The Last Day…..

Friday 6th April 

So onto our last full day on Islay , The weather was miserable when we went out , you couldn’t see across Loch Indaal ! First off we went to Islay Studios to pick up a couple of prints Mark and Helga had framed for us…….

Ardbeg Distillery

This was an Ian Gray print i bought for Mel a few birthdays ago and we thought it was about time we got it framed , especially as it’s been a special birthday .

The Artists Edition

Another of Ians prints , this one came with a Whisky Bottling he did in 2004 .

Mark and Helga made a fantastic job of framing Ians prints , Mel was one happy woman with her Ardbeg print ! And talking of Ardbeg….. we headed off down there for lunch again , i was fairly predictable and went for the Crab Chowder while Mel went for the Baked Tattie Prawn Marie Rose . We then headed back to the Cottage to pack and also called in at An Taigh Osda to thank Paul and Joan again for Wednesday night .

I mentioned earlier in the trip all we seemed to be doing was eating and drinking…… Well tonight wasn’t any different ! We headed off to the Bridgend Hotel for our last meal of this trip and a mighty fine meal it turned out to be . Mel went for Duck Confit , Plum and ginger chutney with granary toast followed by Sirloin Steak with Bernaise Sauce and balsamic roasted tomatoes . I went for Angus Ogg Gruinart Oysters ( Oysters deep fried in an Angus Og beer batter) followed by Fillets of Plaice and Scallops in a lemon and chive butter with Spinach . I can only say the food was absolutely fantastic , i was a piggy and went for a pud as well , a sticky toffee pudding and Clootie dumpling with a whisky sauce , the clootie was up there with the two other great dumplings i’ve had , Marys at Ardbeg and Lillians Mothers at Bunnahabhain ! Once again we were well looked after by Lorna and her staff , a great way to end the holiday .

Saturday 7th April   

We left the Isle on the 9.45am ferry and had a really nice crossing over to the mainland and as usual a Calmac Scottish Breakfast was consumed…….

So till our return in August , a big thank you to all who made this holiday so special and gave Mel a 50th birthday to remember !

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Another Day in Paradise…..

Thursday 5th April

There’s something so nice about waking up in the opulent surroundings of An Taigh Osda , looking over the sun kissed shores of Loch Indaal…….

And there was more to come….. A Full Scottish Breakfast ! 

It did not disappoint , we packed our bags , said our goodbyes to Paul and Joan and headed back to Carraig . After freshening up we headed over to Bowmore to pick up supplies including our usual stash of Islay Soaps (The Bunnahabhain  Seafarer one) . We spent the rest of the afternoon calling in to see friends , Mary at Bruichladdich and Ella who’s now working at the Gaelic Centre , to thank them for Mels Birthday Present and catch up with the latest going ons . Another nice , relaxing day ended with a bite to eat and few drinks in the cottage . 

Not 50…..18 with 32 years Experience……

Wednesday 4th April 

So it’s midway through our holiday and it’s a lovely Sunny but slightly chilly day , It’s also Melanies Birthday , her half century . So after the excitement of opening her cards and pressies we headed off down to Ardbeg for a bite to eat . We went for the Ardbeg Crab Chowder (again!) and the Aromatic Chicken fried rice , As usual the Chowder was wonderful and the Fried Rice was absolutely beautiful , a taste sensation in the mouth !

When i asked Melanie what she wanted to do for her birthday there was only one answer from her “I want to spend a night in An Taigh Osda !” , ever since our first visit to the place for a meal she has loved the place , since then we’ve been back for umpteen meals and a stay . It is a pretty unique hotel on Islay , Paul and Joan pay great attention to the smallest of details and their food is the best on the Isle ( in our humble opinion ) .

Mel in the Room

Mel settles into the room

We checked in at 4.30pm and placed our order for the evening meal , there seemed to have been some guessing going on as to what we’d have and Paul seemed to be winning…….

View from the Room

Room with a view

We retired to our room to get ready and also admire the view from the bay window , you couldn’t really ask for a better view across Loch Indaal , Room 4 offers great panoramic views from the top floor . We also watched the going ons outside with the Police using their Speed Gun , first time we’d seen a speed trap on Islay after 14 years of visits !

Mel Chilling out

So we headed down for Melanies birthday meal , we both started with the Locally caught langoustines in Garlic , lemon and tomato – one of them starters where you’ve just got to dive in to get the best out of it . Mel went for the Grilled Sea Bass  with a pistachio and Parmesan Risotto , with sweet potato crisps and parsnip puree for her main meal – she found the combination of flavours and textures and the Risotto was to die for ! I went for the Roast rack of Scottish lamb on a bed of minted pea mash potato with roasted parsnips and carrots , the lamb was perfect , so succulent and juicy . We finished off with the Scottish cheeses with biscuits & chutney . A perfect meal ! We retired to the Lounge and Mel enjoyed the rest of her bottle of wine and i enjoyed a few drams . Later on we had a wee natter to Paul and Joan and then headed off to bed .

The Room

A HUGE Thank You to Paul and Joan for making Mels Birthday so special ! It’s hard to put down in words just how good the food was , no amount of words will do it justice and the An Taigh Osda is indeed a special place on Islay !

Snow Joke !

Tuesday 3rd April Woke up this morning (no this isn’t leading to a Nazareth song….) to Snow over on the hills……..

Snow on the hills

Still not as bad as some parts of Scotland……

After a late breakfast we decided on another easy day , now you may well have noticed by now we haven’t been doing a lot on this visit apart from eat and drink , this isn’t due to the change in weather but to me still feeling slightly under the weather from a heavy cold and chest infection , so we headed along to The Islay House Square to drop some prints off for framing at The Islay Studios , Its always  nice to catch up with Mark and Helga but the only problem with going into their Gallery is that when you’ve admired their work it suddenly brings to the fore your inadequacies in the photographic department….. Their Studio is well worth a visit if you’re passing ! A message to Mr Gray , yes after nearly 7 years we’ve finally got around to getting your prints mounted , we needed to find the right frames……

We headed back to the cottage picking up some more coal en route  and settled down for the rest of the day with a lovely real fire burning in the hearth , some good Single Malts to hand for me and a bottle of Champagne for the good woman .

A quiet day…..

Monday 2nd April

Bit of a dour morning weather wise when we woke up but it did brighten up later . Nothing planned for today so we headed off down to Ardbeg for a spot of lunch . It wasn’t very busy when we got there but it did fill up later . As usual the food was superb , we both went for the same thing , starter of Ardbeg Crab Chowder  with the Ardbeg Burger for the main . After a bit of a natter to the good people of Ardbeg we headed up to Bowmore to pick up a few supplies then back to the cottage . In the evening we headed back down to the south of the Isle to have a meal at The Islay Hotel . Mel went for the Shredded Duck for starter and a Steak for the main course , i went for the Scallops to start with and a steak for the main . It was nice enough but we both agreed it wasn’t a patch on the meal we’d had there 5 weeks ago . Then it was back to the Cottage and a blazing fire……  

A few drams……

Sunday 1st April

Not as good as day as yesterday , getting on to dreich would best describe it , but sunday is a day of rest and we always take it easy after the long day of yesterday . So a lie in , brunch , a quick drive over to Bowmore , a natter to John Maclellan , getting the Fire ready for tonight and now…… trying a few samples of whisky kind friends have sent me over the past few weeks ! 

First up the newest 1990 Bunnahabhain Cask from Berry Bros and Rudd courtesy of Rob , where are all these 1990 sherry casks coming from ? This one is Cask 18 and is 53.1% abv , light mahogany in colour , incredibly rich fruit cake on the nose along with the Bunnahabhain sweetness , definite Christmas cake special . The palate continues on from the nose , a very luxurious , oily dram , a very good sherried Bunnahabhain . There is just a slight hint of “meatiness” on the finish but nothing to spoil the overall enjoyment . A big thumbs up from the delightful Melanies direction as well……

Carrying on the Bunnahabhain sherried theme , the next one comes courtesy of CJ from the Whisky Base shop , a 10yo bottled by The Whisky Agency at 46% from Cask 909 . Dried fruits , cake mix and the Bunnahabhain sweetness (Edinburgh Rock) come through on the nose and palate only this time with youth in it’s favour the Bunnahabhain traits have an easier time over the sherry .  A nicely balanced  Bunnahabhain with the spirit and sherry in good harmony .

Now a slight diversion away from Islay , A 2000 highland Park from the Whisky Base Archives selection , bottled at 50.9% from an ex-bourbon Hoggie it’s very pale in colour , light Chardonnay wine , light and creamy at first on the nose , then banana and fruit salad . The palate is sweet , creamy , nettles (?) , peppery and a little spirity . The finish is spicy but also a little immature , i suspect this wasn’t a very active cask and could have done with either leaving alone for a while or reracking , not you usually Highland Park that’s for sure .

Now on to possibly my favourite non-Islay distillery , Longmorn , this one is a 1988 23yo from Refill Sherry Hogshead #14379 in the First Cask range , abv 52.6% . The initial nose is leather , furniture polish then an astonishing amount of fruit ! Also toffee and very dry sherry . The palate is again dry sherry , dark chocolate , cherry liqueur and creamy coffee . A very good and very different Longmorn to the Independent one’s i’ve been used to , i can now see where the famous old SMWS ones came from with this one .

Next up it’s back to the Archives range for a 1975 36yo Glen Grant , bottled at 46.6% from Hoggie #5476 . An incredibly fruity dram both on the nose and palate , the nose also has an artificial cream tang to it . The palate also has an added spiciness to it with a twist of pepper . A really nice , old Glen Grant .

The Penultimate dram , a 2004 7yo Archive Ledaig at 61.9% from Hogshead #900009 , another light dram , chardonnay wine in colour . A quite light nose , green peat / mossy  , very vegetal with a waft of smoke . The palate is very young tasting , medicinal , lemony but just about drinkable . This definitely could have done it a few more years and it isn’t a patch on the young Ledaig BBR released a couple of years ago .

Lastly it’s back to Islay for a 1998 13yo Laphroaig Archive bottling from Bourbon Hoggie #700228 . Pale gold in colour , the nose is medicinal but quite fresh with lemon . The palate isn’t too powerful (it’s abv is 54.2%) , quite lemony with the medicinalness , not a bad Laphroaig but i’ve had better .

Spring 2012 Visit

Saturday 31st March

Once again it’s time for our Spring Visit to Islay , Doesn’t seem like 5 weeks since we were last here…… This time for a change we’re doing the week leading up to Easter and once again we’re based in Port Charlotte at Sarah Roys Lorgba Cottages . As usual it’s an early start on the first day to get up to Kennacraig for the 1pm ferry across to Port Askaig . We encountered a bit of fog once we’d reached Carlisle but by the time we reached the other side of the Clyde it was a fantastic Spring Morning , we even stopped on the top of Rest and Be Thankful to capture some of the gorgeous views…….

(click on photos to see full size versions)

Even Inveraray wasn’t it usual rainswept self…….

After our usual pre-ferry Coffee and cake in Tarbert , it was off to the Ferry Terminal and a rather busy Finlaggan due to the School Easter Hols just starting , it was a lovely trip across…….

Leaving West Loch Tarbert

 The sunshine continued on Islay and after settling down in Carraig we went off for tea at the Port Charlotte Hotel , Mel had a nice steak and i went for  the Sea Bass and Scallop combo , mine was washed down with a lovely pint of Angus Og and a Lagavulin 12yo . We retired back to the cottage and got the homefire burning and i finished the night off with a couple of drams of the Geordie Laddies own 10yo Port Charlotte , Well when in Port Charlotte……….