a trip down to Port Ellen . After a pre-meal drink at the Cottage we headed off to the Bridgend Hotel with our guests for the night Ella ,  Mickey and Margaret  and Jackie and Dugga . Unfortunately two others couldn’t make it for the night , Mary from Laddie and Ian Gray . The Menu for the meal was brand new  due to the chef having just started for the Bridgend (it’s the chef who was going to be working at the New Islay Hotel and used to work in the Old Kiln but it’s a complicated Islay story how he ended up here…..but all i can say is The Islays loss is the Bridgends gain) . Once again we were made to feel very welcome by Lorna and her staff and to say the food was excellent is an understatement . After a few rounds of drinks  from ourselves and Mickey we sat down for the meal .  For starters Mel and Ella had the Crab chowder , Myself , Mickey and Dugga had the Rannoch Venison , Margaret and Jackie had the smoked Salmon . For mains Dugga and Ella had the Steak , Mel and Myself had the Duck – cherry jus and honey roasted vegetables , Jackie had the Chicken breast with Mango salsa and corn cake , Margaret went for the Goats cheese and Mickey went for the Halibut with sauted savoy cabbage and mash . Not everyone had a pudding , Mel , Mickey and Ella went for Lemon Posset with Cinnamon shortbread biscuits and i went for the Chocolate Tart ! Ella treat us to a cheese selection with a Port later on .

Like i said the food was superb , and the company was excellent , The wine courtesy of Jackie and Dugga  and ourselves and the fine aged Islay Malts flowed all night ,  there  was great craic around the table  , we even got to hear lots of stories about Islay past , Ella should definitely sit down and write a book , They were just as good if not better than some of Islays legendary Storytellers . Many thanks to them all for a fantastic night and some splendid gifts , The Glass Painting and cask end from all at Ardbeg   . The New Laddie 10yo (hot off the bottling line last Sunday ) off Mary and the Bunnahabhain 18yo from Ella .

Ardbeg Picture and Cask End

Laddie 10 and Bunna 18

Sunday 18th

This Sunday we woke up to a total contrast to  last Sunday , Beautiful sunshine , so good i got up early and went down to the shoreline to take some photos  . After a brief visit back to bed , we finally got up , had some breakfast and went for our first proper walk of the holidays along the south shore as  far as the old Hotel . Plenty of deer about , the odd seal and a Herd (?) of Peacocks . It was very Mediterranean as we went from bay to bay .

Bay Panorama




Next doors Pier

Wild Iris

Bruichladdich 10yo 46%

Distilled 11/09/01 , Bottled 11/09/11 . The ‘Bruichladdich’ spirit has reached 10yo (They didn’t start distilling it till 4 months after the official opening) , a honey-gold in colour  , the nose is quite young to start with then it becomes quite fruity , Green fruits initially (Apples , pears) then Melon , at the end fudge and malt come through . The palate feels more robust (if that’s the word , there’s more of it…..) than previous 10yo’s , rich and silky , it’s sweet at first , very honeyed , fudge , a touch of lemon and a hint of maltiness . The finish is medium with a nice warmness and sweetness . I must admit when i first tried this i wasn’t impressed with it . i think the initial nose of youthfulness put me off , but…… after the third try of it i’m liking it…..not as much as the 1970 tried earlier in the Holidays though .

7.57 SMWS Longmorn 25yo ‘Hallelujah dram’ 58.7%

From a refill hogshead , A beautiful polished gold in colour , an incredible fruitiness greets the nose , exotic fruits like mangos and pineapples , bags of vanilla , very fresh and satisfying . The palate carries on where the nose left off , a lovely sweet  fruitness , quite honeyed as well , again vanilla . This one fair dances across the mouth , wonderful ! A lovely long honeyed  finish with exotic fruits . You can see why Longmorn is much sought after for top dressing in blends , it is a top class malt , just a shame it’s not available more than the 16yo O.b. and the odd rare I.b.

Monday 19th

We woke up to quite a nice day , we had lunch in The Lochside  – which had recently changed hands – it’s the first time we had eaten in there for a good few years and to be honest we won’t be returning in a hurry……

We then drove down to Bunnahabhain to catch up with Lillian and pick up what was originally one bottle but soon turned into 2 ! After trying the 25yo i decided to treat myself to one for my birthday . It was good to catch up with the happenings at one of my favourite distillery and find out everythings going well and they’d been very busy .

Two Bunnahabhains

The Bunnahabhain 25yo and the 2011 Feis Ile bottling

It was a nice drive out and back to Bunnahabhain  and it made us realise how much we were missing the Cottages down there but life goes on….. We continued on what turned out to be an afternoon of catching up , we headed to the Islay House square to pick up some beer at the Islay Brewery and see how Paul and Steve were getting on . 6 bottles of Angus Og later and we called in on Mark Unsworth and his wife at the Islay Studios and admire his amazing work while having a natter .

We then headed back to Bowmore to buy a few supplies and have an early meal in the Golden Dragon . It was our first visit to Islays only Chinese Restaurant and it won’t be our last ! The food is excellent , we struggled with the size of portion to be honest , We started with a shared plate of appetisers (ribs , prawn toast etc) then i had a Chicken Kubo and Mel had Chilli Chicken . Full and satisfied we headed back to Maol Buidhe .

Tuesday 20th

We had a well laid out plan for today . Lunch at Ardbeg  (damn , that Crab Chowder is so good…..) then head off to Bridgend for a walk through the woods , Bridgend is where it fell apart , while filling the car up with petrol it started chucking it down with rain ! So instead we went for a drive down the Rhinns to Portnahaven . It’s a nice circular drive down the Loch Indaal shore then back up the Atlantic coast . The sea was a bit rough especially down at Portnahaven …..

Sea off Portnahaven

Bay on the West Coast

Stream on the West Side

We do like this drive and ended the way we usually do…..with a drink in the Bar of the Port Charlotte Hotel ! So then it was back to Bowmore again for a meal , this time an Indian (we’re on Holiday so we can eat out a lot !) , i went for a Lamb Passanda and Mel for a Garlic Chicken . After last nights excellent Chinese this meal was a little disappointing .

Then it was back to the Cottage…….

Bottles so far....

Purchases , Pick ups and gifts… far……

Wednesday 21st

A long lie in this morning , probably the best thing to do giving the wind and rain we woke up to . When we did get up we headed up to Bowmore to get some provisions and pop in to see Ailsa at Spirited Soaps to get a good  supply of her Bunnahabhain Seafarers soap . We then drove back down the Isle and popped in to Ardbeg  for a cup of tea and a dessert , i had the Irish Cream Cheesecake and Mel had the Apple Crumble . Mickey gave us a try of a rather interesting 5yo from a 1st Fill Cask , very nice for such a young whisky . Mel picked up a green hooded jacket while we were there , she looks very nice in it…..

For tea we had an excellent Sirloin Steak from Billys in Bowmore , there’s just something totally different about locally  reared beef from the stuff you get in supermarkets , so much more tastier ! The rest of the evening was spent along at Port Ellen doing a bit of surfing on the internet and back at the cottage enjoying a few Lagavulins…..

Lagavulin 1993 Jazz Festival 2011Bottling 55.4%

Lagavulin 1993

From a Bodega Sherry Cask #355 filled 08/02/1993 , bottled 2011 . Specially selected by Iain MacArthur , the colour of Autumn russet leaves , the initial nose is of dying embers in a fire , then peated sherry and finally peat smoke . The palate is quite sweet at first , then the Lagavulin smoke emerges  . The sherry and the spirit are very well balanced , neither over-powering , it does actually remind me more of it’s easterly next door neighbour than a Lagavulin . The finish is medium , sweet and smoky . A very nice and unusual Laga (i can’t remember ever having a straight sherry matured Laga – apart from in a warehouse tasting  ).

Thursday 22nd

Another lazy day (don’t you just love them on Holidays !) after a quick call into Bowmore for one last supplies pick up , we called in to see Paul and Joan at An Taigh Osda to say hello and catch up with the going ons at Islays only Boutique Hotel . The Evening was spent at the Bridgend Hotel enjoying another fine meal . We just went for mains this time , Melanie went for the Sirloin Steak and i had the Poached Halibut with a Seafood Bisque , Prawn Mousseline and savoy cabbage . Once again Kevin came up trumps with the food . We also bumped into Mickey and Margaret who’d also made a return visit for  a meal . Afterwards we went for a drive along to Kildalton in the dark to try and spot any nocturnal wildlife , i think they’d all gone to bed early…….

Friday 23rd

Our last full days of the Holiday and once more we headed to Ardbeg for lunch  at the Old Kiln . I started with the Cullen Skink and then had the Islay Steak and Ale Pie , Melanie just went for the Bolognese and pasta . After lunch and a few drams we went for a little walk , Earlier in the holiday we’d spotted another pier from the Jetty of the Cottage (photo left , below) that i’d never seen before  , i’d asked Mickey whos it was and he said the distilleries ! It’s where the supply ships (puffers) used to dock . We walked along to the pier and got a view towards Maol Buidhe (Photo right , below) .

Next doors Pier View from Ardbegs other Pier

The View back at the distillery from the Pier Road…..

Ardbeg Distillery

Afterwards we returned to the Cottage to Pack and had a beautiful Venison Burger from Billys in Bowmore .

Saturday 24th

We departed from the Isle on the 9.45am ferry in beautiful Sunshine (typical !) , Another Great holiday at a special time for me .

You can see more photos at Gordon_H’s Islay Autumn 2011 Photoshop Album

Thought i’d end with a few photos of the cottages interiors…….

Cottage Living Room Cottage Kitchen
Cottage Bedroom Cottage Sun Room

It’s very nice inside (and the Kitchen has tiles from Ardbeg malt flooring on the floor !) , the sun room is fantastic with a nice view down to the bay . If you want more details go to // , we’ll be returning in the future !

Many Thanks to the good folks of Ardbeg , Laphroaig , Lagavulin , Kilchoman and Bunnahabhain for making our visits extra special . To Ella , Mickey , Margaret , Jackie , Dugga , Melanie and Lorna and her staff at The Bridgend Hotel for giving me a wonderful time on the night of my 50th Birthday . And to Mary , Paul and Joan for their special gifts .