Summer 2009 Visit

More Bunnahabhain Diaries….

Week One…..

Once again we’re spending two weeks on our favourite little Hebridean Isle , our 24th Visit to Islay , Chilling out , Malting out and generally having a good time down at Bunnahabhain Bay ! So here are some more of our adventures……..

(Some photos can be viewed at a larger size by clicking on them)

Sat August 1st –

Once again we left our little abode early on Saturday morning to drive up to Kennacraig , Stopping off for breakfast at Dumbarton and hitting Inveraray to pick up some supplies . Unfortunately the supplies weren’t as much as usual at LFW due mainly to them not having the one’s i fancied ! Ended up with just the Bunnahabhain Toiteach…

The weather on the way up has been mixed , Rain , Sun , more Rain . Didn’t improve much once we arrived on Islay either . Spent the rest of the day settling into the cottage , getting some shopping in and having a few drams .

Todays Drammage……G&M 12yo Longmorn , Johnnie Walkers Green Label , Bunnahabhain Toiteach.

Sun August 2nd –

Woke up to beautiful Sunshine and Mull in View ! After a late brunch it was outside to catch some Rays !

Spent the day chilling out at the Cottage and doing a Bunnahabhain Vertical tasting ……

When in Bunnahabhain…..

The Full Bunnahabhain !

Bunnahabhain 12yo ( Mini L7 ) 

Age – 12yo. ABV – 40%. Colour – Amber. Nose – Fudge , Dried fruits , Candied peel , Seashore (Salt Air /Seaweed ). Palate – Malty , Edinburgh Rock Sweetness. Finish – Medium , sweet , fudginess . Comments – Very oily in the glass , One of the nicest 12yo Bunnies i’ve tried.

Bunnahabhain 12yo ( Old Sample ) 

Age – 12yo. ABV – 40%. Colour – Polished Copper . Nose – More sherry on the nose , Cake Dough , slight fudge , Seashore , touch orange ? Palate – Again sherry , cake dough , slight dried fruits , not as sweet as the new one but still has a touch of fudge / Edinburgh Rock . Finish – Long sweet finish. Comments – Again very oily in the glass , slightly prefer the new 12yo from the mini.

Bunnahabhain Darach Ur Bunnahabhain Darach Ur 

ABV – 46.3%. Colour – Amber . Nose – Slight Wood , Cloves , The old Christmas Cake “Dried Fruits , Spices , Candied peel , cake mix” , A touch of fudge . Palate – Unusual Spiciness , Vanilla , Edinburgh Rock / Confestioners Sugar , “Christmas Cake ” . Finish – Medium , fudge , Slight Spiciness . Comments – U.C.F, No Colouring , as Bunnahabhain should be ! Thoroughly Enjoyable Bunnie .

Bunnahabhain 18yo 

Age – 18yo .ABV – 43%. Colour – Deep Amber. Nose – More Sherried on the nose than the 12yo , Slight Orange , Cake Dough , confectioners sugar , Sea air. Palate – All you’d expect from a good sherry casked Whisky , Dried fruits , spices , Glace Cherries , Cake dough , Spreads over the palate Beautifully . Finish – Long , sweet , sherried . Comments – Beautifully balanced , a superb example of a Bunnahabhain , Miles better than the 12yo IMO .

Bunnahabhain 18yo
Bunnahabhain Toiteach Bunnahabhain Toiteach 

ABV – 46%. Colour – Gold. Nose – Initially Smoky at first , then peaty , still youngish but has Coffee and chocolate . Palate – Peaty , slight pepperiness , still a youngish taste to it . Finish – Long , peaty and touch pepper . Comments – Not a bad peated Bunnahabhain but could have done with a bit longer in the cask .

Bunnahabhain 1966 Feis Ile Limited Edition 

Year – 1966. Age – 35yo. ABV – 46.1%. Colour – Deep Mahogany. Nose – Really deep sherry , still quite prickly on the nose , touch orangey , Spicy , and christmas cake . Palate – Very dry on the palate , Mulled Spices , loads of the usual sherried stuff , dried fruits etc . Finish – Long and dry sherry. Comments – Dist 16/5/1966 , Bottled 16/3/2002 , Cask No. 4379 , 1 of 401 Bottles . Really heavily sherried malt but really enjoyable with it . Another superb Bunnie !

Bunnahabhain 1966
Bunnahabhain 34yo Bunnahabhain 34yo 

Age – 34yo. ABV – 43.5%. Colour – Light Mahogany. Nose – Light Sherry , Dark Fruits , slight fudge . Palate – Extremely well balanced , sherry , touch of chocolate and Cola Cubes . Finish – Long , Creamy , sherry. Comments – 1 of 1620 bottles , Elegant Bunnahabhain , rumoured to be exactly the same “Spirit” as the Auld Acquaintance . It Certainly tastes like it !

Mon August 3rd –

Back to the wind and rain again ! Popped along to the distillery shop this morning to pick up a 16yo Manzanilla finish and have a natter to Lillian . We then headed down to Ardbeg for lunch at the Old Kiln , as usual the food was superb and the place was heaving ! After a bit of a drive about , including a check of the whisky shops ( 2 , now defunct , 10yo Black bottles spotted and bought !) , we headed back to the cottage for a light bite and a relaxing evening .

Bunnahabhain Manzanilla Bunnahabhain 16yo Manzanilla Finish 

Age – 16yo. ABV – 53.2%. Colour – Autumn Gold . Nose – Fruit cake initially , a dryness , the sherry isn’t heavy , a sweetness (fudge rather than the usual Edinburgh Rock) . Palate – A very Dry Maltiness , Dark chocolate , well balanced with the sherry , Coats the palate wonderfully . Finish – Long , dry sherry , touch of cherry liqueur . Comments – 1 of 3792 Bottles , finished in Manzanilla Sherry Wood . A really , good well balanced Bunnahabhain , probably my favourite of the Finishes released so far .

2 Festival Bottlings and a Non-Attributed Malt…..(Thanks to Martin)

Bruichladdich Oirthir Gaidheal

Year – 1993. Age – 16yo. ABV – 53.6%. Colour – Bright Gold . Nose – First thing that hits the nose is the sherry , the usual cake mix , dried fruits etc , eventually the laddie traits come through , Green Fruits , fudge . Palate – Definitely a Laddie on the palate , Apples , pears , Lemon Citrus and creamy fudge . Finish – Long , citric and sherry. Comments – Dist 22/4/1993 , Bottled 24/5/2009 , Refill Sherry Cask ,312 of 1000 Bottles . Not a bad Laddie , a great little Valinch !

Caol Ila 1996

Year – 1996. Age – 12yo. ABV – 58%. Colour – Golden Syrup . Nose – Really sherried nose , Orange Marmalade , Menthol cigarettes , strong mint . Palate – very dry peat , hospital antiseptic , Mint humbugs , Fishermans friends . Finish – Long , dry , germolene . Comments – Dist 18/12/1996 , Ex-Sherry Cask No. 19313 , Bottle No. 308.A really good Caol Ila , smelled more sherried than it tastes , shame the standard 12yo isn’t this good .

The Wee Dram 10yo Islay

Age – 10yo. ABV – 46%. Colour – Pale Gold . Nose – For it’s light colour, the nose is loaded with sherry , eventually peat comes through , a touch of medicinalness. Palate – The sherry takes the back seat and the medicinalness takes the front . Finish – Long and medicinal . Comments – Refill Sherry ? definitely a Caol Ila going off the type of medicinalness (germolene compare to Laphroaigs Iodine ) .

Tues August 4th –

Woke up to some more not too clever looking weather but we didn’t let that put us off and we headed off for our first walk of the holidays . An Easy one to start off with……

Unusual Tree ! …..So we headed off to Bridgend Woods ! Parking up at the Car park next to the entrance to Islay House Square we bumped into Paul and Joan from An Taigh Osda taking their dogs out for a walk and going to the Community Garden to collect vegetables for their hotel . This is a fairly easy walk as it’s mainly over decent tracks , a fair amount of wildlife can be spotted and no sooner had we turned onto the main path we encountered a Buzzard (we think…it was a large Bird of Prey!) , a beautiful sight as it flew off into the trees . Along this path we also saw several Large Blue dragon Flies , now when i saw large i mean LARGE ! Beautiful Creatures . We followed the main path until we took a fork marked “Waulk Mill” (which apparently is the building next to the Islay Woolen Mill ) , we followed this till it came to a gate on a track , turning left down to Woolen Mill .
We popped into the Mill to see the Islay Branch of the Newcastle United Supporters Club , Gordon the Owner ! After depressing him a bit with what hasn’t been happening at the club , we headed back on to the walk , heading back up the hill we followed the Track until we came to a bend in the road and the track through the gate was Signposted Bridgend , we’d never done this bit of the walk , in the past we’d always returned by the same route . Along this path Mel spotted a Heron in the stream , as usual it flew off before the Camera shutter was pressed ! One thing we did noticed was lots of Butterflies , lots of varieties and very beautiful markings . Bridgend Woods
Bridge over the River Sorn Eventually we rejoined the track we were originally on but just for a short while , we turned off almost immediately following a track marked Bridgend , along the Claggan Strip . This bit is a bit rougher , not decent tracks but still negotiable . Eventually you reach sight of Bridgend but we turned off on another track which via a picturesque bridge took us back to the car park . Don’t know how long the walk was but it was a few Miles ! Before heading off we took a walk to the community garden , a beautiful place which we’d never been to before . We ended up purchasing some freshly dug vegetables to accompany our Steaks that night .

Very nice Steak as well and tasty veggies !

Wed August 5th

Another lovely day (in the early 20’s with a lovely breeze) . so we headed off for another walk , this time we headed to the top North-West of the isle to walk around Ardnave…..

We parked up at the marked parking area beside Ardnave Loch and headed west along the track past Ardnave farm till we came to the coast . Here you can see some man made Lobster / fish ponds . Turning northwards we followed the dunes slightly then made our way down onto the sands , we found through this bit of the journey we had to keep climbing back onto the grassy dunes when our way was blocked by an outcrop of rocks , some we managed to negotiate , some were just too hard to clamber over .  

Just off the coast were several smaller Islands , Eilean Beag and Nave Island , The latter used to have a small chapel on it . The closer we got to the point it got a little Boggier , Once at the Point we had a lovely view over to Colonsay , Mull and the North-East of Islay . There were also quite a lot of Butterflys up at the top . The clumps of Thistles were over-flowing with them , a beautiful sight and one which seems to go against what we’re been told on the mainland that Butterflys are in the decline .

On our way back down from the point we kept to the Dune pastures and farm tracks , it was pretty hard going for us inexperienced walkers but it was well worth it for the views . On the way back we went past Loch Gruinart House where much to our surprise in the fields opposite were Barnacle Geese ! Some very early arrivals according to the locals ! They don’t normally start arriving until October .

After a wash and a change we headed off to An Taigh Osda for a meal . As usual Paul and Joan didn’t let us down with their Culinary expertise . For once both my self and Mel had the same meal , Langoustine , Scallop and crab Spring Rolls with a Soy Sauce Dip for Starter and Pan seared Pork with Flash Fried Field Mushrooms , Pine nuts and Chive mash for the main course . We passed on the Dessert as we were just too full ! Another fantastic meal , they certainly are keeping up a high standard ! After the meal we parked up on the shores of Loch Indaal and i joined the Weekly chat on SOI . Then it was back to the cottage for a wee dram and Bed .

Ardnave Walk
Eilean Beag
Nave Island
Butterflies in the Thistles

Ardnave Dunes

The view across Loch Gruinart from Ardnave Dunes .

Thurs August 6th –

Another Bright and beautiful Morning and our First organised event of the Holidays , a 10am start at Lagavulin Distillery for Ian “Pinky” MacArthurs Ware house Demonstration .

Pinkie in action
Lynsey dishing out drams

A few of you maybe familiar with this as it’s the same as what Ians done during Lagavulin Day at the Feis Ile . We were taken into a warehouse where Ian gave us a talk on Maturation and the affects of it on the spirit , we were given samples to try from various ages of Lagavulin , these were drawn from the casks by various members of the group . We started off with a taste of New Make then proceeded to an 8yo from a Hogshead cask , a 12yo (Hogshead) a 16yo (Sherry Butt) and a 43yo . Not content with that they gave us a dram of the Distillers Edition and then let us try the 16yo again !

Behold...The nectar !
Shaken not stirred !

Full Marks to Diageo for doing this outside the Festival and for keeping it at a reasonable price , £12.50 for all the drams , a Glencairn Glass and you can use the ticket to tour Caol Ila as well has to be the bargain of the year ! Outside we had to negotiate a crane doing maintainance work , they’d lifted a still out to check the state of the walls , not very often you see a still in bits !

Bottom of a Still
Neck of a Still

We headed along to Ardbeg for lunch at the Old Kiln , where they just happened to have two of my old favourites on , The “fishtastic ” Salad and Raspberry Cranachan , Mel went for a Baked Potato with Prawn Marie Rose . After having a bit of a rest on the Hillock behind the Distillery and the weather clouding over , we headed back for an evening at the Cottage .

Friday August 7th –

Approaching Airigh Nam Beist
Location of Solam
Sailing ship passing Ardbeg
Yet another Glorious day and another walk !  

This time we headed off to the South Shore and a walk up to Solam , the 18th Century Plague village situated on the trackway to Uigeadail . Parking up at Ardbeg we headed back up the road and through the farm gate between the houses . The first bit of the walk is fine up the farm tracks but once you hit the Tee just below the ruins of Aigih Nam Beist Farm it gets a little boggie , there is a well worn path you follow but you definitely need Stout footware , how people have done it in ordinary footware i don’t know ! We crossed over Ardbeg burn and headed onwards and upwards ! It is extremely wet underfoot , the black , oily , peaty water does seem to appear from nowhere .

Today we had fantastic views across to Ireland , some of the clearest i can remember , Eventually we reached the location of the village , at a deserted building there is a plaque telling you about it , really you need someone in the know to show you it’s exact location . It is a pretty hard walk , we lost the track a couple of times on the way down but it is worth it for the views from up there . Mel also saw her first snake on the way back down , i’d just strolled past it , Don’t know what it was but need to check up , only clue , it was black !

On our return to Ardbeg we managed to catch service and had a refreshing tea and cakes or a toastie in Mels case…..

That evening it was “Nippy Chippy” night in Port Ellen so we hung around in the Early evening sun to get our fish suppers !

We took the Mulindry Road back to the Cottage where we saw several huge herds of Deer quite close to the road . Don’t think i can remember seeing as many this low down during the summer . We’ve also noticed a hell of a lot of Buzzards around this year , they seem to be everywhere , talking to friends on the isle they were saying the same but said it seems to be having an effect on the small bird population .

Herd of Deer More Deer.....

Week Two…..

Sat August 8th –

The Start of our Second week on Our Favourite Little Hebridean Isle , we awoke to puddles on the ground but luckily it had rained over night . After a late Breakfast we headed off to do a short walk on Loch Indaal beside Whin Park , This was to a Watchtower constructed in the 18th century . A lovely little woodland walk , short by comparision to the others we’d done , but pleasant enough for a Saturday . There were 3 of these watchtowers constructed to watch over Loch Indaal for invasion , this and the one at Bridgend still survive , the one at Bowmore is long gone .

We headed back to the cottage to find we were the only occupants for this week ! Looks like a REALLY quiet week……

Watch Tower
View fro the Watch Tower
Mel at the Watch Tower

At night we headed off to The Bridgend Hotel for what is turning into an Annual Event for us , a Meal out with those lovely Laddie Lassies , Mary and Ella . It’s really nice to spend such a pleasant evening in the company of Good friends while on Holiday . Good food and a damn good natter were on the menu . The food at the Bridgend Hotel is really competing with the other hotels now . Myself and Mel started with a lovely Leek and Potato Soup , then Mel had Cajun Chicken Flatbread and i went for Scallops in an Indian Spice sauce . Ella and Mary started on the Melon and then had the Grilled Salmon . We all had a slice of Lemon Meringue Pie for pudding . It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening that flew over , Thank you Ladies for a great evening and look forward to next years !

Sun August 9th –

We had a bit of a lazy day today , just stayed down at the Cottage , the weather was cloudy with a light wind .

Anyone for Ardbeg ?

Expression– Montgomories Single Cask Year – 1991. Age – 10yo. ABV – 43%. Colour – Pale Gold Nose – Sweet peat , slight creamy fudge , Cocoa . Palate – smooth peat , fudge , creamy coffee. Finish -Long and warming , peaty Comments – Thanks to Tim Bachelder for the Sample . Cask 1017 , Dist 28/3/1991 , Bott 10/01 . Not a bad little Beg especially for a 43%er .

Expression – SMWS 33.49 Year – 1993. Age – 8yo. ABV – 59.8%. Colour – Pale Gold Nose – Nose hair tingling , Very citric (lemon) , peat . Palate – Very strong , sweet peat , again lemon citrus , creamy fudge . Finish -Long peaty and Cigar Smoke ! Comments – Distilled October 1993 , Bottled Sept 2002 , first SMWS Ardbeg i ever bought , a nice strong young Ardbeg .

Expression – SMWS 33.71 Year – 1998. Age – 10yo. ABV – 55.8%. Colour – Ripe Barley Nose – Very citric at first (Lemon) , then creamy fudge , Coffee , Dark Chocolate . Palate – Wow ! Incredibly Peaty , Creamy fudge , Coffee Finish -Long , Citric , peat , cream…..fully loaded ! Comments – Thanks to Ryan for the sample . Distilled May 1998 , Bottled August 2008 . Really good Ardbeg , almost Renaissance like !

Expression – OMC Year – 1990. Age – 10yo. ABV – 50%. Colour – Straw Nose – Lemon Citrus at first , gradually the peat , creamy fudge and Coffee come through . Palate – well balanced peat , lemon and smoke . Finish -nice , longish finish . slight Citrus along with peat . Comments – Dist Sept 1990 , Bott March 2001 , 1 of 312 bottles . Very nice 1990 Ardbeg though i must admit i like my 1990 older…..

Expression – Uigeadail (2003 Bottling) Year – * Age – * ABV – 54.2%. Colour – Orangey gold/Marmalade Nose – Traditional Christmas cake (dough , Dried Fruits spices , sherry ) , Mint humbugs , peat smoke . Palate – Huge mouthfeel , Mentholy , peat , smoke , pepperminty , all over the palate ! Finish -Long , menthol, humbugs . Comments – The original and still the best Uigeadail IMO , incredible mouthfeel .

Expression – Toasted Oak 1189 Year – 1998. Age – 10yo. ABV – 54%. Colour – Deep Amber Nose – Very heady nose , Christmas spices , vanilla , creamy fudge , peat smoke. Palate – Very complex palate , hot, peppery and spicy . Vanilla , oily , smoke . Finish -Long , spicy , creamy coffee , Bonfire smoke , Amazing stuff ! Comments – Distilled 11th May 1998 , Bottled 10th December 2008 , from a New Toasted Oak Hogshead Cask , Bottle No. 125 of 252 . A very good Ardbeg , very unusual .

Expression – Toasted Oak 1190 Year – 1998. Age – 10yo. ABV – 54.7%. Colour – Burnt Marmalade Nose – Different to 1189 , honey , vanilla , green fruits , slight dried fruits and spices . Palate – Chewy on the palate , Creamy coffee , Menthol Cigarettes Finish -Long and spicy , creamy toffee . Comments – Distilled 11th May 1998 , Bottled 10th December 2008 , From a New Toasted Oak Hogshead Cask , Bottle No. 127 of 282 . Another really nice Ardbeg , again unusual .

Mon August 10th –

Woke up to a Misty morning with a fair wind , decided just to have a drive about rather than a walk but by the time we got to the south shore it was lovely and Sunny ! Hit the Old Kiln for Lunch where it seems they were having a bit of an Italian Day , so i had Macaroni Cheese with Garlic bread and Mel went for the Lasagne and Garlic bread . As usual the food was to a very high standard , afterwards we had a drive along to Kildalton , on our return we had a bit of a sun break at Port Ellen (nice to sit on the main bay for a while….) and then a stop on the shores of Loch Indaal before heading back to the Cottage for a few drams of the local Whisky……

Tonight was as damn near as good as gets , Only us in residence at The Cottages , Clear blue sunny sky , A beautiful View across the bay to Mull , Enough wind to keep the Midges away , A damn good Thai Red Curry cooked by your partner and a selection of Islays finest Single Malt ! Oh It’s a beautiful night on Islay !!!!!

Mel and Gordon at the CottageTues August 11th –

Woke up this morning to pouring rain and low clouds but this didn’t deter us and we went off for a short walk up to Ardbegs lower water Source at Loch Iarnan . The first bit of the walk was the same route as the walk up to Solam . Instead of turning left at Airigh Nam Beist we turned right . It’s all Farm tracks up to the loch but it was very muddy at some points . By the time we returned to Ardbeg , including a close encounter with a huge bull , we were absolutely soaking wet ! A swift return to the cottage was called for and a lovely hot bath !

Gordon at Loch Iarnan 

Loch Iarnan
Mel at Loch Iarnan

That evening we got a visit from Claus (Bigmac from the chat) and his girlfriend Ulla (Highland Girl from the chat) , always nice to meet some of the chatters face to face . We arranged to meet at Ardbeg for lunch the next day .

Wed August 12th –

A bit better Weather wise this morning , headed down to Ardbeg for lunch to meet up with Claus and Ulla , food was superb as usual . After a bit of a natter and a wander around the distillery we parted company , they invited us up to their B&B that evening to take part in the weekly chat . I took up a few drams for them to try .

Also nipped into Bunnie Distillery to have a dram with John and a natter .

Thurs August 13th –

Islay Show day , a cloudy bright day and we headed out for a walk above Bunnahabhain . Leaving the Distillery by the road we turned off onto a track at the bend at the top of the bank just past the bungalow . this takes you across a small peat bog before reaching a small wooded area with a bridge across a stream (Abhainn Araig ) . The track then meanders across another peat bog before reaching the forest . The boggy area seemed to have quite a bit of Lemon Balm and Rhodendrum bushes , you also get a good view of the Bay and paps from up here . This is a fairly large man made wooded area , there are a few other natural trees and bushes in it apart from the pines .

There are a few ruined farm houses amongst the forest , it’s a fairly long walk through to the other end of the forest at Balulive but it’s all decent walking on man made tracks . We didn’t see much wildlife along the way apart from lots of flys , loads of Dragonflys (huge Blue ones as well as the red one photographed) , a frog and a few birds including one that insisted on posing for Mel ! After a bit of a rest at the gate at the other end we retraced out way back to Bunnahabhain Distillery . When we measured the length of the walk on the map , it turned out to be our longest of the holiday at just over 9 miles !

Where are we ?
Walking through the Woods
Paps through the Forest
Open Sez Me!
Heading Home
One of the many Ruins
Photographing the local Wildlife
One of Mels Friends
Stream at Balulive end

The inspiration for our walks have come from two sources . A book , Walks on the Isle of Islay by Mary Welsh ( Clan walk Guides ISBN 1 873597 13 4 ) and from the 2 Leaflets “Explore Islay” produced by the Islay Community Access Project . We also had 3 Ordnance Survey maps (Landranger 60 – Islay , Explorer 352 – Islay South and Explorer 353 – Islay North ) . Decent walking boots are recommended and decent waterproof clothing including Gaiters .

After a wash and brush up we headed down to Port Ellen for a meal at our friend Ella’s house with a couple of her friends .

Fri August 14th –

The last day of the Hols and it’s pouring with rain ! We headed down to Ardbeg again for lunch at the Old Kiln , a really nice Beef Olives for me and Mels ever faithful Baked Tattie and Prawn Marie Rose . We spent the rest of the Afternoon having a few drams with Mickey . The evening was spent packing our stuff away and having a last drink at the Cottage .

Sat August 15th –

Time to go home ! We spent the crossing to the mainland with Claus and Ulla before heading back to Newcastle……


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