Summer 2012 Trip – The Last Bit !

Thursday 23rd August

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

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Jura ferry Craighouse Harbour

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



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

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

Friday 24th August

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

Port Chalotte View

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

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

Saturday 25th August

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

Lagavulin Bay

Lagavulin Bay

Cottage Stitch

360 view from the Cottage Jetty

Summer 2012 Trip – more…..

Monday 20th August

Another bright and sunny start to the day , we decided to do one of our favourite walks today , the Bridgend Woods circular . Most of it is over hard track but the Claggan strip is through muddy pathways and it was muddy ! We didn’t see much wildlife on the walk apart from loads of butterflys – which seems to fly against what is been said on the mainland that the butterfly population is on the decline .

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Bridgend Woods Butterfly 1
Butterfly 2 Butterfly 3

Just as we departed the Claggan strip and turned on to the Bridgend path the heavens opened and we got caught in a torrential down pour and got well and truly soaked ! After scampering (or squelching depending on which way you look at it ) back to the car we went home via Bowmore to pick some meats up from the butchers . After a change of clothes at the cottage and a change of weather – it went back to glorious sunshine – we paid a flying visit to port Ellen then returned to the cottage to see the day out……

Tuesday 21st August

Turned in to a bit of a whisky day today , woke up to sunshine again and headed off to walk along to Lagavulin for Pinkies now legendary warehouse demonstration . Got there in plenty of time to do the 9.30am distillery tour beforehand . Ruth gave us a very good tour before handing us over to Iain , also giving Iain a hand was Lagavulins recently appointed Local ambassador , David Woods , it was nice to finally meet David in person having spoke to him lots on Facebook . As usual Iains tour was as entertaining as ever and contained some great Lagavulins , Straight From The Cask ! We started off with New make then went onto an 2003 8yo Sherry cask , which turned out to be both our favourites of this tour . Then it was onto a 10yo refill sherry – which was actually a former Port Ellen cask – this one was still a little immature , the third cask was a sister cask to this years Feis Ile bottling , a 14yo , it was very nice but not a patch on the 1st one . The final dram was the current Distillers Edition (a 1995) . At the end we had a bit of a natter with Iain before setting off to Ardbeg for lunch (again) .

Lagavulin 1 Lagavulin 2

Once again we went for the Islay Crab Chowder to start followed by Salmon Fishcake . It was during the food that i decided i wanted to do a tour of Ardbeg (just for a change….) , Mel went back to the cottage after lunch while i headed off on the ‘Old and New’ tour with Dougie . After a comprehensive tour of the distillery we went off up to the Committee room on the top floor of the Old Kiln for a tasting . We started off with the 1981 Kildalton – A stunning Ardbeg – This was followed by the Ardbeg Still Young , then it was onto a 2006 Cask sample from a sherry cask , then it was onto a 2002 10yo 1st fill bourbon cask sample ( my favourite type of Ardbeg !) . At the end we were given the choice of 2 drams from the current Range , everyone went for the Uigeadail and Corryvrecken . It was a thoroughly enjoyable tour by Dougie , a good range of stories on top of the tour from someone who actually lived in Ardbeg Village in the early 60’s .

Ardbeg 1

The Old Malt Bins

Ardbeg 2

Dougie next to the Boby Mill

Ardbeg 3

inside the mash tun

Ardbeg 4

The Wash Backs

Ardbeg 5

The Still House

Ardbeg 6

The Spirit Safe

Then it was back to the Cottage to sober up…….

Wednesday 22nd August

Another sunny start to the day (don’t believe the weather forecasters….) , after a bit of a lie in we headed up to Bunnahabhain for a drive , it’s so nice to visit the place , even if sometimes the heart can sink at the state of the place but it was the scene of so many nice holiday memories . After catching up with Lillian we headed back to Bowmore calling in at the Perabus Pottery and Ballygrant Inn on the way . In Bowmore we picked up some Spirited Soap for home and a copy of the ‘Islay Edition’ Monopoly (had to , WBRNT !) . Then it was back to the cottage…….


Missed Views……

Summer 2012 Trip – continued – Friday 17th August

So to the the final day of our first week and it was raining when we woke up . We decided to carry on with the take it easy regime and did bugger all till we drove down to Port Ellen to get a Nippy Chippy . By the time we left for our fish supper the weather had totally changed , no wind , no rain , just a beautiful summers evening . For those that have never experienced it , the Nippy Chippy is a mobile fish and chip van and those that have experienced it will know that the Fish and Chips are pretty damn good !

See it was such a beautiful evening we went for a walk down to Seal Bay , apart from getting eaten alive by our small flying friends , we spotted a couple of deers at the other end of the bay .

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Deer 1 Deer 2

Deer 3

After returning to the cottage , i decided to head off down the road to Ardbeg Distillery to take advantage of the late evening sunshine , it was well worth the walk down there , there were stunning views over to the Antrim Coast , probably the clearest i’ve seen .

Antrim Coast Ardbeg 1
Ardbeg 2 Ardbeg 3
Scenery Scenery 2

So onto our second week…….

Saturday 18th August


What a glorious day ! After a trip down to Port Ellen for some supplies we spent the afternoon sunbathing in and around the cottage garden with a dram or two of Laddie 1970 for me and some wine for Mel……

Mel in the garden

Later on in the afternoon there was some noise from the bay , there was some activity from the Ardbeg Pier with some boats , it looked like a practice for a rowing competition , there were 2 different boats with 3 crews…..

Boat 1 Boat 2
Boat 3 Boat 4

So in the Evening it was a night out for our annual summer meal with Ella (it’s usually Mary as well but due to her “Summer Break” she couldn’t make it) . Tonights venue was the Islay Hotel , it was chosen with some trepidation as the place hasn’t been receiving very good reviews lately and it didn’t help the night before seeing the Hotels owner standing in the queue for the Nippy Chippy…..

It’s always great to have a night out with Ella and it’s always the highlight of our summer trip , so after a drink in the bar and a natter , it was off to the restaurant for our meal . Ella and myself went for the same starter , Islay Scallops on garlic potatoes and pea puree , Mel went for Duck confit with rocket and orange vinaigrette . All absolutely wonderful . could have ate the scallops over again ! For the main course Ella went for the Lamb Chop with Mediterranean vegetables , Mel went for Monk Fish with lemon rice , sugar snap peas and a shrimp sauce , i went for Wild Seatrout with new potatoes , crunchy vegetables and a lemon and tarragon sauce . Again all wonderful , beautiful flavours , we all went for the same dessert , Eton Mess with local strawberries . It was all rounded off with a cup of coffee before we made our way home . The food was similar to our first visit to the Islay in February (excellent) and definitely better than the Easter trip (not the best….) and as usual the company was a exceptional , always a joy to catch up with Ella !

Sunday 19th August

Not as good as weather as yesterday but not raining ! So todays agenda was go to Ardbeg for lunch then walk down to Port Ellen to pick the car up after last night . Lunch at Ardbeg was fantastic as usual , we both started with the Islay Crab Chowder and had the Macaroni cheese as main , Anyone remember the Cheesy Chessy Macaroni that was on the Old Kiln menu of yester year ? It was that good !

I just wish i could get as good of shots of the local Buzzards as i can of the gulls……

gull 1 gull 2

On the way down to Port Ellen we saw several Buzzards , couldn’t get too close but these were the best of the cropped ones…..

Buzz 1 Buzz 2
Buzz 3 Buzz 4

Buzz 5

On the way back to the cottage we called in at Lagavulin to book the Tuesday warehouse tour , then spent the rest of the night having a quiet dram or two……

Wednesday 15th August

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

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

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

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

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The Laphroaig Haul

The spoils from the trip to Laphroaig

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

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

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

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


Mel Relaxing

Thursday 16th August

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

View from the cottage

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

The first one was a lily……


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

Flower 1

Flower 2

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

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

Summer Trip 2012 – Monday 13th August

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

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

Spirit of Islay 2002 Port Charlotte Refill Sherry Hogshead

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

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

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

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

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

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Lantern 1

Nice Reflection on the double glazing

Lantern 2

Nice colours from the Laddie 1970

Lantern 3

……Produces almost a laser like light

Tuesday 14th August

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

Laphroaig Tour 1

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

Laphroaig tour 2

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

 Laphroaig Tour 3

 Laphroaig Tour 4

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

Laphroaig tour 5

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

Laphroaig Tour 6

One of Laphroaigs Dunnage warehouses

Laphroaig tour 7

No Entry !

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

Laphroaig Tour 8

The 3 Casks !

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

How to do it…….

Laphroaig Tour 9

Insert Valinch slowly not disturbing the sediment……

Laphroaig tour 10

Remove , keeping thumb over hole…….

Laphroaig tour 11

Remove thumb , releasing spirit into receptor !

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

Summer 2012 Trip

So once again it’s that time of the year for our annual summer trip for a fortnight on our favourite little Isle……. 

Saturday 11th August

A pretty uneventful trip up , we left a little earlier than normal to try and avoid the start of the major roadworks on Rest and be Thankful over the weekend to clear the last landslide , we managed that , there was quite a bit of rubble lying by the side of the road when we went passed . We did our usual stops of breakfast at Balloch and coffee break at Tarbert and managed to get to Kennacraig a wee bit early .

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Finlaggan Approaching Kennacraig

The Journey over was pretty straight forward , even though the ferry was pretty full it never seemed busy , the weather all day hadn’t been too bad but never quite lived up to the forecast . Even when we got to the Isle we really never got bright sunshine . After making our way to Maol Bhuide , Mel sorted our gear out (she’s better than me at unpacking !) i got out the way by walking down to the shoreline to play with my newest acquisition , a 400mm lens , while up on the hillock beside the cottage i spotted something further along the shore in the sea….. An Otter ! Unfortunately it never came in my direction but i did try the lens out , as you can see from the first photo it was a fair bit away !

The Full View

These are a few of the VERY cropped ones

Otter 7


Otter 6


Otter 1



I did go around to Seal Bay to see if i could catch it at that end but to no avail !

After a wonderful tea cooked by Mel i did return down to the shore line but the only thing spotted was the ferry sailing to Port Ellen .

Finlaggan heading to Port Ellen

 The other surprise we got today , apart from the otter , was the empty Kildalton bottle still on the shelf where we left it last September .

Surprise !

I settled down for the night with the Laddie 1970………

Sunday 12th August

After a restless nights sleep (never sleep well in a strange bed on the first night….) i decided to get up and go for a walk , it’s surprisingly quiet at 7.15am on a Sunday in the Parish of Kildalton ! I went for a walk back along to Seal bay but all i could see was seals and Cormorants

Seal in Seal Bay


Cormorant in Seal Bay

After an hour i returned to bed for a bit of a snooze….. awakening again we had a light breakfast then walked along to Ardbeg for lunch to be warmly greeted by Jackie . We booth went for the Seafood chowder , incredibly  yummy , and a Baked Tattie , mine with Haggis , Mels with Prawn Marie Rose . we then went along to Port Ellen to pick up some more supplies before returning to the cottage and an evening of hitting the whisky stash i bought along……

The Whisky Selection

The weather never really brightened up today , it looked promising early on then it decided to rain on and off for a while , nothing major just light showers , we’re hopping it’s going to clear up later for the promised meteor shower……