Caol Ila SMWS 53.98

The third of the Anniversary bottlings…….

This is from a time when we were a very active member of the SMWS , Going to regular tastings , lots of visits to The Vaults , their bottle prices were very good value and they hadn’t gone stupid with bottling lots of sulphured whisky……. 53.98 is a 25yo distilled in January 1980 and bottled in December 2005 at 60.4% , it was given the label name “Peat , tar and liquorice” .

(Click on Photo to see Full size)

The colour of Polished Gold , The nose is quite closed to start with , then there’s a very strong hint of Toffee (!?!?) , The Caol ilaness finally starts coming through , the distinct peatiness . It’s when you get it in the mouth the full ‘Caol Ila’ finally emerges , it is a flavour you only get from this distillery , germolene antiseptic , coastal , iodine / seaweed . It all follows through onto a very long gorgeous finish . Another brilliant CI that doesn’t taste like it’s 60.4% , Superb , just the nose can let it down a bit……  

The 2015 Feis Ile Bottlings Tasting……

On Friday i attended a tasting of some of the 2015 Feis Ile bottlings hosted by Eddie Ludlow , I must admit i went in with a bit of trepidation having already tasted the “Ardbeg Day” Perpetuum and after having visited it several times growing to dislike it by every tasting…….



So what did we have ? Here it is Dram by Dram……. 

First up was the Caol Ila , from 1998 this one has been triple matured , first in American Hoggies then in Moscatel wine Casks and finally in Puncheon Casks , 1500 bottles at 57.3% . On the nose i got the Caol Ila Medicinal along with toffee and boat loads of wine . The palate was pretty much the same very sweet wine , the finish was quite long , sweet and malty . Have to say it isn’t one of my favourite Caol Ilas as wine casked malts are not exactly my thing , i much preferred last years offering , as i said in my tasting notes HERE “I prefer it when distilleries do this rather than mess about with fancy casks , back to basics ! ”  

Next was the Ardbeg Perpetuum “Distillery Only” version , this one was bottled at a higher strength , 49.2% , than the Ardbeg Day one . Now according to the Bumf this is supposed to represent the Past , Present and Future of Ardbeg…….. The initial nose was very closed to start with but when something did appear it wasn’t very Ardbeggie , not very peaty but had creamy coffee . The palate was very young , quite feinty with dry peat , all i can say about the finish is it’s long…… Again for something that is supposed to celebrate the 200th Birthday it is very disappointing , i think Ardbeg need to go back to the basics none of these poncy named versions made up of specially selected casks , how about a 10yo CS like the stunning Renaissance ? Could they not have hung on a little while to do a special 1998 resurrection of the 17yo ? With the last 4 releases by LVMH i’m starting to loose confidence in the distillery……. BTW as i write this i’m dramming the 47.4% version , it’s still not any better !

Salvation , sort of , came with the 3rd dram , Another 200th Anniversary one , the Laphroaig Cairdeas comes in at 51.2% , this one was made with malt entirely done on their own floor malting , distilled on only the small stills and laid to rest in the oldest warehouse ! The nose is a subtle iodine mixed in with farm yard and a touch of lemon . it is actually better with a drop of water , the palate has a nice peaty / iodine / maltiness to it , it is quite relaxed at first but if you hold in on the tongue for a while it explodes into life ! The finish is very long , farm yardie and malty . The best of the night so far , it is a stunning Laphroaig but i have to add with the stunning rise in quality of the recent 10yo CS batches and my personal favourite the 18yo , it doesn’t actually seem that special……

Number 4 is from Islays newest distillery , this bottling is for the 10th Anniversary of Kilchoman , bottled at 58.2% from casks from 2005 – 2012 and made up of 70% bourbon to 30% sherry . The nose starts of quite fruity then peaty then suffers from the one thing i find in all the Kilchomans i’ve tried , it smells young . The palate is feinty peat with a touch of sherry and the finish comes in long and feinty . This distillery release is still way too young for my liking .

Over the recent years the bottlings have become a bit of a cash cow in the festival and a few indy bottlers have recently jumped on the band waggon , this year it was the SMWS’s turn with the penultimate dram of the tasting . 3.243 ‘Dark , smouldering flamenco gypsy’ , a 17yo Bowmore from a sherry butt . After my last experiences as a SMWS members many moons ago i was expecting the worse when i saw it was a sherried dram , luckily it wasn’t the dreaded ‘S’ word ! The nose was your archetypal Christmas cake with peat and it was pretty much peated sherry on the palate with a good balance between spirit and cask . The finish was long , sherry with the Bowmore Parma Violets . Not a bad dram on the whole .

They say you always keep the best to last……. Well Eddie has , a 1991 Lagavulin at 59.9% , double matured for 24yo , first in American Hoggies then into PX casks (that seems familiar……) . The nose is very smooth , a touch of smoke with digestive biscuits and a smidge of farm yard , the palate has a  touch of sweetness with smoke and peat . The finish is quite long and very sweet . It is a very good Lagavulin !

So a bit of a mixed bunch , it’s now 6 years since we were last at the Feis Ile , we don’t miss it and we don’t miss the bottlings , the original concept of the Feis Ile bottling has been lost in the mists of time now especially as there is now a Whisky Auction van waiting on the isle to take your purchase away to make loads of money off it . If i’ve upset some of my distillery friends with my ramblings , sorry , don’t take it to heart , you have to take the rough with the smooth……  as we are increasingly !     

Toronto 2015 Visit – Part Two

Saturday 2nd May (Continued)

So onto the show….. Johanna asked us if we’d like to do another Masterclass at this years show , which we said yes to , and it was agreed we’d do a Caol Ila one . I’ve only ever done a Caol Ila Masterclass at the Feis Ile and i have to say it is , in my eyes , a very much under-rated Peated Islay Malt , It is also the most consistently good one !

(Click on Photos to see full size)

tasting photo

I decided to be sneaky as well and throw in a “Ringer” , i asked our good friend Francis if we could Acquire a sample of his yet to be released Daftmill , he agreed and back at the end of February we went up to see the Cuthberts and pick out a sample ( Dirty job , someone had to do it…..)  

Choices, Choices....

Choices, Choices….

Hmmm..... Which one ?

Hmmm….. Which one ?

I decided to be a bit sneaky and do the tasting blind , i asked them to try the first two together as they were both unpeated (not mentioning one of them wasn’t a Caol Ila ) , asked them their thoughts and then told them one wasn’t an Islay) and asked them to tell me which one wasn’t , Most of them got it wrong ! We then proceeded through the rest of the tasting only revealing what was what after they’d tried it . So the Tasting consisted of……..

1st Dram – Daftmill Cask No.21, Filled 3rd September 2007 ,Sample drawn 1st March 2015 , 59.6% from Fresh Bourbon Barrel (Heaven Hill) .

My Tasting Notes . Nose – Initially digestive biscuits then freshly cut meadows , hugely fresh , lots of butter ,  vanilla , touch of spices and custard . Very exquisite and complex nose , beautifully fresh . Palate – Shows it’s youthfulness at first but that soon vanishes , very fresh across the palate again buttery , sweet , vanilla , a delight to have in the mouth , oily and chewy . Finish – Long , sweet and butterscotch toffee .

It was a great pleasure to introduce this malt to a North American Public Tasting it certainly went down well !

2nd Dram – Stitchells Reserve , the 2013 special release from Caol Ila to celebrate Billys retirement .

3rd Dram –  53.52 , a 1993 7yo from the SMWS , a feisty young dram that has it all !

4th Dram – 53.93 , a 1980 25yo from the SMWS , this one showed that well aged Caol Ila can be exquisite but retain all the Distillery Characteristics .

5th Dram –  The killer dram of the class , i still don’t know how Johanna got a bottle of this but it went down very well , the 30yo Special Release from 2014 , all i can say is Wow ! that’s to the taste and not the price !

So after the class we retreated to the main hall to savour the 2015 Gala , Spirit of Toronto is one hell of a show , it has everything , great drams , great music , great food and fantastic people . I mainly concentrated on the Canadian Whisky , The Union Local 613 guys and Gals had a fantastic table of Canadians , got to try amongst others an Alberta Premium 30yo , the Highwood 25yo Calgary Stampede Centennial (again) and an absolutely amazing Wisers 18yo from yesteryear , Stunning ! It was great to actually try it up against the current Wisers 18yo at their table . Melanie took a shine to a few drams including the Nikka Taketsuru 12yo and the Chivas 18yo . We had a fantastic night , Johanna and Charles certainly know how to put on a show !

By the end the time difference was catching up with us and we took a lovely walk back to the hotel to catch some Z’s .

Sunday 3rd May

We decided we were going to be the Full Tourists today and do a bit of sightseeing , after breakfast i had a visit from Rob  (@WhiskyFan2112) for a bit of a natter about Rush , Toronto and Whisky ! He also very kindly left me a bottle of Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve, Very Much Appreciated Rob you are some guy ! Thanks also go to Rick (@rmculver) and Paul (@MarkhamWhisky) for their generosity , you guys spoiled us rotten ! Thanks!!!

We decided to visit the Islands as it was something we wanted to do last year but never got the time and boy did we pick a glorious day to do it on ! Red Hot !!! It’s a lovely little ferry ride over , you get some great views of the City Skyline and all for $7 return ! The island is really nice , well looked after with great beaches . We decided to take the Tourist Train tour around to see as much as possible .

Toronto View 2 Toronto View 1
Toronto View 3 Toronto Skyline 1
Melanie on Toronto Islands Avenue of the Island
Melanie on the Beach 1 Melanie on the Beach 2
Sign post Island-stitch
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse Ned Hanlan Tug
Central Island 1 CN Tower from Centre Island 1
CN Tower from Centre Island 2 Melanie on Central Island
Ferry at Centre Island Terminal Melanie on the Ferry

Toronto Skyline 2

We headed back to the Hotel via the Queens Quay LCBO (got to pick up supplies for home !) , freshened up and then hit Melanies Favourite Toronto Bar , The Library Bar in the Fairmont Royal York Hotel . It was a very relaxing night with some great drinks and a superb Lobster Linguine .  

Melanie at The Library Bar 1929 Beer

So it was off to bed for our final sleep in Toronto…..

Monday 4th May

Our last day and it’s a full one , the flight didn’t leave till 11.35pm ! We’d had a breakfast every morning this trip (it was in with the room) , Melanie took a liking to the Eggs Benedict , myself , for the last 3 days i’d been having the Full “Canadian” , there is just something so nice about Pancakes with Bacon smothered in Butter and Maple Syrup ! We left our bags at the hotel and went off for a wander to places new . First stop was Summerhill using the excellent TTC Subway , there were several reasons we headed here , Paul had told us it had some really nice Real Estate and a very nice LCBO which used to be a Railway station and was also Geddy Lees local one !

Summerhill LCBO

 It is a really nice LCBO retaining some of the original station features and it has possibly the best selection of all the LCBO’s we’d been in . Even though it was still hot we felt our first raindrops of the trip while out here . We headed back to the City Centre and transferred to “The Red Rocket” for a trip out to Neville Park (Route 501), we were going to look at the beaches but when we got to the Terminus it started raining so we got the same car back to the centre , there’s always the next time ! It’s a great way of seeing the city and well worth a ride out on one .

We decided to hit the Red Lobster again for a late lunch before winding our way back to the hotel via Tim Hortons and a few bars……


So it was a limo back to the airport and the flight back to Manchester with time for one last Ontario Wine and beer…….

Fish Eye

The flight did actually get back to Manchester early ! We also got a special mention on the flight announcement as the Flight Director was the same guy as our outward flight and recognised us ! I was slightly over our duty free allowance (3 bottles of whisky) and declared it , they actually let us off with the duty and tax for being so Honest ! Wasn’t expecting that in Manchester…..

Whisky Haul Wine Haul

The Spoils of the trip !

A big thank you to our Canadian Friends for making this trip so pleasurable !


The two Word Docs we handed out at the tasting can be read here……

Caol Ila tasting

Daftmill Info

And Melanies Camera Photos can be viewed HERE

My Photos can also be viewed on my Flickr Account HERE

Exclusive ! First Photo of 4/5ths of Caol Ila Tasting at The Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala

We’ve managed to get our hands on the first photo of 4/5ths of the Caol ila tasting at this years Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala (The other 1/5th is currently residing in Ontario ) .


As you can see there are going to be some great drams on offer , i’m sure Billy Stitchell would have been proud to offer such wonderful drams and Colin Dunn would have his Loudhailer out shouting from the roof tops ! We got a quote off Colin about this tasting….. “Gordon Who?” 

So looking forward to trying these drams !!!

The Sound of Islay……. A Caolilathon !

With the forthcoming Caol ila tasting at the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala looming large on the horizon , i decided to revisit my Caol ila bottlings to re-acquaint myself with the distillery , had more than i thought !

Caol Ila 12yo O.b. 43%

The Entry level dram from Diageo , this one is actually from a bottle from the mid-00’s , I was never a huge fan of this when it first appeared (in the ‘Hidden Gems’ Range ?) but it has grown on me recently .Quite medicinal on the nose at first with a strong citrus suggestion , Strong hint of malt and a nice little fruitiness to it . A very nice medicinalness to the palate along with a gentle smokiness , not over powering on the palate but the finish has a bit more of a kick to it , long and a lingering  peatiness to it .

Not a bad wee dram for the entry level ! 

Caol Ila 18yo O.b. 43%

The next level up from the 12 , this one again is from a mid-00’s bottling (the 20cl from The Classic Islay Collection ) , this one is more subdued on the nose , smoky and seashore like a recent bonfire on a beach , eventually the nose does open up a bit to reveal a slight dental surgery feel to it (Cloves?) . On the palate it has more of an iodine taste to it , very coastal , again a slight smokiness , the finish isn’t as long and is a bit more relaxed than the 12 .

The 12’s more elder and relaxed brother ?  

Caol Ila Cask Strength O.b. 55%

There are times when you just want your Caol ila’s just to hit you as if a big malt shovel has just smacked you across the face , Cue Malt Shovel ! After the 43%ers this was a blessing for any reputable peet-heed , ok it’s a NAS but WE DON’T CARE ! It smells young (see previous comment) , it smells peaty , it’s not complex , it actually has a fruity and peppery note . On the palate it’s Peaty , Smoky and peppery , what more can you ask for ? The finish is long and peaty .

It doesn’t stand on parade , it’s quite a rough Caol ila compared to the previous O.b.’s  but it is a wonderful dram and pleases this particular Islay Peat Freak !  

Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength O.b. 59.3%

This one is the next logical progression from the previous NAS Cask Strength , sort of turning the Amp up to 11 ! Bottled at ‘Natural Cask Strength’ (Still waiting for the ‘Un-Natural Cask Strength’ bottling…..) , there’s lots of lemon on the nose to start with , then the familiar ‘Seashore’ , peat and smoke . At first the palate seems remarkably relaxed but that doesn’t hang around , this is strong across the whole mouth , Iodine , peat , a bonfire in the gob ! The finish is long and warming , like a bonfire on an Islay beach when the nights are fair drawing  in……

Warms the cockles of your heart this dram , Nice !  

Caol Ila 25yo O.b. 1979 -2005 58.4%

If you are going to do a 25yo and charge a penny or two i always find it better to do it at CS than 43% , that’s what Caol Ila used to do….. I first tried a 25yo O.b. on a tasting during the Feis Ile with the legend that is Billy Stitchell , to say i was over the moon when he said it was CS was an under statement ! This is pretty pungent for it’s age on the nose and still makes the hairs tingle , it’s standing on the shore on the Sound of Islay with the strong currents wiping up the waves and  seaweed , it is actually quite sweet and buttery . The palate is really iodiney , a waft of smoke and incredibly chewy ! This is a big boys Caol Ila , Amazing ! The finish is long , iodine and really lemony , this is the closest you’ll get to a single cask bottling from the Owners taste wise , trust me i’ve had a few Single Cask 25yo Indys !

A pretty amazing dram just a shame Diageo thought it was a good idea to go back to 43% on the 25yo , D’OH !

Caol Ila Distillery Only O.b. 58.4% 

Another NAS (Woo-hoo !) bottled in 2007 , and even though it says ‘ Available only at the Distillery’ I bought this at the Bridgend Spar Shop ! (huh?) The nose is like standing beside a burnt out bonfire on the Big Strand , the ashes mixing in with the sea air and kelp from the nearby rocks , then the wind turns and you get the peat from the nearby beds . There is also a waft of peat smoke from the Maltings in Port Ellen . The palate is thick and peaty , there is lemon there as well and a nice sweetness , The finish brings back the smokiness and lingers for a very long time .

Another  Cracking Caol Ila that just proves this distillery provides quality as well as quantity , two things that rarely go together .

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2013 O.b.56.5%

Distilled in 1998 , this was triple matured in Refill Butts, Hogsheads and Barrels (not necessarily in that order….)  , Sweet peat on the nose followed by the smoke from dying embers there is a slight hint of them sherry butts but not much , another hint , this time of Apples and butter . The palate is slightly relaxed at first then a huge dollop of peat , again quite sweet but thoroughly enjoyable , the finish is long and peaty .

A very much under-rated Caol ila by others , really enjoyable !

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2014 O.b. 55.5%

Distilled in 2002 and from  ex-bourbon Hogsheads , this could be the 12yo on Steroids ! I prefer it when distilleries do this rather than mess about with fancy casks , back to basics ! On the Nose we’ve returned to the dental surgery , Cloves , then we’ve got the sweet peat , smoke …. aah that’s more like it ! there’s also pepper . The palate is also more of the traditional Caol Ila  , Sweet peat , medicinal , seashore , pepper and smoke . Lovely ! The finish is long , sweet peat , smoke , lemon and pepper .

If someone said what is the ‘Classic’ Caol Ila bottling i would say this , a belter put together by Mr Woods !   

Caol Ila 10yo “Unpeated Style” O.b. 65.8% 

The first time i ever saw mention of an Unpeated Caol ila was in 2002 when during a Feis Ile tour of the Port Ellen Maltings and when viewing the control panel for the malt bins it was noted that there was a one marked ‘Caol Ila Highland Style’ , the guide wouldn’t say what it was….. Apparently they’ve been doing this style since 1999, the first time i ever tried it was at the 2005 Feis Ile (Monday 30th May….) during Billy Stitchells Masterclass as a 4yo , i wasn’t impressed , by the malt not the Masterclass !  Bottled in 2009 at a humongous 65.8% , the nose is , at first , very unassuming , then it springs in to life , it is very fruity ! I would say tropical fruits , banana , pineapple , there’s also a hint of creamy coffee and lemon . The nose is just sniffable at full strength….. Wow , the palate is huge and strong at FS , again it incredibly fruity but it also has a very big hint of Lemon throat lozenges ! The finish is long , chewy and very warming . It’s not often i add water but i’ll try it with this one , it actually makes it more fruity on the nose and calms down the palate a little bit .

A cracking dram that definitely blows the cobwebs away ! 

Caol Ila 12yo “Unpeated Style” O.b. 57.6% 

Bottled in 2010 , this one again starts of quite fruity on the nose but then there is a mysterious waft of smoke ! It has a nice maltiness to it with a hint of lemon and digestive biscuits . On the palate it is deceptively peated , it is slightly medicinal , throat lozenges , pepper and that hint of peat , quite sweet but not the full Islay peat . The finish is long , sweet , fruity , citrus and spicy .

Another good Caol ila , more sensible than the previous 10yo , it keeps up the distilleries good record of quality spirit production .    

Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve “Unpeated Style” O.b. 59.6% 

The one thing i have noticed about all these unpeated Caol ila’s is how oily they are when poured , Bottled in 2013 this one is a NAS so going off it’s name it must be the best of the former vintages that were put aside by the former manager Billy . Once again it’s the Lemon that first grabs your attention on the nose , followed by digestive biscuits and malt , it actually has a hint of a lowlander , grassy meadows . On the palate is quite sweet and quite fruity , ooh Banoffee pie with custard ! Touch of spices as well , a lovely long fruity finish ensues with lots of spiciness and lemon .

Carries on the good work of the previous releases , quality product that probably isn’t appreciated by a lot of people !  

Caol ila ‘53.50’ SMWS 1993 7yo 62.1%

This was the Caol ila that ignited my love for this distillery , i’d only had a couple from the distillery by this time and the 15yo Flora and Fauna had done nothing for me , then in one of my first SMWS tastings i was given this…… Incredibly medicinal on the nose , the full germolene , bags of peat and a touch of malt . Not a lot else happening on the nose but it doesn’t need to . The palate is one enormous hit of wet Islay peat bog , there is also a touch of lemon and an incredible spiciness , a wonderful mouth of Islay malt whisky , if this doesn’t satisfy your average Islay Peat Freak nothing will ! The finish is not as long as expected after the palate but it is warming , medicinal and peaty .

This one still amazes me as much today as it did back in the early 00’s when i tried it , Wonderful stuff !

Caol ila ‘53.83’ SMWS 1993 11yo 61.4%

“Head-expanding in the Mouth”  , again the full medicinal (germolene) on the nose , a little bit more relaxed than the 53.50, just…. once again lemon and a hint of grass (meadows , not the smoking type!) , peat smoke and farm yard . Wow very strong on the palate , minty , medicinal , very sea shore , the finish is very long and peaty at FS , think i’ll try this one with water…. Water definitely cools it down , doesn’t bring out much more on the nose/taste front , after all we want the trade mark medicinal/peat/smoke/citrus of Caol ila don’t we ?

A cracking young Caol ila , shame the distillery doesn’t do a young 12yo at CS it would be a cracker ! ….And yes it does what it says on the bottle!

Gordon and MacPhail Cask Caol ila 1991 12yo 57.4%

Bit of a rarity this one , a Caol ila from Refill Sherry Butts (#13696 #13698) distilled 30/9/1991 bottled 2/3/2004 . This is a lovely amber colour in the glass , pure Christmas cake on the nose (cake dough , dried fruits , glace cherries ) along with a lovely medicinalness , a delight , there’s lemon and a beach bonfire wafting through there as well ! On the palate there’s a wonderful sherried peatiness only an Islay can provide , starts off peaty but progresses though to medicinal , this is class in the glass ! The finish is long with a lingering sherry , peat and bonfire smoke . 

As Mr Takei would say “Oh Myyy….” ! Bottles like this just reinforce a question i asked G&M a while ago , why release bottles at 40/43% in the Connoisseurs Choice range ? Enough said….. 

Caol ila ‘53.112’ SMWS 1991 15yo 54.8%

 “Sluggable-gluggable” , Quite a reduction in strength from the previous two , these three from the SMWS have been extremely pale in colour compared to the O.b.’s but the quality has been consistent . The nose is just as pungent , loads of smoke , wood spices , a quiet hint of lemon and peat . Not so medicinal . The palate is citrus , honey sweetness and peat , the finish has the Lemon throat lozenges and spices .

Still a good Caol ila but seems to lack the excitement of the previous two for some reason…. Less active cask ?  

Bladnoch Forum Caol ila 1991 15yo 58.8%

From Hogshead 3870 distilled 11th March 1991 , bottled July 19th 2006 , this one was bottled for the Forum at Bladnoch when Raymond was in residence and it will have been very reasonably priced . The nose is menthol cigarette smoke , mint ,  peat and the familiar Caol ila lemon , the nose is really relaxed after the SMWS offerings . The palate is more lively than the 53.112 , again we have the lemon throat lozenges (medicinal) , oak spices , a touch of peat and a chewy . The finish is long and spicy with a squeeze of lemon .

A highly drinkable Caol ila (aren’t they all?) that delights all the way through , Lovely !!!

Port Askaig 17yo 45.8%

Ok so it doesn’t say Caol ila on the label but we know different 😉 The nose screams Caol ila Medicinal ! It has the Lemon Citrus , slight sweetness , touch of smoke and peat but not much . The palate is very soft to start with , again the lemon stands out , touch of peat and smoke with a honey sweetness . The finish is medium with the old favourite of Lemon throat lozenges…..

Not quite the kick of some of the previous Caol ilas but this would be a great session malt !

Caol ila ‘53.64’ SMWS 1983 20yo 55.4%

“Smoky Boiled Sweets” quite sweet on the nose (icing sugar) , carbolic soap , smoking embers and quite maritimey , possibly the most laid back nose of the SMWS bottlings so far . The palate bites back with avengence , really peppery , loads of iodine and germolene , touch of lemon throat lozenges , The finish is long and iodine .

Not your average Caol ila , very relaxed on the nose , luckily the palate is another stunning one . 

Caol ila ‘53.84’ SMWS 1983 21yo 60.2%

“A peat cutters jacket” Straight away the germolene gets you on the nose , very medicinal , a little bit of fruit and i just caught a nice bit of chocolate and shortbread , yummy ! WOW , very farm yard , iodine , seashore and peat ! This could almost be a Laphroaig in disguise . The finish is long , peaty and iodine .

Found the price of this on one of my records , £50 ! An amazing dram with a slight twist ! We like slight twists ! 

Bladnoch Forum Caol ila 1983 25yo 53.2%

From Hogshead 4807 Distilled 12th October 1983 bottled 18th October 2008 , straight in to the fruit with this one , green apples , then highland toffee , takes a wee bit to settle then the smoke and iodine mix with the toffee , a very relaxed nose for the CI . Lots of oak spices on the palate , vanilla , then the toffee again with a nice peatiness and farm yard and iodine . The finish is long , sweet , iodine and cloves .

This one is is a gentle caress of the taste buds rather than a whack with a peat shovel , it’s actually a rather nice session dram !

OMC Caol ila 1979 25yo 50%

Distilled Feb 1979 bottled Sept 2004 from Cask DL Ref 1357 . This one is taking a little bit to open…. Once again we have green apples , oak spices , cloves , a slight waft of peat smoke and a toffee sweetness . The palate is uber relaxed , lemon , apples , toffee , lots of smoke and a hint of iodine , the finish is disappointingly short with lemon menthol .

A different one compared to the others but we are moving into the territory where a lot of peated drams loose the ‘kick’ after a long time maturing but gain a lot of elegance along the way (try a 10yo Ardbeg against  a 25yo+) . Still worthy !  

Caol ila ‘53.93’ SMWS 1980 25yo 55.4%

“Free Spirit” This one is remarkably chocolatey on the nose initially , then it progresses to Farm yard , iodine and seashore (though iodine and seashore could be the same thing , Seaweed on the seashore….) , can’t believe the chocolate , never got that before….. The palate confuses me more , farm yard again and nettles ! Only ever get nettles on Laphroaig ! Luckily we have the lemon , smoke and peat eventually along with a lovely medicinalness and a few spices . The finish is medium with a lovely lemon medicinal .

A lovely relaxed 25yo (as the best are….) , love the chocolate mixing in with the Islay spirit !  

Caol ila ‘53.96’ SMWS 1980 25yo 59.7%

“Heavenly and heart warming” It’s amazing what the difference a few percent makes in the strength of a whisky  , straight away you get the medicinal element on the nose , loads of iodine and germolene , again the farm yard , the lemon and the chocolate . The palate has a bit more of a kick to it than the 93 , the usual suspects pop in , Caol ila definitely has a uniqueness to it compared to the peaty giants of the South Shore and i , for one , are glad it does . The finish on this one is long , lemony , spicy and medicinal .

I can honestly say because of expressions like this (and most of the above ) that if Ardbeg wasn’t about , Caol Ila would probably be my favourite Peated Islay ! The quality is outstanding , keep it coming !!!

Bladnoch Forum Caol ila 1980 25yo 53.3% 

From Hogshead 4684 , Distilled 15th May 1980 bottled 1st June 2010 . Raymond actually bottled 3 casks from the same batch in a short period of time , i think i took this one to Toronto last year and it was received really well . Still quite pungent for a 30yo on the nose , incredibly smoky and medicinal , spicy and grassy ! Also a wee hint of Chocolate…. Very thick and oily on the palate , quite peaty for it’s age , medicinal and very spicy ! A touch of mint humbugs . Incredibly long , dry , spicy finish . Really , really , really long !

A fantastic dram given it’s age (could be woody!) that was really cheap ( £50 a bottle?) compared to the current 30yo offering from the owners .   

Bladnoch Forum Caol ila 1980 25yo 54.2% 

From Hogshead 4686 , Distilled 15th May 1980 bottled 15th May 2010 . Bottled nearly a week earlier than the above , this one is more medicinal on the nose , still has a hint of Chocolate , in fact more than a hint , chocolate digestives ! A bit of vanilla on this one , the nose is very sniffable , farm yard is there and a touch of smoke . The palate is a lot smoother and not as thick as 4684 , Really medicinal , farm yardie and nettles , lovely spices ! The finish is shorter than the 4684 but still long , medicinal and pepper .

Another cracking 30yo and Caol Ila !  Probably a bit more how you’d expect a 30yo to be , but it’s still lively !

Johanna asked me for a comment about Caol ila for the site publicity , the consistent quality first sprung to mind , as i said “How often do you find a bad Caol Ila?”  See above…..    


Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Food(and other stuff….)

Thursday 31st July 2014

We had a lovely Wedding Anniversary yesterday , apart from have a wonderful meal at The Bridgend Hotel we didn’t do a great deal , the meal consisted of (i know some of you like our food reports….. ) Islay Langoustine with freshly made Linguine with a Langoustine Bisque for Melanies starter , i went with an Islay Crab with ginger , avocado , confit tomato  with a Filo and Sesame Crisp . We both went for the same meal , Islay ribeye steak with bearnaise sauce , wilted spinach ,mushroom and handcut chips . And as if that wasn’t enough i was a pig and had a pudding of Chocolate Fondant , Whisky Poached pear and Clotted cream ice cream , All very ably served by the lovely Hannah ! Suitably stuffed we went home to lie down in a darkened room……  

(Click on photos to see full size)


Melanies Photo of the Crab starter

So back to Thursday…. We went off for a drive , Melanie wanted to look at Persabus Pottery so we headed that way . Seeing we were that end of the Isle , we went down to Caol Ila , where , after trying the Stitchells Reserve and Feis Ile 2014 i was easily swayed into buying a brace of each……. Seeing it was so nice we had a wander around Caol Ila , bumping into Lilys adorable little cat , the views around there are wonderful .

(No Swallows were harmed in the taking of these photos….)

2014_07_31_01Lilys House 2014_07_31_02Caol Ila Distillery
2014_07_31_03Up The Sound 2014_07_31_04Lilys Cat
2014_07_31_05The Harbour 2014_07_31_06Boom !
2014_07_31_07Jura Ferry 2014_07_31_08Finlaggan Arriving
2014_07_31_09Getting Closer 2014_07_31_10Steady !


A content Melanie !


We then went off to Port Askaig where we sat outside the Hotel with a drink and again admired the view ! Then it started to rain so we headed back to the Cottage via The Celtic House Coffee Shop taking in the Mulindry Road on the way to get ready for tonights main event , our Annual Meal with Ella and Mary at The Bridgend Hotel ! (Sometimes when something is so good…..) Mary picked us up on the way through and we met up with Ella at the Hotel . We made things easy for the waitress tonight , we split into two camps , Melanie and myself went for the same starters / mains , Mary and Ella went for the same starters / mains ! We went for the Crab starter from last night and had the main of Islay Estate Roe Deer fillet , Cabbage and Sage, Cauliflower Puree and mash and a game Jus , Ella and Mary went for the Feta and tomato salad for starters and for their main they went for the Simply Salmon fillet with New Pots and a medley of vegetables . Tonight it wasn’t just me who was a piggy , every one went for a Pudding ! Ella and myself had the Strawberries , homemade meringue  and ice cream . Melanie and Mary went for the Pain Perdu  , caramalised oranges and a orange and white chocolate sorbet with a white chocolate sauce (we can’t think of it’s name….) .

We had a great night with our Islay friends , great food , great craic and as always a good laugh !

Islay Summer Visit 2013

Saturday 10th August
So once again we head off to Islay for our summer fortnight . Setting off at the crack of dawn the journey up was in decent weather , it was even sunny at Inverary ! After the now traditional Coffee and cake break at Tarbert , we set off for Kennacraig catching our first glimpse of wildlife on the outskirts of Tarbert……
The Journey over on Finlaggan wasn’t the smoothest for a summer trip , odd bit of sway and a bit of wind but the Malt of the Month was Bunnahabhain ! After a stopover at Bowmore to pick a few supplies we headed off for Maol Buidhe . After unpacking and having a bite to eat we went out for an evening walk along the Kildalton Road stopping just before the dip down to Dower House . We did manage to get caught in a shower before arriving back at the Cottage . Once we’d dried off we settled down for a drink , The Maol Buidhe bar for our visit was opened…….


Tonights pleasures were A 1973 O.b. Ardbeg , A Laddie 1972 Valinch and a Whiskybroker 29yo Tormore (tasting notes to follow at some point) .

Sunday 11th August

The first full day on Islay , bit of a lie in after yesterdays early rise then off to Ardbeg for Sunday lunch . We both went for the same food , Ardbeg Crab chowder for starters and Pan-fried Duck Breast for mains , both were superb (as usual) , after a natter to Jackie it was off for another walk along the Kildalton Road , this time along to the bay just past Dower House .

Cat_in_bay melanie1
melanie2 melanie3

On the way back we had an interesting experience , after just missing what appeared to be an Eagle (it screeched like an Eagle) we were heading back approaching Seal Bay when an otter bounced across the road , we were gobsmacked ! We weren’t near any visible water and it happened so fast i couldn’t get my camera off my shoulder , there was a guy parked in a car and he didn’t seem to see it .

An enjoyable afternoon walk carried on with a good evening dramming with my 3 own bottlings , the two PC casks and the Bladtub , and an appearance on the front lawn by a herd of 5 deers , gotta love Islay for wildlife !

Monday 12th August

A bit of a mixed day weather wise and a bit of an easy day for us , a drive over the other side of the Island to catch up with Paul and Joan at An Taigh Osda and pick up a cask sample at Bruichladdich . Then it was off to Bowmore to get some supplies and a coffee and cake at the Coffee Shop in Roys Celtic Shop . Then it was back off to the cottage calling in at Laphroaig to pick up some Cheese for nibbles , bumped into Christine (Logan) who was dropping off a Japanese couple , always nice to see Christine and catch up . Was good to see James (Deane) as well who’d just returned from a tour up to the Laphroaig water source .

(Click on Images to see full size )

Port Ellen Port Ellen

After tea i left Melanie in the cottage and took a walk along to Seal Bay , it turned into a beautiful evening on this side of the isle .

Seal Bay Panorama

Ardbeg Pagodas in the evening Sunshine

Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 005


57.2% Bottled Feb 13 , initially very smoky on the nose then sea shore – sea weed , sea air – , nettles and a touch of farmyard , quite relaxed as well . It definitely isn’t relaxed on the palate , wow , intense medicinalness , peat smoke and nettles . The finish is long, peaty and iodiney . Another cracking batch of 10yo Cask Strength , like i said the nose is quite relaxed but the palate more than makes up for it !

Tuesday 13th August

Not a bad morning when we got up so we packed a picnic and headed off to the west side of the Island and Saligo Bay . Was busier than we expected but had a nice little walk

Saligo Bay Panorama

Melanie at Saligo Bay

On the way back we stopped off at The Bridgend Hotel for a coffee , they’ve done a real nice job of the recent refurbishments , looking forward to having a meal there on saturday night . Then it was back to the cottage for a few drams in the beautiful late afternoon/early evening sunshine…….

Bruichladdich 2008 SOI II Sample

Still quite pale for a 5yo from a fresh bourbon cask , The nose is still a little bit spirity at first but then malt , lemon and green fruits (gooseberries and apples) appear . The palate shows more of the youth , very spirity but after a while the laddie traits are slightly noticeable (fruits , malt, hint of caramel toffee) .

With water the palate cools a bit but still quite youthful .

Half Term Report – Progressing nicely !

Bruichladdich Valinch 1972


From cask #9 , bottled 8th May 2002 at 48.8% .

The Colour of Orange Marmalade , The first actual thing that grabs you on the nose is Orange ! Then Vanilla and oak spices , the palate is slightly overwhelming with the vanilla and oak spices but after a short while you get a slight hint of some laddie notes but not many .

Nowhere near as good as the 1970 valinch i opened on my 50th birthday but it will be interesting to see if it opens up a lot more when it’s had a bit exposure to air .

SMOS 1979 28yo Bunnahabhain


Distilled 31st October 1979 , Bottled 22nd April 2008 from cask # 18831 at 46%

The colour of ripe straw , straight away you get the Bunnahabhain Sweetness ( Edinburgh Rock / Confectioners Sugar) on the nose , then a slight maltiness , an absolutely beautiful nose . This dram glides across the palate , again the Bunnahabhain sweetness is out in force , it is just such an easy dramming and relaxed malt . It actually brings back so many memories of the Feis ile Warehouse tours with John the former manager . The Finish is so long and smooth .

A superb dram , probably my favourite bunnahabhain , ideal for sitting out in the Maol Buidhe Garden on a sunny summers evening !

Ardbeg Single Cask #1143


Distilled 16th March 1973 , Bottled 22nd December 2004 at 49.3%

Bright Gold in colour , straight away you know what you’ve got here from the nose , an early 70’s Beg loaded with the Ardbeg-dine ! It catches the nasal hairs , then you get Creamy Coffee , orange and peat smoke…… Ardbeg Heaven !!!

The palate pretty much carries on the fine tradition , the Ardbeg-dine is so distinctive , silky smooth over the tongue , seducing it into submission , Wonderful ! The finish is long , smoky-iodine and as smooth as a babies bum !

There are Ardbeg casks and there is cask # 1143 !!!!!! You just have to drink Ardbegs like this……..

So after our drams we headed off for a walk in the sunshine along to Seal Bay…….


geese_seal_bay yacht_seal_bay

and then along to Ardbeg to admire the evening views from the pier before returning to the cottage .

Wednesday 14th August

A pretty lazy day today (we’re on holiday we can !) , headed off to Ardbeg for lunch , once again the crab chowder was on (Nom – Nom !) so we both went for it ! Then Melanie went for the baked Tattie Prawn Marie Rose and i went for the Pan Fried Halibut . Tried the Islay Ales Single Malt Ale which i have to say was very good . After a natter to Mickey , we booked up a couple of tours to do during the holidays . Then it was a relaxing afternoon at the cottage before heading off for a drive along the coast .

Thursday 15th August

Probably the worst morning of the week , chucking it down , so it was lucky that we’d decided to go to Ardbeg this afternoon and i was going on the “Decades” tour . After a lunch of Cajun chicken with fluffy rice and Strawberries and cream , Melanie headed back to the cottage and Dougie took us off on the Decades tour . The first dram was at the start of the Distillery tour while Dougie told us the history of Ardbeg .


I’ve had this one a couple of times before , it’s a very good 1974 but lacks the oomph of the Provenance . We then proceeded through the distillery going through the production procedure .
We then went in to the chairmans study for an informal tasting of four other Cask samples

Decades-2 Decades-3

First up was a 1975 38yo , where do they keep finding these casks from ? Not a bad little Ardbeg from a Refill sherry cask but has probably seen better days (not in a bad sort of way , just an observation) , they have a few 75’s apparently , if they ever do release them i’ll put good money on it i can’t afford a bottle…….

Warewolf , Minotaur , Fairies at the bottom of the garden……

In the normal world there are lots of Myths and legends , in the Ardbeg world a 1989 Distillation was the big one , bottles had been doubted , no one confirmed that such a thing had happened . Today in my eyes it became the truth , a 1989 Cask Sample ! Taken from one of several casks ( NOW where did they find these casks ?) from a run of about 600 in late 1989 (Oct – Nov) this 24yo was stunning ! Everything you could ask for from an Ardbeg , Flows across the palate wonderfully and smells like a dream , this was definitely my holiday treat !

Decades-4 Decades-5

Number three was a 1994 and another rumour was finally confirmed , apparently in 1994/5 the purifier wasn’t working properly , it had a split – Now it wasn’t said if it was turned off completely but the stories were always that it was during the allied ownership – this was a lot heavier spirit than the others and a lovely dram . The last Sample was a 2003 , this one was to show what the TEN is like at cask strength and from a single cask . Yet another cracking dram !

I thoroughly enjoyed this tour , Dougie was an excellent , knowledgeable host , The drams on this tour were superb and well worth the cost above a normal tour (£35 for this one) especially if you want to taste the Mythical 1989 !

So after returning to the Cottage and having a bite to eat , we headed off for an evening walk along to Seal Bay , by now the rain had passed (for the time being) and the sun had come out . On the way back we got a couple of surprises , first up my mobile decided to spring into life about 100 metres from the cottages (there is no signal at the cottage but a slight one jus about 100 metres towards Ardbeg) and then a Young Stag appeared in the bushes just behind the cottages ……..

(Click on Images to see full size )

hello deer

Friday 16th August

Another Dreary Morning so we went off for a drive up to Bunnahahbain , we went over the Mulindry Road , a beautiful wild scenic route . When we got to Bunnahabhain there was a mountain of casks at the entrance , probably the most i’ve seen piled high outside of a cooperage ! Andrew was manning the shop as everyone was out on tours and Lillian was away on holidays . Soon got to the bottom of the cask mountain (not literally) , they’ve just spent a wee bit of time reracking some of their casks , 600 Bourbon and 200 sherry ! No news on what’s happening with the new owners but they have had several visits . After making a few purchases and enjoying a dram we bid our farewells and headed back to “Other Places” .
As usual on islay the weather completely changed and we were now in bright sunshine ! We stopped off at Bridgend to have Coffee and Scones at the Hotel . To think up until recently there was a slight lack of Coffee machines on the Isle and you struggled to get a cappuccino now they are all over the place ! When we left Bridgend we got a beautiful view over Loch indaal…..

Loch indaal Stitch

After a drive back to the cottage we headed back to Port Ellen to enjoy one our favourite holiday treats , a fish supper from the Nippy Chippy ! Always a joy , we went along to the tables just beside the Port ellen warehouses to enjoy ours in the late afternoon sunshine watching the Finlaggan set sail back to the mainland , a perfect way to end the day !
Revisiting 1976 Ardbeg Single casks……

Cask 2398 27yo 24-11-76 / 05-05-04 51.4% …… A bright amber in colour , unmistakeably an Oloroso cask , beautifully balanced on the nose between the sherry and the Ardbeg spirit . Glace Cherries , coffee , Dark chocolate and a waft of peat smoke on the nose . The palate is silky smooth and pretty much the same as the nose but with a delightful peatiness . The Finish is long , smooth dry sherry and Cherry Liqueur….. WOW !!!
Cask 2390 25yo 24-11-76 / 27-04-02 53.1%……. Bright amber in colour again , Cheery liqueur on the nose with Ardbeg-dine , Cola cube sweets , peat smoke , coffee and cream . Again the palate is silky smooth , really nice dark chocolate and cherry liqueur leading to a long , sweet , iodiney , sherried finish . Another stunnins single cask Ardbeg …… Enough said !

Saturday 17th August

The really good thing about the summer visit is that when you hit the middle Saturday you know you’ve still got another week to go ! So we headed into our second week , starting off with a trip to Bowmore to get some supplies in ! After a visit to the Co-op and the butchers a refreshment break was needed so we went to Roys for a coffee and cake ! Todays treat was dinner in Katies Bar at the Bridgend Hotel , We both went for the same things , A Crab Salad with a chilli and Lime dressing with Pancetta and dried chillies for starters and a Lamb Burger with Mozzarella and salad and chips . Absolutely Delicious !!! After a few coffees and drinks and a natter to Lorna we headed off stopping in Bowmore to catch up with Phil (Gray) at The Lochside , always good to see Phil at work behind the bar , always good patter and i always try and catch him out with a couple of drams , did this time with the Amrut Greedy Angels and the Beg 1973 , he was very impressed with the Amrut and stunned by the Beg . Then it was back off to Maol Buidhe for bed……

Sunday 18th August

Another lazy sunday at Maol Buidhe , Melanie sat out in the Garden , i went for a walk down the road to try out the video part of the 7D , eventually i cooked us two of the hugest , tenderest , sirloin steaks i’ve ever seen from the Butchers in Bowmore , melt in the mouth stuff ! We need our evening walk down to Seal Bay to help start digesting these beauts !

Monday 19th August

The second Week commences….. We had the Deconstruction tour booked at Ardbeg this afternoon so we had lunch before , Melanie went for the Crab and Salmon Chowder to start with followed by the Roast Beef Dinner , i went for the Smoked Salmon and Halibut Fish cakes followed by the Beef . We went off for a walk to the pier before the tasting……

(Click on Images to see full size )

Melanie on the Pier Melanie at Ardbeg

Then at 2pm it was off on the tour , Heather was our guide today (this was only the 2nd time she’d done this particular tour but you couldn’t tell) . It was a tour of the distillery before we headed off to the Warehouse to try 4 cask samples that were used to make up the 3 standard bottlings – The Ten , Uigeadail and Corryvreckan…..

Ardbeg Deconstruction tour

First up was a 2003 Refill Bourbon Cask 2337 at 56.5% , not a bad start , a bit strong for some on the tour . Next was 2003 Fresh Bourbon Cask 2783 at 58.1% , A lovely sweet Ardbeg , i do like fresh bourbon casks ! Third was Melanies favourite , A sherry cask #2340 from 2007 at 61.4% , at 6yo’s it was dangerously drinkable ! Last was the Virgin French Oak Cask #4586 from 2004 at 57.5% , totally different from the previous 3 casks but still enjoyable . We also got to play a little game , we were given 8 little bottles containing smells that are found in Ardbeg tasting notes , to say we failed miserably is an understatement , we got 1 out of the 8 . We headed back to the Old Kiln for one final dram , the 1974 that i’d had on the previous tour . Heather done a great job on the tour and as i previously said we couldn’t tell it was only the 2nd time she’d done this one !
So which tour is for you ? If you are new to Ardbeg i would say the deconstruction one – you get to understand what makes up the bottlings and the notes you should be looking for , if you are a connoisseur the Decades – you get to try stuff only seen in your dreams !
A quiet night in the cottage finished the day off……

Tuesday 20th August

A bit of a dull day again when we woke up , we drove off to the other side of the Island for a wee walk . Todays destination was the Loch Gruinart Reserve , on the way we got to see our first Buzzard (there seemed to be a slight lack of them on the island )


We’d never actually walked around the reserve , first off we did the Woodland walk then The Moorland section , a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon…….

Graylags at Loch Gruinart Dragonfly
Painted Lady Butterfly Peacock Butterfly

Young Chaffinch

On the way back we stopped off at The Bridgend Hotel again for Tea , Coffee and cakes , They do a lovely Cappuccino ! By now the rain had returned and we headed back to the Cottage via a drive along to the Cross .

Wednesday 21st August

Not a very nice morning to wake up to , we had intended doing a walk today but by the time we got to our destination it was quite wet so we headed off for a drive , first stop was Caol Ila Distillery to see if they had any of the Feis Ile bottling left , they did so after trying it 2 were duly purchased ! They thought Lagavulin had some left as well……
We then headed off for a drive on the Rhinns Circular route , down through Port Charlotte to Portnahaven then back up the West Coast to Port Charlotte . A lovely little scenic drive when you’ve got nothing to do . Then it was into Bowmore for Coffee and Cakes at Roys , before driving back to the Cottage stopping at Lagavulin to pick up another feis ile bottling .

(Click on Images to see full size )


After freshening up it was off to Port Ellen for our annual Dinner out with Ella and Mary at The Islay Hotel . Things didn’t get off to a good start as my first drink ( an Islay Ales Angus Og) didn’t taste right , it was flat and yeasty out of the bottle , now i’ve drunk quite a bit Angus Og – it is my Favourite from the brewery – and it’s not often i complain but to be made feel the guilty party in this wasn’t too clever . Did you pour it right ? have you had it before ? What happened to customer service and the customer is always right ???? Eventually i got another which was a whole lot better but still feel like i was the bad one in all this !

It’s always really nice to spend an evening in the company of Ella and Mary , the craic was exceptional and the food superb , For starters Mary , Ella and myself went for the Islay Scallops in Garlic Butter and Melanie went for the Ham Hock terrene with Chutney and ciabatta bread. First Scallops of the holiday and they were superb ! For the mains , Ella , Mary and Melanie went for the Corn Fed Chicken with Sauteed Potatoes , asparagus and hollandaise sauce . I went for the Argyll Lamb Cutlets with Ratatouille and Mashed Pots . Not being suitably stuffed we all went for a pudding as well , the girls had Strawberries shortcake with cream and i went for Cranachan . The food in the Islay was excellent tonight but not as good as the company !!!! We bit our Farewells and headed off to the Cottage .

Thursday 22nd August

We awoke to Bright sunshine so we headed off for a walk , our original destination was Loch Uigeadail , the ground was quite soggy underfoot and when we reached Solam the Hills up ahead were covered in low cloud so we decided to halt our walk there . After a picnic we headed back down the hills and returned to the Cottage where i sit writing this in bright sunshine in the garden , totally different to the past few days !

Solams Plaque

Solams Plaque

One of the Remains

One of the Remains

Uigeadails up there.... Somewhere!

Uigeadails up there…. Somewhere!

Across to Loch Iarnan

Across to Loch Iarnan


A wee Butterfly , need to find out what.....

A wee Butterfly , A Small Copper

It was such a nice night that after tea we headed off for a drive in the Car up to Bunnahabhain , It’s still a special place for us , where Melanie decided it would be a good idea to have a fortnights holiday on Islay rather than a week and it’s always sad to see the Cottages in such a sad state of decay But there still is something special about the place !

Some of the previously mentioned casks at Bunnahabhain…….

casks1 casks3
casks4 casks2

On the drive back we made the mistake of going through Bowmore , a portion of chips from the Nippy Chippy was called for…….

Clouds coming into Kilnaughton Bay

Clouds coming into Kilnaughton Bay

Friday 23rd August

Our final day of this stay and yesterdays good weather had vanished ! In between packing our stuff away we managed to fit in a couple of Meals ! First up was Lunch at the Old Kiln , what a delight it was ! Pan Fried Halibut on a bed of Sweet Potato and Spring onion mash with a creamy prawn sauce topped with a langoustine , this photo by Melanie doesn’t do it justice !


It was delicious and if it had been at a hotel (on the Isle) would have been twice the price ! Our second meal was from The Nippy Chippy , must say their Fish Supper is rather good and worth hunting out , then it was back to the Cottage to finish off the packing and tidy up……

The View i'll miss most......

The View i’ll miss most……

Saturday 24th August

So we packed the car and bid our Goodbyes to Maol Buidhe for this year, off to Port Ellen to Catch the Finlaggan back to the Mainland . Of course there was one last treat , Calmacs legendary Traditional Scottish Breakfast ! Sets you up for the day ! The drive home was pretty good , did notice there was no Roadworks on ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ , the first time for many a year !

Finlaggan approaching Port Ellen

Finlaggan approaching Port Ellen

This years Spoils……..


Rouges Gallery…….

rouge-1 rouge-2
rouge-3 rouge-4

Winter 2013 Visit

Just a short visit this time , a long weekend but every visit to Islay is worth it !

Thursday 28th February

Another early start to the day , very frosty and foggy on the way up to Glasgow but by the time we hit Lomond it was lovely and sunny , Just before getting to Kennacraig we had our customary stop at Tarbert for tea and cakes……

Tarbert(Took with a Blackberry Z10 and un-instagrammed !)

Melanie in tarbertThe Ferry across this time would be the Hebridean Isles as The Finlaggan was away on Winter Maintenance duty .

Hebridean IslesOnce on Islay we made our way to our residence this trip , the Bowmore Distillery Garden Cottage . After settling down and freshening up we made our way to The Lochside  to get a bite to eat and see the night out with a dram or two , unfortunately no Islay Ales tonight as they’d run and were waiting for new stock.

Friday 1st March

A new day , a new month ! A Beautiful morning , we went off down to Ardbeg leaving the car behind and getting the bus down (£4.70 return for those that are interested) . As it turned out this first time on an Islay visit we only used the car to get from the Ferry to the Accomodation then back to the ferry ! Bus and walked the rest of the time . It was good to catch up with everyone at Ardbeg , even though it was briefly with Jackie , after having a natter with Mickey and Emma we had lunch , the Cullen Skink was wonderful ! I won’t bother mentioning about the Ardbog as it’s been covered elsewhere on the web…… After lunch Margaret gave us a look around Ardbegs latest project , a holiday let ! You too could stay on the distillery site , it’s a beautifully furnished house (next to the managers ) , downstairs consists of 3 Bedrooms ( all ensuite , 2 doubles , 1 twin) and a rather posh bathroom . Upstairs there’s a combined Kitchen / Dining room with log burner and underfloor heating with a balcony with views across to Kintyre and Antrim , i’ll not say the price but it’s not your normal run of the mill holiday let……. details soon on the website…….

So it was back to Bowmore to freshen up and a look at the Japanese Garden we had access to from the cottage .

The Japanese Garden

The View down the garden (our cottage is the one with the patio doors)

Melanie at the Loch end of the Garden

Melanie at the Loch end of the Garden

Melanie on a stroll.....

Melanie on a stroll…..

Once again we headed out to the Lochside for a bite to eat and some refreshment…… The Islay Ales were back on ! A pint of Finlaggan if you please ! We finished off the night in the Schooner Bar of the Harbour Inn . Actually got to try the 2010 Feis Ile Caol Ila tonight , a cracking dram , wish i had a bottle…….

Saturday 2nd March

Quite an early start for a holiday , first up we were on the 10am tour of the Bowmore Distillery (in with the Cottage rental) , a very good tour by Heather , we also got to see Phil Gray working (some say a rarity……but i wouldn’t……) and became very popular with the tour , due to our presence ( i.e. cottage occupents ) the usual end of tour dram was changed from a 12yo to the 15yo Darkest as we get a bottle of it included in our let….. Lots of Woo-hoos all round ! So after making a few purchases in the Visitors Centre shop , great staff now btw after our experiences of a few years ago , we headed back to the cottage to change and go and meet Ella for Lunch at the Bowmore Hotel…….

The Bowmore Hotel was a place we hadn’t frequented a lot in the past (once in how many ever visits) and we got a bit of a shock this time when we went in , it’s been done out ! And very nicely too ! It was great to catch up with Ella , she’s doing really well after her recent hip replacement . The food was very tasty and flavoursome and it was good to see proper homemade chips ! After saying farewell we went off for a shop in Bowmore , some more supplies and bits and bobs purchased before heading back to the Cottage to get ready for the evenings fun and games .

Melanie ready to hit the Town !

Melanie ready to hit the Town !

We had a bite to eat in the Chinese Restaurant before heading off Back to The Lochside to watch Phil work , Twice in one day ! This’ll not do his reputation any good…… It was good to catch up with him and see him in action behind the bar , It turned out to be a really good night , Lots of Swedes (the people not the vegetables….. )in , had a good chat with Michael and  mob , and the patter was flying from behind the bar , we both said it ‘s the first time when we’ve been in the Lochside in recent years that it reminded us of when we stayed there under Alistair and Ann . After much 15yo darkest (i’ve took a shine to it….) we thought we best retire back to the Cottage as we had the morning ferry to get . Cheers Phil and Michaels Mob for the great night !

Sunday 3rd March

So it was off to Port Ellen for the 9.45am ferry , a lovely morning to end our flying visit . A Calmac Breakfast was on the menu to see us off on journey home , we didn’t really do a lot this visit ( apart from eat and drink by the look of it !) but it was a nice relaxing time without doing any walking or chasing photographs . Till the next time…….

For those that are intrested this is what the cottage looked like inside……..

The Sitting Room

The Sitting Room

The Main Bedroom

The Main Bedroom (there is another twin Bedroom)

The Kitchen

The Kitchen from the Patio Doors

The Kitchen

The Kitchen looking towards the pation doors

Details of the Cottages can be found at

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 .

(click on the photos to see full size images)

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

Hey , That’s Mine !

Recently i went , for some unknown reason , to another bloggers page , where upon clicking on their Ardbeg Distillery profile page i found one of my photos……..

Ardbeg Distillery

Evidence ‘A’ M’Lord……

Now normally i would be pretty chuffed that some one has thought something of mine is good enough to use ( borrow / lift /pinch *choose as you think appropriate) but this seems to be getting a regular regular thing in 2012 , earlier this year a whisky shop “used” my write up on the Geordie Laddies PC to “promote” the sale of some of a fellow shareholders bottles , what annoyed me was (apart from not asking my permission) that it looked like I was selling the bottles ! Which anyone who knows me well enough would know i’d never do….. Especially with  such an excellent whisky !!!

This problem isn’t new to me , back in the Good ‘ol days of the spirit of Islay site it was something of a regular problem , i had one site ask if they could use something and when i said no , they took the info thing anyway . If ever i got a heads up on an Ardbeg release i could put money on it would be lifted and appear elsewhere , usually a swedish forum…… Now people used to do this on my warehouse no.4 forum but i always reverted to what was an unwritten rule in internet etiquette , Post a link to the original site  NOT lift stuff ! and i’d always delete things that didn’t happen in this way .

If  i saw something i thought was of interest  to my site visitors i’d always ask the owner for permission to use it , if they agreed to it’s use , i’d always give credit and post a link to their site , perhaps i was just too honest……  

So where does this leave me now ? Well i’m going to have to stick a watermark on my photos which i don’t want to do as (a) it spoils the look of them , even discrete watermarks  (b) it means a bit more work on the actual process of the photo which can mount up if i’ve had a fruitful photographic day on Islay ! 

I’ve sent an e-mail to the offending blog but i’m not expecting a reply as i’ve since learned that i’m not the only one they’ve “took” photos from , they’ve also raided Armins Islayblog  . Another question now arises  , do i give permission in the future for someone to use any of my photos ?