24 October 2016

Islay Trip: day two: Ardbeg (part one)

The drive from Lagavulin to Ardbeg is a short one. You could walk it, or take the bicycle. Parking on the most excellent car park I have seen yet on Islay puts you right next to the distillery. Where the car park used to be is now a large area which is covered with the Ardbeg logo. Its big enough to be spotted by the international space station crew! Beautiful!

Me in front of the still


Out of this world is one of the phrases one can label the Ardbeg distillery with. At least that's what I think.
Nice copper display behind the counter

The main bar building

Due to weird time zone agenda stuff we had come in an our early. We thought we had a half hour for lunch, but after some confusion we discovered we had an hour. The confusion began as I told the lady behind the counter that we were in for the 13:00 "Deconstructing the Dram" tour. The lady looked at us a tad odd. I told her my name. She wrote it down, because I wasn't in the list. She went to talk to a colleague and the colleague came back. She asked if I had come for the 13:00 tour? Yes I did. There is no 13:00 tour sir. I was starting to get a bad feeling. The tour was full sir! .... after a bit she walked to the counter , checked the tour book waved me over. Is this your name sir? I looked! Yes it is! The smile returned in the lady's face and it was all sorted.

Only then did I find out that 14:00 CET had shifted to 13:00 UK time due to the time zone difference. We were an hour early.

Stew / Pie

Signing the guestbook

Thats one BIG bottle!

So after a hearty excellent lunch we went outside for some photos. We walked past the parking area around the buildings and went to check out the sea. Tried to get an angle to shoot the sign but couldn't. We located the spot we needed, below the cliff.

Getting a better angle

Nice view, but we can do better

The angle just wasn't right. Lets climb the cliff. So we did. The angle can only get better if you are on the peer during the tour or on a boat. The angle from on top of the cliff is pretty amazing too and not many people make the effort.

View from the Cliff

Palm Tree

My friend had spotted a palm tree standing around which would be excellent for getting a feel for this trips nature. The diversity is like nothing I have seen yet on any other place I have been to. The closest is a combination of the south and north island of New Zealand.

Engine block

shoreline below the cliff

Next we went down the cliff on the other side. Found an engine block, a table, a hammer, stuff you find that came ashore and lots of loose rocks and seaweed. Excellent views of the sea. So close to the distillery but yet so far away. If you do this by yourself and get hurt, no one will hear you scream. That's another tip when on Islay outside the trotted tracks, don't go alone, don't!

View from behond the fields

So we strolled some more, found all kinds of flowers and excellent nature. We needed coffee. So we went back to the cafe.

After coffee we spend a while outside talking to guys that were sitting outside. One of them was from the USA, San Something above LA. He had slept in a small tent on top op a cliff overlooking the Laphroaig distillery. He and his tent were almost blown of during the night becaus it does get a tad windy up there it seems. We were discussing the USA presidential election, housing prices, forrest fires and why he was packing all that crapp in his backpack. I mean the dude had Brie, Chedder, Bread, Tomatos, "fresh" fish, butter, salt, pepper etc etc with him. I figured he was like the male version of a friggin Hermione Granger.

After discussing life, the universe and everything we figured the answer would be 42 and this meant we needed to get inside for the "Deconstruction of a Dram" Tour.

23 October 2016

Islay Trip: day two: Lagavulin

We only did a short visit to Lagavulin Distillery. When we went from Laphroaig towards Ardbeg I was under the assumption that we would not have the time for a tour. We had not booked on either, but we popped in anyway. 

Note: later that day I found out that we could have had plenty of time if we had set the agenda on my phone to NOT shift the agenda by the one hour time difference we had had flying from Amsterdam to Glasgow. 

Se we parked and made some photo's of us in front of the Lagavulin sign. The sun was shining into the lens of the camera so the photo's are rather dark. Sorry!

A view of the Distillery

My friend in front of the sign
Me in front of the sign

A cask
The shop is cute enough. Not as extensive as Bruichladdich, or Ardbeg or Laphroaig but it contains all one needs I suppose. Seeing that we had "only a short while we needed to get going to Ardbeg to grab some lunch and wait for our tour to begin. So next time we are there Lagavulin will be on the list for the extended tour.

After getting back to the hotel, I managed to sorta work on a photo on my phone and I abused it into this photo below. I know, it looks horrible, but at least its light enough to make out my face!

Dreadfull photoshop
On to Ardbeg!

22 October 2016

Islay Trip: day two: Laphroaig

We had spotted the spot where Laphroaig cuts its peat. Its on the way from Bowmore to Port Ellen. It just beside the road, but we did not stop there because ones i realised what it was we had past it ...

The road from Port Ellen to laphroaig is along the coast. You could do it on foot. There is a walk/bicycle track next to the road that is excellent if you want to walk the distance between the three distilleries.

We drove.

Ones parked at laphroaig we went to the visitor centre. Some of the buildings were in scaffolding. Probably for maintenance. Naturally we would have a selfie with the laphroaig letters on the backdrop.

Laphroaig had two tents set up across from the warehouse to project and broadcast opinions of customers during the dark hours of the day. I had mine broadcast some days before. This is what I had send in via twitter.

@Laphroaig #opinionswelcome "I want to plant my flag in something! Might as well be Peat!"

The video is not working!!
The lady behind the counter explained how and where I could print my plot certificate. So we did. I am a stubborn laddie so I refrained from putting on the wellies. I had my flag, I had my plot. Now all I needed was the gps gismo.

The batteries were dead, so after the kind lady put in new batteries we were good to go. No more words for now. Let the videos do the talking.

What the video is showing is that the field where on can plant the flag is rather .... soggie, muddie, peaty.... one should really wear wellingtons. In the video I am explaining how the location where I planted my flag "really" is the spot shown on the GPS. It isn't, but I am saying it is .. 

After completing the task of planting the Flag we went back to the Distillery for some light shopping. 

Plot 745214

Some photo's

Walking from the parking lott to the visiter center

In front of the sign
Ready to go plant my flag, still clean
Just before going into the field, still dry and clean

My friend indicating how he fits the sofa .. 

Planted the Flag "on" my plot.

Some tiles with opinions 

In front of the entrance to the visitor center. 

One's back at the shop we got ourselves some beany hats!

Onwards to Lagavulin!

21 October 2016

Islay Trip: Day two: The American Monument

Having turned in early we woke up early. At just past 06:30 we went out the door. We had a wee stroll to the peer. Put the Bowmore distillery on a photo and went to check out the gates to the distillery. Apparently the distillery is closed at 06:48 in the morning which we found preposterous! I mean, we are up! Just kidding.

Bowmore early mornings
Bowmore Distillery
Bowmore Distillery
We went up to the church. Looks spooky at this time of day. 

Got some groceries at the supermarket and went don't to the hotel again where we were able to get breakfast. The salmon, bacon, scrambled eggs with toast breakfast went in with some excellent coffees and orange juice.

You may think while reading this: How is this a whisky blog? You are right, it isn't, it much more like a diary. A diary of a whisky related trip. It helps me remember for later and if you are reading this you are either me, family, friends or people that have decided to go to Islay too and want to get a feel for it all. Or you have been to Islay and maybe my texts sparks some memories. Or you live on Islay and then you can smile at the detail of it all.

We had a day of activities ahead of us. First to the American memorial. The view across the sea is supposed to be amazing. It was still dark when we set out hoping to get sun up from the cliffs. Then we would plant a flag at Laphroaig, pop in at Lagavulin, and the onwards to Ardbeg for lunch and a tour.

So off to the American monument. For more information about the monument see this link.

The road to the American monument is first to Port Ellen, just past the malting’s one turns right, up the hill for a bit, then turn left. This is where the road turns into a one lane road, even less wide than the road to Kilchoman. Not to worry right?

Wrong! We were meeting a car and I estimated that the "grass" to the left of the road was firm enough. It wasn't. It was grass that had grown high enough inside the, invincible, ditch so it looked firm enough. The front left wheel went over the side and we came to a gentle halt. We were not driving fast anyways. The moment is captured on video.


What to do? No one around! Do I have reception to call anyone? Yes I do! Who to call? The rental company? Eh .... I had the Lochside hotel on my contact list (tip!) so I called and the kind lady at the hotel would send a tractor. Where were we she asked! Ehhhrmm ... we took a right at Port Ellen makings and are just out of the woods on a road leading to the oa. Or ao, anyway, to the monument! (Mull of Oa, Isle of Islay, PA42 7AU, U.K.) The lady understood and help was on its way.

One minute later we heard at something come up the hill. Ones around the corner the something turned out to be a truck. A truck owned by Martin. Martin the truck driver is our hero and he made short work of getting us out the ditch. He had done this before, even with his own car and with his truck. We called the kind lady at the hotel, so she could call the person on the tractor to go do other things than rescue us. After a last thank you and a handshake we went on. We took it very much more slowly from that point on and absolutely avoided stubbornness. Tip: Use the passing areas!!!

Onwards to the memorial. The road went from tarmac to gravel to connecting potholes. Ones at the parking space we went on on foot. Staying clear of big, but gently grassing horned cows and bulls. Some sheep greeted us with a not to be miss-understood "meeeehhhh".

The walk to the monument is beautiful. The view at the monument is abso-frigging-lutely stunning! We could see Ireland, just about the whole loch and a good chunk of Islay. Let me shut up and let the photos do the talking.

American Monument

American Monument


The wind was coming from the sea, and we were warned not to dismiss the risk of being blown of the cliff. So noted. Tip!!!
Enjoying the view
Back to the car, past the sheep, past the cows, past the gates. The drive back gave us a perspective we had not noticed on the way to, but one’s going back we appreciated the ruggedness even more.

Next destination: Laphroaig flag planting

20 October 2016

Islay Trip: Day One: The Lochside Hotel

Driving from the Kilchoman distillery to the Lochside hotel in Bowmore is very straightforward. Turn left at the loch, turn right at Bridgend and turn right at the pier/harbour in Bowmore. Find a spot and just park. The speed limit is 40 miles per hour and this is quickly enough and even to fast in some places if you don't know how the roads go.

We were met by the owner of the Hotel who bid us a hearty welcome and we were shown to our room. Room 7 had been recently refurbished and I must say it looked very well indeed. After a short shirt refresh it felt like we needed a beer. Luckily the hotel has also a bar, a pub, a restaurant and an outside terrace. What more could we possibly need.

A bar and a pub? Yes a bar and a pub. The hotel bar is only separated from the "next door" pub by one wall and a door, which is in the one door. Same personnel works both places! Very convenient setup!!

At the bar of the pub.
We took our beer from the pub, through the door in the one wall, to the restaurant "next door". We got a table and this is where we met our graceful hostess for the first time. Eilidh would become one of the highlights of our trip!

In the restaurant
We asked what was good. The fish was good. We ordered the fish. The fish was indeed good. What more can one say about fresh fish from waters just outside the window! No burgers for us this trip we told Eilidh! (We broke that statement Saturday night when we found out the Islay burgers are friggin delicious!)

On to the bar, on this side of the wall, so not the pub. You will get it when (not if) you go visit. This is where me met Keith, one of the staff. I think we ordered coffee or something. Doesn't matter what we ordered but we got to talk to a guy from New Zealand who was visiting Italy for a ICT programmer kinda conference but had decided to take a wee detour to Islay. That is some detour dude! Excellent bloke. Excellent conversation. The first of many excellent folk we would meet at the bar.

I had gotten my 200 ml bottle of laddiemp4 and was about to find the Bruichladdich youtube steam only to find out the internet was, let just say, not performing that well. We would not be able to see the stream any more than Bruichladdich would be able to upload it. The same internet glitch hit us. (We found this out the next day) So we had to do a tasting without the guidance of Adam Hannett. Ah well. Lets do it!
Bruichladdich LaddieMP4, cask 16-062
We asked for 3 glasses. We got three glasses. One for my friend, one for me and one for the New Zealand dude. Put in a dram and before we knew it we met by the fair but strict reprimand from Keith. We were not allowed to drink a dram we brought ourselves. Oops! In our enthusiasm to join the laddiemp4 tasting we had forgotten a very basic bar rule. We slammed the dram (sorry!) and I brought the bottle up to the room. Better to order some classic laddies and get on the good side of Keith ;) hi Keith!

We had been up since 4:15 am and were knackered. So we turned in at 20:30, which felt like 3 am to us. Slept like babies only to wake at 6:00 am. Day two had begun.

19 October 2016

Islay Trip: Day one: Laddie shop, Kilchoman beach and distillery

I had done what I had promised myself I would do. I had gone to the place that had become a goal in itself. Complete the promise to myself and live by doing stuff of the heart, right now, not later.

Add caption

The first selfie I made on the Bruichladdich inner courtyard was one with many emotions going through my mind. I can see the tension in my face.

Emotional Me
The second selfie I made shows I have broad smile and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. The reason for this was a short visit to the shop of Bruichladdich.

Happy me
The second reason we had come to the Bruichladdich distillery strait after landing on Islay was to ask if we could please please please be in the audience for the laddiemp4 micro provenance tasting that would be hosted by Adam Hannett later that day in warehouse 12! So we asked the man behind the counter and while he was pouring us the classic laddies he said he would ask Ailsa. (I'm not explaining who this is, you will have to figure that out for yourselfs).

The shop
While enjoying my dram and raising of it the heavens to toast my late sister and the friendship with my fiend Ailsa met with us.


I was able to plead, just about beg, if we could join the tasting. She would ask Adam and she did. Adam being the fair man that he is was truly sorry, but had to tell us no. We had off course anticipated this answer but we, being boldly Dutch, just had to try. Ailsa totally surprised us with a 200 ml bottle of laddiemp4, cask 16-062, 10 yo, sherry matured. (Yes I had two of these babies now). So we could enjoy it in the hotel while watching the YouTube stream later that day.

After finishing our drams we strolled the shop some more. We would be back two days later for the tour and warehouse tasting. So just a stroll. Time for a photo of the yellow submarine, the blue truck and naturally the casks making up the word Bruichladdich just outside the gates.

Happy friend!

Bruichladdich Cask Sign

Fjodor posing

Me all smiles
we decided on the spot that is was to early yet to go to the Lochside Hotel in Bowmore, so what to do next. Lets see that beautiful beach to the left! Cool, lets do that. So we asked some directions. We got the directions, plus a tip to make sure to use the passing areas along the way to allow upcoming traffic to pass.

Turn left out the Bruichladdich gate. Drive just for a tad till you reach the Kilchoman road sign, turn left and just drive till you reach the end. We learned soon enough that the single lane roads that go to the cute places on Islay are a thing of their own. Tip: use the passing areas. DON'T be tempted to just use, what looks like grass, on the sides of the road. I mean DON'T!! More on this subject on the day two blog!

The kilchoman beach is absolutely stunning in its beauty. Just watch the movie and see for yourself.

After goofing around at the beach for a while we would go to the Lochside Hotel in Bowmore (yes, i am spamming their name!). We were in need of a drink and in need of a meal.

So, naturally when we passed Kilchoman Distillery we looked at the clock. It was 16:45. We still had time. We were here now. We could just walk in and get a feel. Check it out. No tour mind you, we had not planned one but now that we were here, why not!

Just some self explanatory photos of the visit to illustrate the place! It looks amazing!

Kilchoman Distillery

Malt Floor
Malt Floor

Kilchoman Distillery Shop

Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman Distillery
Now we would go to the Lochside Hotel in Bowmore. No more side trips !

More in the next blog.