Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Figures !

Wednesday 30th July 2014 

It’s funny how figures (i.e. of the number variety) play an important part in your life and when you start thinking of them all sorts of things pop into your head . For instance when i opened the two Ardbeg 1978’s i thought back to 1978 , the year the two of us left School , 36 years ago this very summer ! It’s also 36 years ago that we both started work in the very same summer…..

Talking of summers it was 30 years ago this summer i had my very first holiday in Scotland , camping with my old mate Dave Embleton who also introduced me to the delights of Single Malts on that trip (my first Malt was a 10yo Macallan) . Wow 30 years of drinking Single Malt Scotch Whisky and according to some i still don’t have a clue about it……

This year has been very special so far ,this year we done our first Whisky Festival on the ‘other’ side of the table , serving up Amrut to the good people of Newcastle standing in for Mr Amrut himself Ashok. We must have done something right as he’s asked us to do another 3 ! We took our first trip together outside of the UK (my first flight ) to Toronto , where we done our first Whisky Masterclass on the ‘other’ side of the table at the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala, This one mustn’t have went so well as no one’s asked us to do another one…… LOL!!!! (only kidding Johanna , Melanie keeps telling me how good i was !) 

  Todays date is the most important figure , the 30th of July , it was on this day i got married to the most important Woman in my life , Melanie , Twenty years ago ! Where has the time gone ? For 15 of those twenty years we have been coming to this beautiful isle , this is our 37th visit (hence the part XXXVII of the title for those of you of a slow disposition…..) , 10 years ago we spent our 10th anniversary on the Isle ( at the Old School , Ardbeg ) , Ardbeg even had a special bottle on sale on that visit , the 1990 for Japan at £60 (not for our 10th anniversary i hasten to add…..)  .

So what are we doing today ? We’ll probably making a lot of people sick with our lovey dovey ness LOL ! We’ll definitely be going out for a meal at our favourite eatery tonight and i dare say a fair bit of Alcohol will be consumed along the way……

To My Gorgeous Wife , Happy Twentieth Wedding Anniversary Darling !

There are many more to come !!!! 

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Islay Visits Part XXXVII – A Tale of Two Distilleries…..

Tuesday 29th July 2014

It was a bit of an overcast morning when we emerged from the cottage , So after a rather late breakfast we decided to head up to a favourite spot of ours in the north-east of the Isle , Bunnahabhain . I love going up that part of the isle , the drive up the road makes you feel as though you are somewhere else , it was also quite sunny when we arrived there ! There was quite a lot going on around the distillery as they were transferring stock to new casks , mainly sherry butts by the looks of it , Long John was busy on the fork lift and there was bodies flying in and out of various warehouse doors ! We made our way up to the shop and were greeted by a very enthusiastic guide who no sooner were we in the door was offering us a dram and making pleasant conversation . Sorry i didn’t take her name but she did say you’d just started recently at the distillery and she is thoroughly enjoying her job , she was a lovely lass ! After a natter with Lillian we went for a bit of a walk along the pier , said hello to Long John and made our way back to “Other Places” .

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We had a drive up the Mulindry Road which these days is remarkably quiet , especially of pigs ! Once reaching the High Road we headed into Bowmore to pick up a few Post Cards and try out the new “Taste of Islay” Bistro in the former distillery warehouse  . We’d heard mixed reports about it but decided to give it a go , you can get anything from a Sandwich (£8) to various dishes ( from £8 for Seafood ) , tea , coffee , cakes , wine , whisky , beer….

We went for a couple of Cream Scones and a Tea and Coffee . Things didn’t get off to a good start when one of the paper menus we were given had the remains of someone elses meal on it and for some reason the Scones took a good 10-15mins to arrive after the drinks . The other thing that spoiled it was the fruit scones were hot and the Jam and cream just melted and rolled off it….. The scones weren’t a patch on the ones we had at The Bridgend Hotel last week and the bill came to £3.30 more than the same drinks and cakes we have at The Celtic House Coffee shop . I’ll let you draw your own conclusion……

To finish the afternoon off we popped into the Distillery Visitors Centre , where the reception was the exact opposite of the Bunnahabhain one ! Now before anyone thinks we’ve got a downer on the Bowmore Distillery , we love the place , done loads of tours here , have stayed at their wonderful Cottages quite a lot recently (they are well recommended!) , it’s just that the Customer Service at the VC could do with improving , it’s always nice to get a friendly greeting when you walk in the door or some kind of acknowledgement ! (and this is not a new thing)

Anyway we headed back to the Cottage for a tea of Islay Venison Burgers and a few drams to finish the night……..   

 

Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Nice walk in the Woods

Monday 28th July 2014

After the rain of the past two days it was nice to wake up to a nice dry morning ! We decided to do one of our favourite walks on Islay today , Bridgend Woods . The weather remained cloudy with sunny intervals as we made our way round the woods , there is something very relaxing about wandering through woodlands . On the way in we bumped into Dougie and his partner from Ardbeg picking Wild Raspberries , there seems to be a good crop this year so far with more to come !

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River Sorn on the edge of Bridgend Woods

When we turned onto the track towards the mill we got a bit of a shock , a young deer was standing feeding and didn’t stop until we got really close…..

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There were plenty of Butterflies around the woods including the Speckled Wood and Large White……

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The Large White

All in all it was a great afternoon…..

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Melanies Annual pose at the Bridge 

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Melanie inspects the new bridge near Bridgend

After such exertion it was only right that we gave ourselves a treat , so it was off to the Celtic House for Coffee and cakes ! Then it was back to the Cottage for a rather nice Islay Steak and an evening of relaxation ! 

Islay Visit Part XXXVII – A wet weekend

Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th July 2014

What went wrong ? We woke up to rain on the Saturday Morning ! Bad news for Bowmore Sports Day but we weren’t too bothered as we’d decided just to bum about the cottage today . It did clear up later just in time for us to have a trip out over to the Lochside to say hello to Phil (Gray) . Then it was off to bed after a few nightcaps……

Sunday was rain as well for most of the day but again it cleared up later . We headed down to Ardbeg for our Sunday lunch , We both had the Seafood Chowder to start with then had the Chilli Con Carne for mains , it was surprisingly hot which suited us down to the ground ! I went for one more tattie than a pig and had a dessert , you cannot whack the Ardbeg Clootie dumpling !!!! As usual The Old Kiln proved it’s self very good value for money with their offerings , i don’t think there is anywhere else on the isle that gives such a good offerings for the amount you get and the price , big thumbs up to them for doing so !

On the way back we popped in to see another couple of good friends  , Paul and Joan at An Taigh Osda , to catch up then it was back to the cottage for another evening of relaxing in the Sun Porch watching the night descend with a dram or two ,  Opened a bottle i haven’t had for a couple of years last night , The Ardbeg Renaissance , can’t go wrong with a 10yo Beg at Cask Strength from First Fill Bourbon Casks , Delicious !!!

Tonights wine…..

Henry of Pelham 2011 Chardonnay 

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Nose – Freshly picked apples , hint of citric (Grapefruit?)
Palate – A boat load of apples , very fresh across the palate .
Comment – A lovely chardonnay wine , smooth with a quite long finish . Another Niagara stunner !

Islay Visits PartXXXVII – Now where were we?

Wednesday 23rd July

Seeing it was such another glorious day we decided on a short walk , we headed off down south to Kilnaughton bay for a walk around to the Singing Sands . The bay was very busy with sunbathers so we parked up beside the Cemetery and walked around the bay itself .

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2014_07_23_1One of the Beautifully maintained Cemeteries 2014_07_23_2The View across Kilnaughton Bay to Port Ellen
2014_07_23_3Port Ellen Maltings 2014_07_23_4The Singing Sands
2014_07_23_5View across to Port Ellen 2014_07_23_6Melanie Sunbathing

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Carraig Fhada Lighthouse

After a glorious afternoon on the beach we headed back to Lyrabus to carry on the sun worshipping outside the cottage . On this trip we haven’t had many encounters with the local Raptor population , tonights was the closest we seen , it was down the bottom of the field and across the road , thank god for long , decent Canon Glass ! the first one is the actual view and the second is zoomed in thanks to computer software . 

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For Tea we we had a rather nice Islay Sirloin Steak washed down with a lovely fruity Le Clos Jordanne Twenty Mile Bench 2009 Pinot Noir .

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The evening was ended with a few drams and a bit chat in the daftmill chatroom .

Thursday 24th July

Today was a bit of an easy day , we headed off to lunch at Ardbeg to start with , Melanie had a Prawn with Marie Rose sauce Salad and i had  Chicken Strips in an Ardbeg Pepper sauce with rice , we both pigged out with a pudding of Strawberries , fresh cream and ice cream . After a bit of sun bathing at the pier we had a drive along Kildalton before heading back to Lyrabus to freshen up .

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The view from Ardbeg Pier

We headed over to Bowmore in the evening to pay the Nippy Chippy van our first visit of 2014 , Fish suppers all round !

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Needless to say the weather in Bowmore was stunning this evening !

On returning to the Cottage it was time for a glass of wine……

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Pillitteri 2012 Pinot Grigio

Nose – Florally , smells of old fashioned apples .
Palate – Fizz of summer freshness , smooth and zesty
Comment – Another Fantastic wine from Ontario

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The Girls appeared for their treats !

 

Friday 25th July

The final day of the first week (don’t you just love it when you know there’s another week to go ?) , the sun was shining so we headed off down The Rhinns for a walk around Port Wemyss and Portnahaven . We’d been to Portnahaven a few times but never really bothered with Port Wemyss for some reason ! It was a glorious walk in probably the hottest temperatures of the week…….

2014_07_25_01One of the old landings 2014_07_25_02Across the water
2014_07_25_03Melanie relaxing ! 2014_07_25_04Portnahaven
2014_07_25_05Along the Street 2014_07_25_06The Good Old days
2014_07_25_07Flowers 2014_07_25_08A street in Port Wemyss
2014_07_25_09The Coastal Walk 2014_07_25_10The Landing

On the way back up The Rhinns we popped in for a natter with Martine (Nouet) , she also gave us a try of her remarkable 2001 First fill Barrel of Port Charlotte , probably one of the best PC’s i’ve tried , loaded with tropical fruit , the familiar PC ‘ashes’ and it is the proverbial ‘dying bonfire on the beach’ , Brilliant ! Then after a slight detour to Bowmore to pick up some supplies it was back to the cottage to have a bite to eat and a drink in the sweltering evening heat . In all the time we’ve been coming to Islay i cannot remember such a spell of sunny days !

Tonights wine delight……. 

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Peller Estates 2012 Chardonnay

Nose – clean and fresh nose , green fruits
Palate –  green and tropical fruits , smooth across the palate .
Comment – a very smooth chardonnay , no a bit of tarteness like a few other chardonnays I’ve had from other places .

The continuing Islay Visit Part XXXVII

Tuesday 22nd July

Turned into a bit of a quiet day activity wise (it’s allowed to , we’re on holiday!) , first off we drove across to Machir Bay where it was a bit blowy off the Atlantic , then we headed across to Bruichladdich to say hello to our good friend Mary (McGregor) and pick up some cask samples . After a bit of a blether we headed down to Ardbeg for a bite to eat but decided to give it a miss when we saw the crowd that was there ! So it was back to Bowmore for a coffee at Roys with a slice of possibly the best Lemon Drizzle Cake i’ve ever had ! Wherever we go for coffee/tea and cakes we have to say the home baking is exceptional on Islay ! Then it was a visit to the Islay Whisky Shop next door and i actually purchased a bottle there ! I’m a bit of a sucker for an aged Bunnahabhain so when i saw this 1991 22yo from a sherry cask at £65 i was sold (even though it’s only 46%)…..

(click on photo to see full size)

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Then it was back to the Cottage for an afternoon and evening of whisky drinking and messing around with the 400mm lens on the 6D…….

bowmorethe same previous view of Bowmore with the 400 lens 

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One of the farm breed Heilan Ponies

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What i think are the new Kilchoman Warehouses in Bruichladdich

Tasting Notes……

Lagavulin 2014 Feis Ile

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54.7% Distilled 1995 Bottled 2014

Burnished Gold / Orange Marmalade in Colour , a wonderful sherried Lagavulin nose , smoky as you’d expect , touch of red and dried fruits , Christmas cake dough and bonfires on the beach .A delight on the palate again lots of smoke and Christmas cake . Also Cola Cubes sweets and dry sherry . The finish is long and smoky sherry .

Once again Iain has excelled at what he does best , finding the perfect Lagavulin Sherry casks to go into a Feis Ile bottling , at £99 it is good value for a 19yo Islay . Very recommended !!!

Ardbeg 1978 O.b.

1978 was a bit of a significant year in our lives , we both left school in the summer of this year (36 years ago !) and we both started work not long after , it was also a pretty good year for Ardbeg…….

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A beautiful gold colour in the glass with lovely oily legs , loads of oak on the nose at first , then the Ardbeg-dine (as in Iodine but Ardbegs own special version) with a slight hint of peat and creamy coffee . On the palate again there’s creamy coffee , oak , touch of peat and the ‘dine . The finish is quite long with a lovely sweetness mingling with the peat and ‘dine  . It’s good to bring a special Beg ‘Home’ 16 years after it left  ! Beg as it used to be !

SOS 1978 22yo Casks 1999/2000

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A slightly lighter gold in colour than the O.b. , not as much oak on the nose as the O.b. more farm yardie than anything else and very vegetal . Eventually you get Creamy Coffee and Chocolate coming through , not much peat or Ardbeg-dine . Very relaxed on the palate at first for Cask Strength but it does eventually kick in , more peat here with the ‘dine , it does resemble a beg but not one as in the 74’s , 75’s and 76’s , not even the beautiful monster that is the 77 O.b. . The Finish is long and….. well peaty , vegetal but definitely Beg !

Not ya standard Beg but I love it ! It does make you wonder if this is what it’s like at CS (56.9%) what would all the watered down Connoisseur Choices have been like if they’d left them like this ? An absolutely yummy Beg that I’m glad I bought to Islay !

Two Cask Samples……

 

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Port Charlotte 2002 Spirit of Islay Cask

OMG! This has progressed so much since I last tried it, there is now a strong hint of the Sherry Cask, there wasn’t before. The nose is of a dying bonfire on a beach mixing in with the sherry , it has all the hallmarks of the PC spirit , the palate is very chewy but the bonfire / ashes theme continues, the finish is very long. To me Port Charlotte has been the success of the distillery , i’ve bottled to excellent casks so far and this third one looks like it will be the same ! Jim had a sniff of this at the distillery and his eyes nearly popped out ! He remarked on a boot polish smell and what a cracking spirit it was . 3 more years to go…..

Bruichladdich 2008 Spirit of Islay II Cask

Still quite young (drawn days before its 6th birthday) but it has the Laddie characteristics, on the nose it smells wonderful, creamy toffee, green fruits, vanilla and coffee (?). On the palate it is still very spirity, he’ll of a kick (guess it’s still in the high 60 s ABV Wise) but it’s getting there! Addition of water calms the palate down a bit. Another 4 years for this should see the palate loose it’s spiritiness and it develope into a cracking Laddie .

Islay Visit Part XXXVII The Second Instalment !

Sunday 20th July (Continued)

After a bit natter to Jackie about life on the Isle (including the new community run Petrol Station at Port Ellen ) we headed back to Lyrabus to spend the night sitting in the porch enjoying the evening summer sunshine with a glass or two of Canadian wine…….

Norman Hardie 2011 Chardonnay Unfiltered

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Nose – Very fruity on the nose , green fruits – apples , pears and gooseberries ,
Palate – thick on the palate , again green fruits with a touch of oak
Comment – Class in a glass ! a lovely white wine that goes down exceedingly well .

(Click on the photos for full size)

Neighbourly get together

Neighbourly get together

across the Loch…..

Monday 21st July

Woke up to a bit of a misty morning weather wise but that wasn’t to last long , it turned out to be a bit of a scorcher ! So hot even the coos decided to go down to the beach !

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The morning was spent getting in a few more supplies and catching up with people , first stop was The Islay House Square where we bumped into Mark Unsworth on our way to Islay Ales . It’s good to hear he’s having a good year doing lots of good photographic business . Then it was on to Islay Ales find Paul , Steve and the gang hard at work (yes even Steve…. LOL!) , a few bottles were picked up along with a couple of new glasses . Then it was off to Bowmore to pick up a few bits and pieces before returning to the cottage via the Bridgend Hotel (for a Coffee and Scone break ) .

In the Afternoon we decided to have a short walk along the road in the direction of Gruinart , it was absolutely beautiful , weather and scenery wise , we’re now looking a bit Ian Gray Lobsterish now !

Gruinart in the Distance

Gruinart in the Distance

Melanie on the bridge

Melanie on the bridge

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The road to Nowhere....

The road to Nowhere….

Our cottage from the road

Our cottage from the road

In the beautiful Sunshine I also took another panoramic shot from the cottage , the heat also drove me to try a bottle or two of the Islay Ales (the Single Malt and Saligo )……

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After a bite to eat it was down to the business of sitting in the sun porch while enjoying a glass or two of Canadian Wine while watching the world and the two ponies wander by…….

Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve 2011 Chardonnay

Nose – A lot of Grapefruit / Citric on the nose. Quite fresh and sweet.
Palate – Lots of green fruits ( apples , pears , gooseberries ) , thick across the palate but silky smooth .
Comment – Another delicious wine from Niagara that goes down rather well .