Christmas 2013 Visit Photographs

Here are the Photographs from the Christmas 2013 Visit…….

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Laphroaig Laphroaig2

Two views of Laphroaig on the Saturday including the new larger Warehouse “name” .

Heron at Bruichladdich Geese

A Heron across the way from Bruichladdich Distillery and the obligatory “Geese” photo .

Buzzard Buzzard2

A Buzzard seen at Bridgend .
Alpaca
One of the Native Animals of Islay……

Heilan Coo Waves

One of my favourites , a Heilan Coo and waves down at Portnahaven .

Cottage Cottage2

The interiors of our place of residence , The Stillmans Cottage , Bowmore Distillery .

Cottage3 Cottage4

Melanie
Melanie looking gorgeous as ever on her way out to the Bridgend Hotel for a meal !

Christmas 2013 Visit Part 2

Saturday 28th December

A Nice lie in this morning (that’s what holidays are for !) , seeing it was raining when we decided to go for a wander we took a drive down to the South Side of the Island . We went along as far as Kildalton , stopping at a favourite haunt of ours for a wee while (Seal Bay) , you could tell it’s been rough of late , seaweed on any roads close to the shore and the fence has collapsed into the bay just along from Dower House . Not much in the way of wild life , just ducks and geese in seal bay . On the way back we bumped into Mickey (Heads) at Ardbeg Road ends , had a good wee natter with him , the distillery is in silent season and the stillhouse is in bits , repair work going on to the actual stills .

We then stopped off at Laphroaig (only them , Kilchoman and Bruichladdich are open full time) , James kindly let me try the 2013 25yo , absolutely stunning ! While we were in there was a wedding going on , looked like Phil (Gray) was doing the photography , Joanne ( ex-Ardbeg now Bruichladdich) was one of the guests and we managed to catch up with her when she wandered by . When we got back to Bowmore we headed over to Roys for a Coffee/Tea and Cakes . It was so good we had second helpings ! The Lemon Drizzle cake was superb , lovely and moist , luckily we did as Duncan and his wife came in and it was nice to catch up with them !

In the Evening Melanie treated me to a meal out at The Bridgend Hotel , we love eating out here and we weren’t going to be disappointed . We decided to leave the car at home and got a taxi there and back , meant I could have a drink or two……..

For Starters Melanie had the Islay Crab Salad and I went for the Chicken Liver Parfait , for the mains we both went for the same , Pan fried fillet of Sea bass with Smoked Scallops . Absolutely wonderful ! We were both so stuffed that we skipped the desserts and retired to the lounge for Coffee and more drinks . Then it was back to the cottage to loosen the belts and chill out……..

Part Three of the Visit
The Photographs….

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……
Tarbert_deer
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…….

the_bar

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 .

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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 .

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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

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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

laddie_72Val

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

SMOS_Bunna_1979

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

ardbeg_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…….

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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 .

Decades-1

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 ……..

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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……

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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 )

Buzzard

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 .

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Melanie_meal

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

rouge-5

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…….

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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 !

lunch

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……..

Spoils

Rouges Gallery…….

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Otter Country

I’ve just finished reading a book recommended by my good friend James Deane , Otter Country: In search of Wild Otters by Miriam Darlington (ISBN: 9781847084859) , James knew we always went out on the ‘hunt’ for otters whenever we are over on Islay and thought i’d be interested in the read . He was right , an excellent book which just shows what a hold these animals can take on you , i haven’t been as far as Miriam (Devon , Cornwall , Somerset , South East England , Cumbria , Northumberland , Highlands of Scotland , Skye…..) but i’ve been to a few places looking for them…..

Normally an obsession with Otters starts in one of two places or should i say books , Tarka the Otter or Ring of Bright Water , mine started i suppose with the Film Ring of Bright Water (wasn’t a big reader as a kid….)  . It took me a while to see a real live Otter , not a wild one , a captive one at the Bowes Otter Sanctuary – which unfortunately is now closed – it was a pretty good introduction to them in the flesh . Before we settled on going to Islay every holiday we did tour around Scotland , we visited the Bright Water Visitors Centre in Kyleakin and walked down to the Kylerhea Otter Haven Hide , a wonderful walk that ended in no otters…… For the first few years of visiting Islay the count remained at zero , always been told stories by visitors who ‘stumbled’ upon otters .

Look no Camera…….

Our first real live Otter encounter happened at Seal Bay when we didn’t have a camera handy….. we’d left the hotel early to have a drive down to one of our favourite places on the isle Seal Bay . admiring the seals Mel casually said “oh look there’s a small seal swimming past us…..” it wasn’t , it was an otter ! And just to kick sand in our faces seeing i didn’t have a camera to hand it came out of the water with a fish , sat down less than 20 yards from us and proceeded to have its breakfast in front of us , an unbelieveable experience . 

You don’t have to go that far to see an Otter…..

Now just to make matters worse on our return home there was a programme on the telly hosted by a certain ex-goodie , Bill Oddie , watching Otters swim in the Nature Reserve a quarter of a mile across the field in front of our home…… It was also backed up a few years later by another Comedic Bill (Bailey) doing a Wild Thing….. I Love You episode about Otters from the same Big Waters Reserve . Still haven’t seen one there BTW . 

Our First Photo…..

The first Otter i managed to catch on film wasn’t on Islay , it was on Jura ! If you are a regular visitor here you will have seen it on the header at the top of the Blog , but if you haven’t here it is…….

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This was just along from the ferry terminal at Feolin , there were actually two Otters and they were having great fun in the kelp ! We could have stayed for ages watching them but we had to get the ferry back to Islay.

It’s Behind you…..

Our next close encounter of the Otter kind actually happened on the mainland , for the 2003 Feis Ile we had to get the early morning ferry (7am) as the later ones were fully booked , arriving at Kennacraig early in the morning (about 2.30am) we tried to get our heads down for a few hours , after failing miserably several times there was a splash on the Loch behind us , there was an Otter swimming along towards the ferry , a lovely sight at about 5.30 in the morning…….

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition !

We stayed up at the old Bunnahabhain Distillery Cottages for a few years and heard many a story from the workers about the Otters activities around there (including a Mother bringing her cubs into the yard in front of the distillery) , It wasn’t till our last year there that we actually saw one . We were the last people to stay at the cottages in 2010 , the first week there were others there who had seen a dog otter swimming around the pier , we didn’t see anything in the first week . Not at Bunnahabhain anyway….. Bunnahabhain has a non-existant mobile signal , so to take part in the weekly whisky chats we used to drive down to Loch Indaal to get a signal . We used to always park in the same spot just along from where the Carrabus Burn flows into the Loch . This night we’d just started on the chat when an Otter swam past  ! Could not believe it , no camera again (it was dark this time…..) , totally unexpected !

Back at Bunnahabhain , for our second week we were the only occupants , no joy all week until our very last night then the Otter appeared , it swam from around the wreck and along the front of the distillery heading towards the Margadale . 

Otter 1A wonderful ending to our last night of our last stay at Bunnahabhain !

We haven’t had anymore close encounters of the Otter kind since then , though on the first night of last summer we did see one in the distance towards Seal Bay . We will be resuming the hunt in a couple of weeks time hopefully capturing some good shots and this time it’s personal !

Bring out the comfy chairs……

WalkHighlands guide to walks on Islay and Jura

Just found an interesting new page on the WalkHighlands Site , a guide to walks on Islay and Jura . Only Islay ones listed at the moment but well worth a look if you’re heading to the Queen of the Hebrides and are interested in doing a few walks . The direct link to the Islay page is Islay Walks

The Last Day…..

Friday 6th April 

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

Ardbeg Distillery

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

The Artists Edition

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

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

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

Saturday 7th April   

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

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

Another Day in Paradise…..

Thursday 5th April

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 4th April 

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

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

Mel in the Room

Mel settles into the room

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

View from the Room

Room with a view

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

Mel Chilling out

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

The Room

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

September 2011 Visit

So once again we head back to Islay for our Annual fortnight on the Isle . This time slightly later than usual due to us celebrating my 50th Birthday and to a new place , Maol Buidhe , due to Bunnahabhain having stopped the rental of their Cottages . Maol Buidhe is situated at the other end of the Isle on the South Shore just along from Ardbeg Distillery .

Saturday 10th

We set off at our usual departure time of 4.30am , the weather was fine on the East Coast but by the time we hit the west we were in showers / wind /low cloud . When we arrived at Kennacraig it wasn’t too bad infact by the time we were sailing down West Loch Tarbert  it was sunny !

(Click on any of the photos to see larger version)

First sighting Getting Closer
Into the Mist Open Sezza Me !

The new ferry Finlaggan isn’t too bad , apart from the Tacky lighting feature in the downstairs bar area and what i consider to be a slight oversight these days given the amount of money spent , NO Wi-fi ! One thing they could look into is an announcement before it docks for people parked on the Mezz Deck , so they know what to do and also an announcement to tell people to be sharpish in getting back to their cars so the rest of us waiting can off the boat !

New Bar Area Finl;aggan Sculpture

Anyway when we did get ashore the weather was sunny with a strong wind . We drove straight down to the cottage , got settled in , had something to eat then drank !

As this is a special Birthday i’ve brought some bottles with me i’ve been keeping to open on this occasion , i can now hear people saying “do you know how much that is worth on the Secondary market ?!?!?! “ Yup i f*$&ing do and i bought it to drink it not make money on it ! So onto the first one……

Bruichladdich 1970 Valinch Cask #5085

Bruichladdich 1970 Valinch

Distilled Dec 1970 , Bottled 29th May 2001 at 47.3% From a Bourbon cask . A lovely Golden Syrup colour , the nose is of a wonderful old , well matured Laddie , bags of oak spices and vanilla , very citrusy  , a dram you could smell for ever and a day . Quite fruity as well , an English summer green fruit salad . On the palate it again is very spicy , quite oaky but in a nice way , again very fruity , apples and pears , apples with cinnamon . The finish is long , spicy and oaky with a hint of citrus at the end . The 1970 O.b. is one of my favourite Laddie releases , this single cask is another step up from it , if you’ve got one of these squirreled away , open it , you are in for a nice surprise . If you had one of these and you sold it on , no matter what price you got , you don’t know what you’ve missed .

Sunday 11th

Woke up to a howling wind and rain , after a lie in and breakfast we headed off to pick up some supplies at Bridgend and Bowmore . There was a brief lull in the rain but it’s been persistent all day , heavy one minute , the fine drizzle the next . We’ve decided just to spend the rest of the day in the cottage , get the home fires burning and pour some drams ! After something to eat of course…..

I Beg your Pardon….. What could be better on a Wet and Windy Autumn Evening on Islay in front of a real fire than a Handful of Begs……

Five Begs

Very Old Ardbeg 30yo

Bottled in 1996 at 30yo ( Aah 1966 , a good year for the English not so good for the Scottish……), i love the old fashioned  style of label , looks old before you even try it ! An Amberish colour , the nose is a wonderful  Ardbeg Iodine , no peat at all , again the palate is iodine but with an oakiness  , very silky across the palate with a slight touch of oak spices , very warming . The finish is medium with iodine and a touch of spices . A wonderful Dram ,not lacking at 40% but still makes you wonder “What if they’d bottled it at…… ?”

Very Old Ardbeg

Ardbeg Kildalton 1980 24yo Lightly Peated

Bottled for the Committee in 2004 at 57.6% , a lovely burnished Gold colour , the nose is very un-Ardbegish , very fruity , Malty and biscuity . The highlight of the nose is definitely the fruitiness , apples and pears bursting out all over the place . The Plate does have a touch of the peat and smoke underneath a fruitiness . There is also a hint of chocolate and cocoa . The finish is long and beautiful with green fruits . A cracking aged dram , not what you’d expect from an Ardbeg .

Ardbeg Committee Reserve

Another Committee Bottling , Made up of Ardbeg from the 1970’s , 1980’s and 1990’s , vatted into 3000 bottles at 55.3% . Again a burnished gold colour , a right old mixture of Ardbeg Smells , peat , smoke , iodine , chocolate , coffee…….. along with Marzipan and cloves ! The palate  is youthful and elderly , the peaty youthfulness and the elderly iodine . The finish is long , warming , peaty and chocolate . An Ardbeg with everything !

Ardbeg Renaissance

The End of the Peaty path , a 10yo Ardbeg at Caskstrength (55.9%)  from 1st Fill Bourbon Barrels . Well where do you start , straw in colour , a fantastic Ardbeg nose , a classic Ardbeg palate , a whopping Ardbeg finish .  I once gave this 9.95 out of 10 at a tasting , i know why , this is a fantastic Ardbeg , on the nose bags of peat , creamy fudge , cocoa , seashore and dunnage warehouse . On the palate  Peat , smoke , Cocoa , Dark chocolate , creamy , wonderful ! Fantastic finish……. Heaven !

Ardbeg Feis Ile

This years Feis Ile bottling , 2 PX matured casks , hence the lovely amber colour . The nose is a perfect mix of Ardbeg Spirit and sherry casks , very smoky , dry and sherried  . The palate is very dry , sherry , chocolate , peat and gorgeous . finish is long , dry , sherry and peaty chocolate . Absolutely gorgeous , a stunning example of an Ardbeg matured away from the usual Bourbon / Sherry casks .

Monday 12th

Let the wind blow High , let the wind blow low……   with the remains of Hurricane Katia on our door step it was a wee bit windy ! After a trip into Port Ellen we headed along to The Old Kiln for lunch with Serge Valentin and his wife and Mark Gillespie of Whiskycast fame . On arrival we found a few familiar faces in the OK due to a Ardbeg Embassies trip including Martin Grant from MHUK  and Arthur Motley from RMW . The lunch got off to a good start with a try of the recently released Alligator , i thought it tasted better than the Committee release but i was informed by my learned friends it was exactly the same spirit batch ! We ordered lunch and then the electric went off !!! We   managed to get some of it (The Crab Chowder , Lamb Burgers , salad but Serge had to change his Baked Tattie ) . After a couple of drams i’d took along , Jackie appeared with a couple of Cask samples for us to try , a 1999 12yo 1st fill and a 1999 12yo refill , that the Embassy mob had been comparing . Must say they were both stunning , i slightly preferred the 1st fill , very Renaissance-y .

It was great catching up with Serge again after 6 years and finally meeting his wife , it was a pleasure meeting Mark in the flesh after so long talking over the internet and listening to his excellent WhiskyCast . We headed back to the Cottage for another Evening of Real fire and Islay Drams…..

Port Charlotte 4yo Cask R23

Decided to bring a new bottle of this with me to open up on the Isle  , what can i say…… Best port Charlotte ever…..So far…… Wonderful nose , like an old dunnage warehouse at first then Maltiness and peat smoke . Delightful ! The palate is a dry smoky maltiness and a dry peat , very pleasant and tastes a lot older than it’s age . The finish is very long , dry with a smooth smokiness .

Caol Ila 10yo Unpeated Style

Bottled in 2009 at a whopping   65.8% . A pale gold in colour , the full strength nose is very fruity , green fruits , caramel and shortbread biscuit . The palate is quite strong (obviously !) , needs reducing , so with water it brings out the fruitiness . The finish is long and slightly sweet , nearly opal fruitish (that’s Starbursts for the youngsters…..)  . A very nice dram from a distillery that doesn’t usually fail to deliver !

Tuesday 13th

Woke up again to rain and wind , the left overs from yesterdays storm , it looks like it’s going to be like this all day . Today is the first of the booked tours , first up is the Laphroaig ‘Johnstons Choice’ Tasting so after lunch at The Old Kiln we headed off to a busy Laphroaig for the 3pm appointment . There were only 4 of us on this tasting hosted by David , a former warehouseman . We were given 4 drams to try….

Mel at the Laphroaig Tasting

  • Laphroaig 10yo 40%
  • Laphroaig 25yo 48.6%
  • Laphroaig Cairdeas 2008 Feis ile 55%
  • Laphroaig Cairdeas 30yo 43%

David talked us through what made up each expression , the original tasting notes and gave us a few pointers on how to enjoy each one , loved the tip for the Feis Ile bottling involving putting water in the palate then drinking the whisky through it , really brought out the full Laphroaig flavours in that one . Obviously our opinions were asked and given , it was a nice relaxed tasting intermixed with stories from David , a great way to spend a late afternoon with some fantastic whisky and a bargain for £25 . After purchasing the latest 10yo Cask strength batch (003) and a few other bits and pieces we headed back to the Cottage for a bit more Laphroaig…..

Laphroaig 10yo 40%

A lot better than the last 10yo i tried , seems to be regaining more of it’s former glory , getting more of the medicinalness on the nose , farmyard and nettles (don’t know why i started finding this from ) , also seems to be a lot more peaty . Pretty much the same on the palate with a long warming finish , now if only they’d go the full hog and bump it up to 46% without the chill filtering……. Was very surprised to see Mel drinking this one !

Laphroaig 25yo 48.6%

Was taken slightly aback by this one as the last 25yo i tried wasn’t too clever , this is superb ! Still holds a slight ‘Laphroaig’ taste to it , the nose is quite fruity with a hint of medicinalness , pear drops definitely shine through along with a slight sherry hint , The palate very medicinal again with the farmyard / nettles thing and green fruits . again a lovely long and warming finish . Mel liked this one too .

Laphroaig Cairdeas  2008 Feis ile 55%

Have a bottle (or two) of this one  , an excellent Laphroaig , Very medicinal , seashore , peaty , ozone etc etc . Mel wasn’t too hot on this one probably because she knew what was coming next……

Laphroaig Cairdeas 30yo 43%

30 years in a sherry cask can make or break a spirit , thankfully this one was the former ! Where do you start ? A delightfully fruity nose , lots of red berries , not overly sherried . The palate is classic Christmas cake with loads of dried fruit and again red berries then in the finish there is a blast of Laphroaig medicinalness and a hint of peat , wonderful ! Mels favourite of the tasting , she always does like old things…..

What's getting opened this holiday

Wednesday 14th

We woke up to beautiful sunshine this morning , totally different to the previous 2 days , at least it gave us a chance to have a look at our surroundings and local fauna before heading off to todays festivities .

Maol Buidhe Cottage

Our home sweet home this fortnight .

Geese over the Bay

Geese flying over the bay (took handheld at full 300mm zoom)

Cormorant in the bay

Cormorant over the bay (took handheld at full 300mm zoom)

Butterfly

Butterfly

We headed off to the other side of the Island for the Afternoon Managers tour of Kilchoman . We went over early to have some lunch in their cafe beforehand . The tour was took by someone we’ve come to know quite well over the years during our frequent visits to the Isle , John Mac lellan , it was good to see him again and as always his tour was informative and humourous  . This is the first real tour we’ve done of Kilchoman and it was good to see the different methods and approaches of the distillery . It ended with a tasting in the warehouse of New make and a 2006 cask sample and trying two of the recent releases in the visitors centre , the 2011 spring release and the 100% Islay release (50%abv) . It will be interesting to see how the single malt develops over the years .

Kilchoman Mill

Kilchoman Stillhouse

On our way back to the cottage we stopped off in Port Ellen to see a good friend of ours Ella Edgar and find out how her retirement was going and how her recent rubbing shoulders with royalty went .

On our return to the cottage we got an answer to a question that had been bugging us….. We noticed some animal poo on the grass and we wondered what had deposited it…..it’s amazing the conversations you have in remote cottages when you’re on holiday……  as we pulled up to the cottage we seen the culprits on the lawn……. Deer !  The ran off straight away . The local Animals seemed to go wild after the recent storms tonight . We had bats flying over head , some strange sounds coming from the bay , what sounded like deer rutting coming over the fields and a ginger cat appeared from nowhere !

Like late last night , tonight we had a beautiful moon lit night , last night at about midnight i tried to take some photos but i cocked up the manual focusing , tonight i done a wee bit better , yes that is the full moon…….

Moon Shine

Thursday 15th

We were spoilt this morning to wake up to our second day of beautiful Islay sunshine ! Today we were booked into the afternoon Warehouse tour at Lagavulin with Pinkie . Now as followers of this blog will know from past visits it’s always a good idea to have a good meal before doing one of Iains Warehouse demonstrations (isn’t it Willie !) so we felt it was our duty to go to the Old Kiln again for lunch on the way along . Mel once again went for the Crab Chowder  (she really likes it ) and had an old favourite to follow , Baked Tattie with Prawn Marie Rose . I went for the new edition to the menu , Venison Sausages in a 5 bean gravy with a mash which was very nice and also extremely filling ! I got a bit of a surprise at the Distillery when Janey appeared with a parcel that had been delivered there for me , addressed to ‘Gordon (Auld Yin) Homer’ , what was it and who was if from ? Well you’ll have to wait to find out……We then headed off in the direction of Lagavulin .

The one good thing about staying on the South Shore (apart from having 3 of the best distilleries in the world on your doorstep !) is the fantastic scenery as you walk between the aforementioned distilleries , you get some cracking views of the distilleries , remote bays , views across bays to the mainland  and if you’re really lucky you see some of the fantastic wildlife Islay has to offer .

When you walk along from Ardbeg to Lagavulin you climb a small hill (if you can call it that ) where you get to see one of my favourite views of Ardbeg Distillery .

Ardbeg Distillery

Upon reaching the top you get your first view of Lagavulin Village and Distillery .

Lagavulin

It is a beautiful walk along the road , especially if you do the full 3 miles from Port Ellen to Ardbeg along the rugged coastline , breathe taking in places and it gives you a chance to drink in the landscape that has formed the 3 South Shore distilleries characters without speeding along past it in a car .

We eventually got to Lagavulin and went into the warehouse for Iains demonstration . Once again Iain was in top form , he never fails to deliver  , the whiskies tried this time were……

  • 10yo from a 2nd fill cask
  • 14yo from a 4th fill cask
  • 18yo from an ex-sherry cask
  • 1994 Distillers edition
  • Distillery only bottling

On the way out we purchased one of the Distillery  only Bottlings and also a Caol Ila Moch . We then had a pleasant walk back to the Cottage where we settled down for a relaxing evening with a few drams .

The Lagavulin Warehouse Tour Drams….

10yo from a 2nd fill cask – Pale Gold in Colour , very young smelling initially , quite peaty . The palate is quite fiery and peppery with very peaty undertones . The Lagavulin character isn’t quite there yet but it is definitely an Islay .

14yo from a 4th fill cask – Straw in colour , the nose is quite closed at first , then a soft peatiness emerges with a stronger smokiness . On the palate it is very peaty  but with a more distinct Lagavulin taste than the nose , the finish is long and peaty  . Hasn’t taken much from the cask still a touch spirity .

18yo from an ex-sherry cask – Burnished gold in the glass , this is more like it , a lovely sherried smokiness  on the nose , The palate is classic Laga , sweet and smoky . This one was very popular on the tour .

Distillery Only Bottling – This is the same stuff that goes into the Distillers Edition , spirit that was left over and matured for an extra period and bottled at Cask Strength . A lovely smooth Lagavulin , very dark fruits and smokiness with a nice long finish . On the tour you were given the choice of this one or the DE , we went for 1 each to compare and quickly came to the conclusion that this was the better dram .

Friday 16th

The last day of my 49th year , a fairly quiet one , drive up to Bowmore for some supplies , lunch at a very busy Old Kiln Cafe and then back to the Cottage for a relaxing night of drams .

The Birthday Drams !

Seeing it’s a special Birthday i’ve been keeping back some special bottles for the occasion , i’ve opened some up as the weeks progressed but last night i went for the final three……..

What's getting opened this holiday

Gordon and Macphails 1961 Glen Grant Bottled 2011 40%

A lovely Ruby Red colour in the glass , loads of red fruits on the nose , oaky spices and sherry trifle , a very relaxed nose . On the palate a lovely balance between the sherry , spirit and wood , again red berries , spices and what can only be described  as the bottom of the sherry trifle (the jelly and sherry soaked sponge ) . The finish is medium with dry sherry and oak spices . A lovely dram for it’s age , very drinkable .

Bunnahabhain Auld Acquaintance

Distilled in 1968 , bottled in 2002 at 43.8% , 1 of 2002 bottles . Deep Amber in colour , a wonderful nose , the archetypical Christmas cake , cake dough , dried fruit , bags of sherry , there is also more than a hint of Bunnahabhain sweetness . A seriously superb sherry palate ! Beautiful mouthfeel , lots of dark fruits , sherry and cola cube sweets , very aromatic and spices . A lovely long sherry finish , with Christmas spices . This is possibly the most perfect sherried Bunnahabhain ever if not best sherried malt ever . Absolutely perfect , if i scored it would be in the very high 90’s…..

Old Malt Cask 1967 Ardbeg Bottled 2000 49%

Amber in colour , the nose is an un-mistakable Ardbeg , a lovely soft Ardbeg-dine mingles with a vanilla – spiceness   , another gorgeous mouthfeel , still quite lively , again a mixture of Ardbeg-dine and spices , quite a classic Ardbeg taste Mmmmm…..   The finish is medium , very pleasant and really  Ardbegish   . Another fabulous old Beg from the 60’s .

Very Old Ardbeg 30yo

Bottled in 1996 at 30yo ( Aah 1966 , a good year for the English not so good for the Scottish……), i love the old fashioned  style of label , looks old before you even try it ! An Amberish colour , the nose is a wonderful  Ardbeg Iodine , no peat at all , again the palate is iodine but with an oakiness  , very silky across the palate with a slight touch of oak spices , very warming . The finish is medium with iodine and a touch of spices . A wonderful Dram ,not lacking at 40% but still makes you wonder “What if they’d bottled it at…… ?”

Previous Notes……

Bruichladdich 1970 Valinch Cask #5085

Distilled Dec 1970 , Bottled 29th May 2001 at 47.3% From a Bourbon cask . A lovely Golden Syrup colour , the nose is of a wonderful old , well matured Laddie , bags of oak spices and vanilla , very citrusy  , a dram you could smell for ever and a day . Quite fruity as well , an English summer green fruit salad . On the palate it again is very spicy , quite oaky but in a nice way , again very fruity , apples and pears , apples with cinnamon . The finish is long , spicy and oaky with a hint of citrus at the end . The 1970 O.b. is one of my favourite Laddie releases , this single cask is another step up from it , if you’ve got one of these squirreled away , open it , you are in for a nice surprise . If you had one of these and you sold it on , no matter what price you got , you don’t know what you’ve missed .

Port Charlotte 4yo Cask R23

Decided to bring a new bottle of this with me to open up on the Isle  , what can i say…… Best port Charlotte ever…..So far…… Wonderful nose , like an old dunnage warehouse at first then Maltiness and peat smoke . Delightful ! The palate is a dry smoky maltiness and a dry peat , very pleasant and tastes a lot older than it’s age . The finish is very long , dry with a smooth smokiness .

7.57 SMWS 25yo Longmorn ‘Hallelujah Dram’

Haven’t got around to writing up notes for this one but it is an Excellent Longmorn……

Saturday 17th

The big 5-0 has been reached ! Woke up to another day of Sunshine and Showers , Didn’t really do a lot during the day except for a trip down to Port Ellen . After a pre-meal drink at the Cottage we headed off to the Bridgend Hotel with our guests for the night Ella ,  Mickey and Margaret  and Jackie and Dugga . Unfortunately two others couldn’t make it for the night , Mary from Laddie and Ian Gray . The Menu for the meal was brand new  due to the chef having just started for the Bridgend (it’s the chef who was going to be working at the New Islay Hotel and used to work in the Old Kiln but it’s a complicated Islay story how he ended up here…..but all i can say is The Islays loss is the Bridgends gain) . Once again we were made to feel very welcome by Lorna and her staff and to say the food was excellent is an understatement . After a few rounds of drinks  from ourselves and Mickey we sat down for the meal .  For starters Mel and Ella had the Crab chowder , Myself , Mickey and Dugga had the Rannoch Venison , Margaret and Jackie had the smoked Salmon . For mains Dugga and Ella had the Steak , Mel and Myself had the Duck – cherry jus and honey roasted vegetables , Jackie had the Chicken breast with Mango salsa and corn cake , Margaret went for the Goats cheese and Mickey went for the Halibut with sauted savoy cabbage and mash . Not everyone had a pudding , Mel , Mickey and Ella went for Lemon Posset with Cinnamon shortbread biscuits and i went for the Chocolate Tart ! Ella treat us to a cheese selection with a Port later on .

Like i said the food was superb , and the company was excellent , The wine courtesy of Jackie and Dugga  and ourselves and the fine aged Islay Malts flowed all night ,  there  was great craic around the table  , we even got to hear lots of stories about Islay past , Ella should definitely sit down and write a book , They were just as good if not better than some of Islays legendary Storytellers . Many thanks to them all for a fantastic night and some splendid gifts , The Glass Painting and cask end from all at Ardbeg   . The New Laddie 10yo (hot off the bottling line last Sunday ) off Mary and the Bunnahabhain 18yo from Ella .

Ardbeg Picture and Cask End

Laddie 10 and Bunna 18

Sunday 18th

This Sunday we woke up to a total contrast to  last Sunday , Beautiful sunshine , so good i got up early and went down to the shoreline to take some photos  . After a brief visit back to bed , we finally got up , had some breakfast and went for our first proper walk of the holidays along the south shore as  far as the old Hotel . Plenty of deer about , the odd seal and a Herd (?) of Peacocks . It was very Mediterranean as we went from bay to bay .

Bay Panorama

Bay

Deer

Deer

Next doors Pier

Wild Iris

Bruichladdich 10yo 46%

Distilled 11/09/01 , Bottled 11/09/11 . The ‘Bruichladdich’ spirit has reached 10yo (They didn’t start distilling it till 4 months after the official opening) , a honey-gold in colour  , the nose is quite young to start with then it becomes quite fruity , Green fruits initially (Apples , pears) then Melon , at the end fudge and malt come through . The palate feels more robust (if that’s the word , there’s more of it…..) than previous 10yo’s , rich and silky , it’s sweet at first , very honeyed , fudge , a touch of lemon and a hint of maltiness . The finish is medium with a nice warmness and sweetness . I must admit when i first tried this i wasn’t impressed with it . i think the initial nose of youthfulness put me off , but…… after the third try of it i’m liking it…..not as much as the 1970 tried earlier in the Holidays though .

7.57 SMWS Longmorn 25yo ‘Hallelujah dram’ 58.7%

From a refill hogshead , A beautiful polished gold in colour , an incredible fruitiness greets the nose , exotic fruits like mangos and pineapples , bags of vanilla , very fresh and satisfying . The palate carries on where the nose left off , a lovely sweet  fruitness , quite honeyed as well , again vanilla . This one fair dances across the mouth , wonderful ! A lovely long honeyed  finish with exotic fruits . You can see why Longmorn is much sought after for top dressing in blends , it is a top class malt , just a shame it’s not available more than the 16yo O.b. and the odd rare I.b.

Monday 19th

We woke up to quite a nice day , we had lunch in The Lochside  – which had recently changed hands – it’s the first time we had eaten in there for a good few years and to be honest we won’t be returning in a hurry……

We then drove down to Bunnahabhain to catch up with Lillian and pick up what was originally one bottle but soon turned into 2 ! After trying the 25yo i decided to treat myself to one for my birthday . It was good to catch up with the happenings at one of my favourite distillery and find out everythings going well and they’d been very busy .

Two Bunnahabhains

The Bunnahabhain 25yo and the 2011 Feis Ile bottling

It was a nice drive out and back to Bunnahabhain  and it made us realise how much we were missing the Cottages down there but life goes on….. We continued on what turned out to be an afternoon of catching up , we headed to the Islay House square to pick up some beer at the Islay Brewery and see how Paul and Steve were getting on . 6 bottles of Angus Og later and we called in on Mark Unsworth and his wife at the Islay Studios and admire his amazing work while having a natter .

We then headed back to Bowmore to buy a few supplies and have an early meal in the Golden Dragon . It was our first visit to Islays only Chinese Restaurant and it won’t be our last ! The food is excellent , we struggled with the size of portion to be honest , We started with a shared plate of appetisers (ribs , prawn toast etc) then i had a Chicken Kubo and Mel had Chilli Chicken . Full and satisfied we headed back to Maol Buidhe .

Tuesday 20th

We had a well laid out plan for today . Lunch at Ardbeg  (damn , that Crab Chowder is so good…..) then head off to Bridgend for a walk through the woods , Bridgend is where it fell apart , while filling the car up with petrol it started chucking it down with rain ! So instead we went for a drive down the Rhinns to Portnahaven . It’s a nice circular drive down the Loch Indaal shore then back up the Atlantic coast . The sea was a bit rough especially down at Portnahaven …..

Sea off Portnahaven

Bay on the West Coast

Stream on the West Side

We do like this drive and ended the way we usually do…..with a drink in the Bar of the Port Charlotte Hotel ! So then it was back to Bowmore again for a meal , this time an Indian (we’re on Holiday so we can eat out a lot !) , i went for a Lamb Passanda and Mel for a Garlic Chicken . After last nights excellent Chinese this meal was a little disappointing .

Then it was back to the Cottage…….

Bottles so far....

Purchases , Pick ups and gifts…..so far……

Wednesday 21st

A long lie in this morning , probably the best thing to do giving the wind and rain we woke up to . When we did get up we headed up to Bowmore to get some provisions and pop in to see Ailsa at Spirited Soaps to get a good  supply of her Bunnahabhain Seafarers soap . We then drove back down the Isle and popped in to Ardbeg  for a cup of tea and a dessert , i had the Irish Cream Cheesecake and Mel had the Apple Crumble . Mickey gave us a try of a rather interesting 5yo from a 1st Fill Cask , very nice for such a young whisky . Mel picked up a green hooded jacket while we were there , she looks very nice in it…..

For tea we had an excellent Sirloin Steak from Billys in Bowmore , there’s just something totally different about locally  reared beef from the stuff you get in supermarkets , so much more tastier ! The rest of the evening was spent along at Port Ellen doing a bit of surfing on the internet and back at the cottage enjoying a few Lagavulins…..

Lagavulin 1993 Jazz Festival 2011Bottling 55.4%

Lagavulin 1993

From a Bodega Sherry Cask #355 filled 08/02/1993 , bottled 2011 . Specially selected by Iain MacArthur , the colour of Autumn russet leaves , the initial nose is of dying embers in a fire , then peated sherry and finally peat smoke . The palate is quite sweet at first , then the Lagavulin smoke emerges  . The sherry and the spirit are very well balanced , neither over-powering , it does actually remind me more of it’s easterly next door neighbour than a Lagavulin . The finish is medium , sweet and smoky . A very nice and unusual Laga (i can’t remember ever having a straight sherry matured Laga – apart from in a warehouse tasting  ).

Thursday 22nd

Another lazy day (don’t you just love them on Holidays !) after a quick call into Bowmore for one last supplies pick up , we called in to see Paul and Joan at An Taigh Osda to say hello and catch up with the going ons at Islays only Boutique Hotel . The Evening was spent at the Bridgend Hotel enjoying another fine meal . We just went for mains this time , Melanie went for the Sirloin Steak and i had the Poached Halibut with a Seafood Bisque , Prawn Mousseline and savoy cabbage . Once again Kevin came up trumps with the food . We also bumped into Mickey and Margaret who’d also made a return visit for  a meal . Afterwards we went for a drive along to Kildalton in the dark to try and spot any nocturnal wildlife , i think they’d all gone to bed early…….

Friday 23rd

Our last full days of the Holiday and once more we headed to Ardbeg for lunch  at the Old Kiln . I started with the Cullen Skink and then had the Islay Steak and Ale Pie , Melanie just went for the Bolognese and pasta . After lunch and a few drams we went for a little walk , Earlier in the holiday we’d spotted another pier from the Jetty of the Cottage (photo left , below) that i’d never seen before  , i’d asked Mickey whos it was and he said the distilleries ! It’s where the supply ships (puffers) used to dock . We walked along to the pier and got a view towards Maol Buidhe (Photo right , below) .

Next doors Pier View from Ardbegs other Pier

The View back at the distillery from the Pier Road…..

Ardbeg Distillery

Afterwards we returned to the Cottage to Pack and had a beautiful Venison Burger from Billys in Bowmore .

Saturday 24th

We departed from the Isle on the 9.45am ferry in beautiful Sunshine (typical !) , Another Great holiday at a special time for me .

You can see more photos at Gordon_H’s Islay Autumn 2011 Photoshop Album

Thought i’d end with a few photos of the cottages interiors…….

Cottage Living Room Cottage Kitchen
Cottage Bedroom Cottage Sun Room

It’s very nice inside (and the Kitchen has tiles from Ardbeg malt flooring on the floor !) , the sun room is fantastic with a nice view down to the bay . If you want more details go to http://www.go-selfcatering.co.uk/maolbuidhecottage/ , we’ll be returning in the future !

Many Thanks to the good folks of Ardbeg , Laphroaig , Lagavulin , Kilchoman and Bunnahabhain for making our visits extra special . To Ella , Mickey , Margaret , Jackie , Dugga , Melanie and Lorna and her staff at The Bridgend Hotel for giving me a wonderful time on the night of my 50th Birthday . And to Mary , Paul and Joan for their special gifts .

Easter 2011

Saturday 23rd April

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

(click on photos to see full size versions)

Sunny PC The Paps
Me in PC Mel in PC

Sunday 24th

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

Mel outside Carraig Cottage Port Charlotte Lighthouse Oystercatchers

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

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

Band in PCH Band at PCH Band at PCH

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

Grahame of the PCH

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

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

Monday 25th

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

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

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

Tuesday 26th

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

Mel at Loch Iarnan Primroses

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

Waves on a rock A worried Oystercatcher A local Cat

Wednesday 27th

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

Carpet of Bluebells Single Bluebell Primroses and Bluebells

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

Mel on the Bridge The River

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

The River Bank The River Bank A Butterfly

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

Thursday 28th

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

Lagavulin Distillery Dunyveg Castle

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

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

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

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

Friday 29th

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

10yo Caol ila Unpeated

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

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

Saturday 30th

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

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

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

Roll on September !!!!

The Panoramas !

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

(Click on photos to see a larger version)

Ardbeg distillery

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

Looking towards Kintyre

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

Above Loch Iarnan

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