The [Whisky] Odyssey – Chapter 1

After the renaming of my blog i thought it was about time i put my own [Whisky] Odyssey down in words….. I suppose a bit of a background about myself is needed first , Born and Bred is the Great City of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the United Kingdom , My main interests had been Music and going out socialising , usually the two intermixed , spending most of the time seeing bands at the Local City Hall and the Famous Mayfair Ballroom . By the early 80’s i’d seen several of the Legendary Lindisfarne Christmas Shows and the likes of AC/DC , Van Halen , Motorhead , Ted Nugent , Genesis , Mike Oldfield and The Police at the aforementioned venues . My taste in drink had journeyed through most of the local brews (Amber , Exhibition , Brown Ale) , various lagers and was at the time mainly on discovering ‘Real Ale’ in the pubs where possible and suffering Snake Bite at The Mayfair (it was the only way to drink their beer…..) . On the Spirit front the only one i went near was Rum , But that was about to change……  

Chapter One

In the Beginning…..

The early summer of 1984 was a strange time , i’d just come out of a long term relationship and didn’t actually know where things were going to go . A discussion one night in a pub with my good mate Dave Embleton would end up having a profound effect on my life , a few pints the conversation got around to holidays , we both had a bit of leave to take – i actually had mine booked for the start of August – so we decided to do something , i had a tent and various bits of camping equipment , he had a motor so why not head off somewhere ? Scotland seemed like a good idea ! A few of our other friends gave us a few pointers as to where to stay , so one August Sunday morning we set off from Daves in his Bright Yellow Vauxhall Magnum for a camping holiday in the Highlands !

(Click on Photo to see large Version)



Our first destination was Glencoe , The Clachaig Inn to be more precise , This was the Clachaig Inn before it went all Swiss Chaletish , when you could actually camp outside it in the fields (fields being a loose term….) , it took some getting up there at that time , there wasn’t the nice wide road there is now up past Lomond , it was all narrow ‘hugging the Lochside’ type , it seemed to take us an eternity behind various Caravans . After pitching our accommodation , we hit the Clachaig , it was a great little pub with a pool table and something we weren’t used to….. McEwans Export on Draught ! McEwans Export was only available in bottles and cans in Newcastle , Which was strange as it was actually brewed at the old (now departed) Tyne Brewery opposite St James Park ! It was a delightful beer , went down really well (too well a little later in the Hols….) . After a few Dave asked if i fancied a dram , i said no , when he asked if i’d ever had a whisky i said i had , forced on me by well meaning parents in the shape of a Hot Toddy when ill and i hated it ! “I bet it was a blend , Bells , Teachers or something , i’m on about a Single Malt “. Not having a Clue what a Single Malt was Dave proceeded to educate me about them , after about 10 minutes i gave in and said yes .


Our Camping Spot in Glencoe , Yes that’s Dave!


So he came back with two small glasses containing an Amber Liquid , “Try that….” , i did…. To say that i was slightly shocked was an understatement , it was a Eureka moment , it didn’t burn , smooth as a babies bum , quite sherried  wow ! Eventually he told me it was a Macallan 10yo , a few more were consumed before we headed back to the tent…..

Glencoe , for the uninitiated , is a beautiful place , a fantastic valley where in the summer the sun doesn’t vanish till yon time at night , it is also very spooky due to a clan massacre that happened there ! So full of Beer and Single Malt we sat outside the tent watching the sun set over the valley top , Pink Floyd playing on the tape machine and a bottle of Mackinlays being passed back and forth – the reason for the Mackinlays was due to one of Daves relatives being in the drinks business and he got some off him . It was a very Spiritual first night camping in Scotland , for every reason !


All the ‘Cool Cats’ used to camp at the Clachaig….


After a good nights sleep we resumed our travels , i can’t remember the exact route but we did take in Applecross via Bealach na Bà  , Ullapool , Durness and Portree on Skye and all points in between . Applecross was interesting , not only for the hairy drive up the pass and all the midges but it was where i really let go of the earlier mentioned relationship and set a personal best for Alcohol consumed . The village is fairly small , the campsite is above it , there is two ways to get to the village from the campsite , the long way following the road or down the steep grassy bank , the first way is best recommended on the way back from the pub…… In the Village there was a row of Cottages , A shop / post office and the pub – The Inn – a good name as it was THE Inn , i believe it’s been renamed since , it looked a lot different to when we were in it when it was featured on the TV series Monty Halls’ Great Escape – Beachcomber Cottage in the late Noughties .


The view from Bealach-Na-Ba


We consumed a great amount of drink that night , we knew we were doing well when the Bar maid kept asking if she could have some glasses back . We had hit 8 pints with whisky chasers at one point , I’d never drunk that amount before or since ! I blamed the McEwans Export myself……. I do remember sometime after 12am asking the Bar maid if she wasn’t worried about trouble with the local police and the late drinking and her replying “No , that’s him over there…..”


Two happy campers on Skye


According to Dave on our way back i’d insisted the campsite was straight up the road and not on the right when we approached it , that would have been some walk up Bealach na Bà ! He also said as soon as i put my head down on the pillow i was out like a light till the next morning , Can’t figure out why ? Ullapool was a great stay over , excellent campsite , great pubs and a superb fish and chip shop at the Ferry landing  !  It was the first place i ever seen anyone ask if they could smell a whisky bottle – Dave in The Arch – and the first time i ever seen anyone turn into a jibbering wreck over Single Malt . We spent a great deal of the evening in the Ferry Boat Inn , it had a good selection of Ales and a very nice set of Malts , on one of Dave’s rounds he came back with two drams and all i could get out of him was “they had two , they had two , Bottles!” I eventually got out of him what had happened at the Bar , he spotted a bottle of Macallan 18 and decided to treat us to a dram, The Barman got the bottle and said “there’s only enough for one dram in this one….” Straight away Dave thought “Well that’s mine….” but then the barman added , “i’ll just go and get the other bottle !” , apparently at that time there wasn’t a lot of the 18 around and it was rare to get 2 in the same place , the shop where Dave bought his annual treat from only got a very limited supply . Amazing what Single Malts does to people…….


Look….. Nae Bridge !


We had a great time on this trip , went on our first Calmac Ferries over to Skye and back , this was pre-bridge days and you still had the ferries from Lochalsh , saw some fantastic scenery , drank some great beers and i got introduced to the Water of Life ! Cheers Dave , It’s all his fault !!!!    

Islay Visits goes West……. Even More Further West Than Usual !

Since last September we’ve been hiding a big secret !

Let me explain….. As everyone knows we spend every possible holiday on Islay , usually a weeks break in the Spring around about May time , our two week Summer vacation and sometimes a long weekend in the autumn/winter .Our friends who know this have been puzzled by the fact when we’ve been asked when we’re back we’ve been saying not until summer (a long time no visit for us !) and when they’ve wondered why we haven’t been able to tell them causing more bewilderment ! And what perplexed them even more was when i said i’d applied for my first passport , 2 and 2 were put together and 5 was arrived at . So lets go back to September…….

We were about to book our two stays , the Spring one at the start of May and the Summer one slightly earlier than normal in the middle of July , We couldn’t get our normal summer place – Maol Buidhe – as the owners take it then so we went for a new place Lyrabus Croft Cottage just outside of Bridgend . We were about to Book a place in Port Ellen for the spring trip when an interesting e-mail arrived in my inbox from a distant land .

It was from the organiser of a Whisky Festival , She’d really enjoyed reading about our adventures on Islay over the years , 2014 was the 10th Anniversary of their Whisky Festival and they were planning on having an Islay theme , She was wondering if Melanie and myself would be interested in being Special Guests at the event and host an Islay Whisky Lounge ?

Now to say we were slightly shocked was an understatement , this type of thing never happens to us , people offering to fly us half way round the world and have us as Special Guests . We’re not Whisky Icons like a few i could name !

So after letting it sink in for a while , we replied to Johanna taking up her terrific offer of being guests at The 10th Anniversary of the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala in Canada !

So a few firsts in May for me , First trip out of mainland UK , First Flight , First time using a Passport , First time being a Special Guest at a Whisky Festival ! Good job i’ve got Melanie to keep me right !!!!  

So the next “Islay Visit” will be from Toronto , i’m still classing it as an Islay Visit as it’s about Islay and it’s Whisky ! We’ll be taking some Classic Islay Whisky along with us to sample In the Islay Whisky Lounge as we talk about all things Islay and tell the good people about the wonderful piece of Heaven we love off the West Coast of Scotland ! 

We’ve also found out since that a good friend of ours will be there exhibiting , so it’ll be good to see Ashok there !  

A Link to the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala Site

Happy New Year !

New YearHere’s Wishing all our Readers and Subscribers a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year From Melanie and Myself ! We hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are , exciting times ahead !!!!!

This year has been the busiest on the Blog and we had visitors from 75 different Countries , we may not be the busiest blog on the internet but to me that is some going ! Many Thanks and please do return in 2014 !

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….

Christmas 2013

In the Bleak Mid-Winter…..

Friday 27th December

So we set off for an extra Islay visit this year – we won’t be having our usual Spring trip and won’t be back till summer 2014 , there’s a very good reason which we can’t go into right now…… so we decided to squeeze an extra visit in when we’re both on holiday – staying in the Excellent Bowmore Cottages , this time the Stillmans . Once again it was a 4.30am start , this time in atrocious weather , the forecast wasn’t too good and after the recent spate of ferry cancellations we didn’t hold much hope of getting onto the isle . Fortunately on the way up we got as text saying after the cancellation of the 7am ferry the rest would run to timetable……..

Some say we are creatures of habit , we say we just have traditions on trips to Islay we stick to…… So it was Breakfast in Balloch and Coffee and cakes in Tarbert ! It did get sunny on the way up at one point but we soon got over that when the rain started again . Our ferry would be the aging ‘Isle of Arran’ and it seemed to be having some difficulty with the weather , it’s ramps wouldn’t lie at the right angle in the very high sea (combination of a large swell and the westerly wind I would guess) , they had a go with the rear one , then turned around and had a go with the front one . They eventually decided to put some extra ballast in the nose (they said) and bingo ! We were on !

Assuming our usual positions in the bar , we settled down to a nice smooth crossing ( Melanie  wishes…..) , we also got to say hello to Jim McEwan who is on the ferry , hope the cold gets better soon !

I was going to have a ‘Malt of the Month’  but it was Bowmore 12 , Sooooo went for a Laddie 10 instead .

We eventually got on to the Isle at 4.30pm and headed for our place of residency , the Stillmans Cottage Bowmore Distillery , very nice it is too , probably the best of the 3 Distillery Cottages we’ve stayed in . After sorting out our stuff , getting a few supplies , having a Chinese Takeaway from across the road  and giving the Spa Bath a try , we hit the Lochside Hotel for a few drinks to end the night . Tonights Delights were Caol Ila 12 , Bunnahabhain 18 , Bowmore 15yo Darkest and ‘The Devils cask’ , I was very surprised about the last one as I was expecting to hate it after the recent hype .

We returned to the Cottage to have some well deserved rest after a long day……..

Part Two of the Visit
The Photographs….

Three Special Lagavulins

It is not often you get to taste 3 special Lagavulins side by side , unless your name is Serge (Just kidding!) or you write a blog that get’s invited to lots of “Launches” ! Seeing i’m neither i had to buy these bottles in order to taste them , 2 are releases for the Islay Jazz Festival and one is for the craziness that is the Feis Ile .

3-Lagas2011 Islay Jazz Festival

The only single cask release of the 3 , from a Bodega Sherry cask (#355) this was filled on the 8th February 1993 and bottled in 2011 at 55.4% . We just happened to be on Islay celebrating my 50th Birthday when the Jazz festival was on , so we managed to get a couple of bottles . It’s a lovely amber colour in the glass ( A Lagavulin Glen Cairn of course…..) , The first thing that hits the nose is a gorgeous sherry smokiness , then it becomes very coastal , seashore and seaweed , There’s also cigar tobacco . Moving onto the palate there’s a real peatiness , intermixing with orange , dried fruits , sherry , tobacco and peat smoke , the sherriness is quite dry especially in the finish , which is long , dry , and very smoky .

An incredible dram , a lovely dryness to it and a fantastic Lagavulin .

2013 Feis Ile

This one was a 3000 bottle release i believe , from European Oak Sherry Butts filled on the 8th May 1995 and bottled at 51% in 2013 . We actually picked this one up on our summer jaunt in August , there were quite a lot left in the distillery so we foafed 2 (there were also Caol ila Feis Ile’s available ) . Not as dark , Orange Marmalade i’d say , Again a powerful smoky sherriness to it , with the sherry just edging ahead . This one is definitely the proverbial “Christmas cake ” Dram , dried fruits , glace cherries , cake dough , but the nose is more relaxed than the first , then smoked ham appears and seashore . Again the palate is more relaxed but just as tasty , again all things Christmas cakey , Humbug sweets , not as dry but with a nice sweetness  , the finish is long with a minty smoked sweetness , also quite chewy !

Again another cracking Lagavulin , sherry and Laga spirit really do go well together !

2013 Jazz Festival

There were a few mumblings of discontent on the internet that this wasn’t a single cask offering but why worry about the speculators…… I think this release was 1500 bottles , from Sherry butts filled again in 1995 but this time on the 19th January , this one was bottled at 51.9% and kindly picked up for me by that well known Whisky Aficionado  Robert Banford . Back to a nice shade of Amber , The nose is less Christmas Cake and more coastal (seaweed/seashore) with orange , tobacco and a huge waft of smoke . On the palate we are hit again with tobacco , orange and peat smoke along with a nice sweetness and spices , The finish is really long with a hell of a hit of Blood Oranges !

This is a seriously dangerous Lagavulin ! It seems a lot easier to dram than the other two but to me isn’t as Lagavuliny (made up word !) as the other two or what i think as Lagavulin.


What we have here are 3 absolutely stunning examples of the Lagavulin Spirit , Pinkies done a great job on selecting them (as one would expect ) , i’m glad i bought all three but to decide which is best , well……. they all have different things to recommend , i still love the 2011 Jazz (it was my 50th birthday ! ) and it is a single cask . The 2013 Feis Ile is pretty much the perfect example of a sherried Laga but the 2013 Jazz does have something “Different” about it !

Other Lagavulin tasting notes…….

Lagavulin 16yo
Lagavulin Distillers Edition (1984)
Lagavulin Distillery Only
Lagavulin 12yo Limited Edition

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

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 ?

The Geordie Laddies 10yo Port Charlotte

Fresh Ex-Bourbon Barrel #857
Distilled 6th Dec 2001
Bottled 24th Feb 2012
Outturn 243 Bottles
ABV 64.4%

The Finished Article

When i first started being obsessed with Malt Whisky from Islay it was always a dream to have my own bottling of a 10yo Islay Single Malt . In 2001 it took a step closer with the reopening of Bruichladdich Distillery and their offers of Casks for sale . The first one was the Bloodtub but that was never likely to reach 10yo due to the small size of the cask and the speeded up maturation rate . Then in the late summer of 2001 at a barbeque at Stuarts house i mentioned about the Bloodtub purchase and in a drunken haze we decided to purchase a barrel . So gathering a few friends together we set about getting our own cask . In early December it was finally filled . On the first of many visits to collect samples with the warehouseman John Rennie , it was pointed out we had a Fresh and not Refill Bourbon cask . John has been very good with his predictions , he said the Bloodtub would be ready early , 3 – 5 years , this one would be perfect at 10 , so we just need to see if he’s right about the SOI cask with his “Teenager” prophesy ! So Ten Years on we have our own 10yo Islay…….

From a First Fill ex-bourbon barrel bottled at 64.4% , A rich Gold colour, the initial nose at full strength is very smoky and spicy , then a sweet peatiness with seashore and peat bog inter-mingling . The palate at full strength is very sweet and strong, loads of vanilla and wood spices with the peatiness attacking from the rear, the finish is long spicy with a sweet peatiness. The addition of water brings out fudge on the nose and lemon citric, fudge and a slight creaminess to the palate.
Perfectly drinkable at full strength , doesn’t over power the senses . It has it’s own individual personality in the Islay peated stakes but with water it does remind me of a certain South Sider that happens to be my favourite .

Am i happy with it ? Of course i f*$£ing Am !!!!
How does it compare to My First PC ? it’s just as good , if not better , i love my Islays , 10yo , at Caskstrength , from fresh Bourbon Barrels !!!!!

Eight go wild on Islay !

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

Thursday 23rd February

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

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

Friday 24th February

(Click on photos to see full size version)

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

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

Filling the first bottles

And there's more.....

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

Eddie gets his chance

My Turn !

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

The Caps being applied

The Numbers start growing

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

Wor Stash !!!

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

Mary introduces the gang to Ugly Betty

In The Still Room

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

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

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

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

Saturday 25th February

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

The Finished Article !

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

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

Mels new friend !

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 26th February

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


The Geordie Laddies Photo Galleries

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