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 !

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………. 

Eight go wild on Islay !

So once again we head over to Islay , this time with a purpose……. To bottle the Geordie Laddies Ex-Bourbon Barrel of 10yo Port Charlotte Residing at Bruichladdich Distillery ! Also we have the company of nearly all the members of the cask Syndicate , 6 to be exact , none of whom have been to Islay before !

Thursday 23rd February

We set off a little bit earlier this trip due to Rest and be thankful being closed ( there had been a lot of rain and one of the alarms had went off ) , so it was the Tarbet – Crianlarich diversion. We had a bit of rain and wind on the way up  but managed to get up safely stopping off at Balloch for breakfast. And Tarbert for morning coffee before arriving at Kennacraig. 

The ferry was very quiet , and we had a smooth crossing with just a touch of swell . Once on Islay ,we made our way to our place of stay .Distillery House , Bowmore (one of Bowmore Distilleries Cottages) . a nice rental , well equipped   and a bottle of Bowmore 12 waiting on the table upon you arrival .After a freshen up , a dram and a  consultation with a few of our friends on the isle , we decided to give The Lochside a  try for somewhere to eat and a good choice it tuned out to be , greatly improved since our last visit last September . The food was spot on and much appreciated by the group !  After a few drinks everyone retired to the cottage to get some sleep before the main event of this trip…..

Friday 24th February

(Click on photos to see full size version)

So the day of the bottling finally arrived , it’s a day i’ve been waiting for for over 6 years following the disappointment of not getting to Islay to see my Bloodtub being bottled due to the weather knocking off the ferries .So it was an early start to the day to be at Laddie by 9am . The best laid plans don’t always work out , a few hiccups ensued but slightly later than expected we actually got to see the cask being bottled !

The first sighting of the whisky was in a little glass container to the top left of the bottling machine and i was taken aback by how much darker it was than the last sample over a year and a half ago .

Filling the first bottles

And there's more.....

Four bottles were filled at a time and the Guys doing the filling even allowed us to have a go…...

Eddie gets his chance

My Turn !

We got our first try of the whisky at this point from a plastic jug ! Needless to say it went down very well !!!! We were also given a try of the Islay gin which was being bottled on the main line while ours was getting done .

The Caps being applied

The Numbers start growing

After getting over the shock at the strength it was still at after 10 years our next thoughts were how many bottles ? The boys thought it was going to be about 220 given the volume loaded into the filling container , we were hoping for more and we got it ! 243 bottles !

Wor Stash !!!

At this point there was a lull in proceedings to work out the costs, apply the tax sticker and box up (there wasn’t time to label so we said we’d pick the labels up the next day and put them on ourselves ) so we went off on a tour of the distillery with Mary . As usual it was a great tour with Mary , full of her wit and wisdom .

Mary introduces the gang to Ugly Betty

In The Still Room

So after the tour we headed back to the shop for a try of the Current valinch , an aced Port Charlotte just over 9 years old . By this time the boxed bottles were ready for loading into the transport and we bid our farewells to the Staff at Laddie . Many thanks to Jonathan and the 2 lads in the bottling hall for a superb morning .

After dropping the 41 cases off at the cottage we headed off to Ardbeg for a spot of lunch . We got the usual warm welcome in the Old Kiln and settled down for a bite to eat and very nice it was ! Most of the boys went for the Baked Tattie with Haggis , Mel went for the Tattie with Prawn Marie Rose  and i went for The Pasta Bolognese . After being fed and watered we went off with Emma for a tour of the distillery . Emmas tour flew over , i know some of the lads really appreciated her going into the history of the place and her telling us anyone could ask a question except me as mine were usually too technical ! 

After the tour we retired to the Chairmans Study to partake in some of the wares and were joined by Mickey armed with a few extra drams , very nice they were too ! It was nice that the lads got to have a chat to a manager on their first visit to Islay , always a special moment (well in my eyes anyway !) .

After bidding goodbye , we headed back to the cottage to freshen up before hitting Bowmore for an Indian and a couple of drinks . Later on i got to catch up with Phil Gray in Duffies Bar , nice to finally meet someone in the flesh who i’d only spoke to on line ! 

Saturday 25th February

Another bit of an early start to the day as Mel and Myself headed for a flying visit to The Rhinns , first stop Port Charlotte to pay Sarah Roy for our Easter Rental and then Bruichladdich Distillery to pick up the labels .

The Finished Article !

After returning the Boys headed off to Bowmore Distillery for a tour while Mel relaxed . The tour was very good , giving the lads a chance to see a working Floor Maltings and the guide was very good (sorry can’t remember her name !) . We were given the darkest as the end of dram tour .

In the afternoon the lads headed off for a tour of the Isle while Mel and myself first of all dropped into the Lochside for a light lunch ( very , very good , Mel had Prawn Marie Rose Baked Tattie and i went for the Leek and Potato Soup . Well recommended) then headed off for a drive . First stop was Bunnahabhain , it was great to be back at one of our favourite spots but so depressing to see the Cottage falling apart , literally ! C’mon Burns Stewart do something about this !!!!
We then headed over the Mulindry Road where we encountered some of the local wildlife and some more geese !

Mels new friend !

We love going over that road , it never fails to produce the goods animal wise and Mel got to make a new friend…….

For the Evening we headed down to Port Ellen to meet up with Ella at Islays Newest Hotel . This was our first visit to The Islay Hotel as it opened just slightly after our last visit . A few of us got a bit of a shock at the Bar prices , £6.95 for a bottle of Colonsay Lager !

It was a busy night in the Restaurant , someone was celebrating their 70th Birthday , but we eventually got sat down for what turned out to be an excellent meal . The starter tried included Haggis parcels , Duck Pate ( Mel Choice ) and Scallops (my choice) . Main meals sampled included Fish and Chips , The Chicken Breast , The Steak and The Islay Fish Selection – i had this and if you love fish you can’t go wrong with this ! Meals at the Islay Hotel aren’t cheap , Mid to High range for Islay but the quality is reflected in this price and i can say we’ll be back there again pretty soon ! A grand night was had by all and it was nice for the Geordie Laddies to meet the person who handled the sale of our cask by the distillery ! It’s always a pleasure to spend a night out with Ella !!!

The Islay Hotel is very nice inside and done out to a very high standard and as stated the food is excellent .

We bid our farewells and headed back to Bowmore to get our heads down for the final time this trip .

Sunday 26th February

Always the saddest day the day of departure , we headed off to Port Askaig to pick up the morning ferry . Once on board we had a Calmac Breakfast and sat back and enjoyed a calm crossing over to the mainland . Till the next time on Islay……

 

The Geordie Laddies Photo Galleries

Here are some photo Galleries from other members of the Syndicate……. 

Eddies….
Geoffs….

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)

Butterfly

Butterfly

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…..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 .

Lagavulin

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

Bay

Deer

Deer

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…..so 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 http://www.go-selfcatering.co.uk/maolbuidhecottage/ , 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 .

Easter 2011

Saturday 23rd April

It’s time for our annual Spring week visit to Islay…… Once again we left at the early hour of 4.30am , the journey up was in a mixture of misty and rain weather wise , it wasn’t until we got close to Kennacraig it became lovely and sunny but windy . The journey over was smooth and sunny….but windy….. Arriving at Carraig Cottages we were in the perfect weather , Clear skys , sun and no wind ! We settled in , freshened up and then went off to the Port Charlotte Hotel for Tea and a drink . Mel had the Thai Red Curry , i had the Braised Lamb Shank . A pint of Angus Og and a couple of drams later ( a PC8 and a Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhona , both good drams but the Bunna definitely shades it ) we headed back to the Cottage to enjoy the evening sunshine and a few drams of Airigh Nam Beist , well i did , Mel had her usual wine .

(click on photos to see full size versions)

Sunny PC The Paps
Me in PC Mel in PC

Sunday 24th

Our first full day on Islay , we awoke to an overcast morning , we were going to drive down to Ardbeg and have lunch at the Old Kiln but unfortunately it was shut so instead we went to the Bridgend Hotel and had Sunday lunch there . The Bridgend Hotel is one place that seems to have been getting it’s act together over the past couple of years , The Lunch was fantastic , i had the venison and Mel had the Beef , we both had the Strawberry cheesecake for pudding . We returned to the cottage in beautiful sunshine and sat outside in the lovely weather admiring the view .

Mel outside Carraig Cottage Port Charlotte Lighthouse Oystercatchers

Just as we were packing up to go for a short walk i finally got to meet another local who i’ve read in words on the internet , Carl Reavey , after a wee bit of a natter he continued his walk with his wife and i set off on ours with mine……

We walked along to the lighthouse , back again , along the sands to the Pier , around the bottom of the village then returned to via the Port Charlotte Hotel , not far but a nice early evening walk , we even managed to miss the otter playing in front of our cottages !!!! We decided to pop into the hotel for a bit of light refreshment , there was a band playing that night and Grahame seeing a camera asked me to take a few photos for him……

Band in PCH Band at PCH Band at PCH

You may well see some of these photos on the walls of the Hotel in the not to distant future…….

Grahame of the PCH

Graham doing his finest superman impersonation……or he lost his rolls of wallpaper…… He actually gave us a song !

Drams tonight included G&M 1996 Cask Strength Caol Ila , Kilchoman Summer 2010 , QOTM Peated Bunnahabhain (82 bottles) , And an Ardbeg Uigeadail .

Monday 25th

Woke up to another sunny day on the Isle , we decided just to potter around today so headed down to Ardbeg for lunch , i had a Crab chowder soup followed by a Haggis baked potato with Clootie dumpling , Mel had a Prawn Marie Rose Baked Tattie followed by Tangy Lemon Tarte . Not often you here me complain about the food at the Old Kiln but mine could have done with a sauce rather than the Onion Marmalade , it was a tad too dry……. After catching up with Emma , Margaret and Janey we popped along to Lagavulin to book up the warehouse tour for thursday . We had a wee natter with Marjory before she headed off with a tour .

Next we popped into Laddie to see our good friend Mary , as usual she was in fine form , We even got to try the gin (Mmmmmm….) , the current valinch and the Black Arts 2 .

Tonights drams included a Laphroaig 10 , Macphails 1991 Bunnahabhain , Caol Ila 10yo Unpeated and Laphroaig 10yo CS Batch 001 .

Tuesday 26th

Yet another Glorious day on Islay , after a late breakfast we headed to the south shore to do a short walk up to Loch Iarnan , the last time we went up here we got drenched ( See here ) so it was nice to do it in lovely sunshine with a nice breeze to keep us cool .

Mel at Loch Iarnan Primroses

There was a nice display of wildflowers on the way to the loch , including primroses , once at the Loch the ground under foot was wet and we only made it slightly around the back of the loch .
We headed back to the cottage afterwards and enjoyed an afternoon and early evening in the sunshine , even receiving a visit from a local cat ‘ before heading off to the Port Charlotte Hotel for a meal .

Waves on a rock A worried Oystercatcher A local Cat

Wednesday 27th

Woke up to a beautiful clear sky this morning so we decided to head off for a late morning walk to one of our favourite places , Bridgend Woods ! There was still a bit of a chill in the breeze but once in the woods we didn’t notice it , The place was awash with bluebells , almost a carpet in places but there were still a lot to come out so it’ll be a riot of Blue when they do !

Carpet of Bluebells Single Bluebell Primroses and Bluebells

As well as the Bluebells there was also a fair smattering of Primroses and it looked like some of the Rhododendrons are about to spring into life .

Mel on the Bridge The River

We spotted quite a few butterflies around , the usual suspects and the one on the end photo which we haven’t a clue what it is .

The River Bank The River Bank A Butterfly

As we were removing our boots an old friend pulled up in the car park , Ed Bates ( formerly of BBR) , we caught up and then headed off our separate ways . He was heading to Bowmore Distillery , we were going to Ardbeg for a late lunch . On arrival we bumped into Georgie Crawford the new Manageress of Lagavulin Distillery and a friend of old , hopefully we can catch up properly tomorrow on our visit . Once again it was a very nice lunch We both went for Crab Chowder , Smoked Haddock , leek and parmesan Quiche with a white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake as pudding . After a natter with Margaret , we headed off to Bowmore to pick up some supplies before returning to the cottage for a lazy evening .

Thursday 28th

An early start to the day to catch a bus down to Port Ellen , the reason ? The Lagavulin Warehouse Tour with Pinkie ! We caught the bus just outside the cottage and after a change at Bowmore got down to Port Ellen about 9.20am and set off to walk along the South Shore road . It’s a beautiful walk especially on a really nice day like today . We got along to Laphroaig when a kindly soul offered us a lift the rest of the way . Arriving too early we took a little walk further up the road and ended up at the back of the Distillery .

Lagavulin Distillery Dunyveg Castle

Once again the warehouse tour was fantastic again , Pinkie was in fine form with his usual sense of humour but i do wonder if the foreign visitors get all his jokes ? The drams were once again great and included….

  • New Make
  • 10yo 2nd Refill
  • Mystery Cask 14yo 4th Refill
  • 1993 Refill Sherry
  • 1966 45yo
  • Lagavulin Distillery Only Bottling

After a bit of a natter with Georgie on the way out we walked along to Ardbeg for Lunch , Todays lunch was Cullen Skink soup and Baked potato for Mel , Cullen Skink , Crab Fishcakes and Clottie Dumpling for me . Superb as usual . We headed off for the bus after a catch up with Mickey and returned to the cottage . After a freshen up and a bit sun worshiping we went off to the PCH for a bite to eat (Mels usual Thai Red Curry and i had Lagavulin Scallops….)

Ardbeg Distillery The Grass is always greener.....

Friday 29th

Our last official full day on the Isle and a quiet one and another beautiful day ! After a late breakfast it was a drive down to Ardbeg for lunch stopping at Bridgend to buy the only whisky purchase of this holiday , a 10yo Unpeated Caol Ila , i think i’ve been very good this holiday with Purchases !

10yo Caol ila Unpeated

You don’t really want to know what we had at The Old Kiln do you ?

Oh alright then , Mel had the Salmon and Tomato Chowder , the crab Fish cakes and a Scone and cream to finish with . I went for the Peking Duck wrap followed by a Chocolate and marshmallow Cheesecake . After spending an hour or so sunning ourselves on the tables outside we headed back to the Cottage , stopping off at An Taigh Osda to drop in and say hello to Paul and Joan . We’ll be spending a quiet night in the cottage with a meal , wine and whisky and a lovely real fire !

Saturday 30th

The day of departure…… we couldn’t get on the usual morning ferry this morning so we ended up with another half day on Islay . An early start to load the car , we bid our farewells to Carraig and headed north , well north west to Kilchoman , Mel wanted to have a look at the shop seeing we had a bit of spare time . Needless to say i drove carefully up to the distillery……..

We then headed to Bridgend to get some petrol (£1.50.5 a litre……) and i succumbed to another 10yo Unpeated Caol Ila , then we had a drive along to Bowmore where i completely collapsed and went for the 12yo Unpeated Caol Ila . We then went back to the Bridgend Hotel for lunch , we both had a Prawn Cocktail for starters and the Venison Burger for the main , The meal was excellent again , well recommended for somewhere to eat and not too costly either ! We then headed to Port Askaig for the ferry and a meeting up with someone i’ve spoken too loads on the web but never seen in the flesh , Ron from Islayinfo.com . We had a good natter about things Islay past and present then we bid our farewell to him and the Isle and boarded the Hebridean Isles . Enjoy your 3 week stay Ron ! The crossing wasn’t too bad given the windy conditions .

So that’s another Islay adventure over , looking forward already to the next one……

Roll on September !!!!

The Panoramas !

Even though one of our favourite spots is Bunnahabhain i think deep down in our hearts the South shore of Islay wins all the time as our favourite part of the Isle . Once you get past the 3 famous distilleries i think it’s the sheer ruggedness of the place and the Fantastic scenery .

(Click on photos to see a larger version)

Ardbeg distillery

Taken from the road as we walked along from Lagavulin , Ardbeg is definitely the most Picturesque of the Distilleries in the most beautiful of surroundings .

Looking towards Kintyre

This one was taken part of the way up the farm track as you walk up from Ardbeg to Loch Iarnan looking over the south shore towards Kintyre.

Above Loch Iarnan

Taken higher up from the rear of  Loch Iarnan again looking across to Kintyre .