Islay – September 12

We’ve woken early to grey skies and overnight rain. It’s windy and drizzling and set to be a cold day. We had an amazing breakfast of croissants, fresh fruit and scrambled eggs with Scottish salmon. We are changing rooms tonight so I’ve had to pack up again! We started our morning at Bowmore which was established in 1766. In 1940 production stopped for the duration of the war as the distillery was commandeered by RAF coastal command. The most notable bottles here are the 12 54 year old’s. We had a wee dram of the small batch before walking around a bit in the rain, visiting the information centre and shopping for lunch. Fuel here costs £1.189 and we put in £20 before heading on our trip around the Island. Our next stop was at Bruichladdich where we had espressos at the mini market before going to the distillery. It was established in 1881 and their barley is malted at Port Ellen Maltings which was once a distillery. Keeping in mind that phenolic content comes from peat, the Port Charlotte has 40 ppm. The barley comes from Octomore Farm and this is the name of their heaviest peated whisky. Our tasting started with the Bere Barley 2008 – the barley comes from Orkney and is unpeated. Then we tasted the Port Charlotte which is Islay barley. Our last tasting was the Octomore (Ochdamh-mòr) which is aged for 5 years and improved with the addition of water. The distillery was closed in 1994 by the then owners who left all the barrels in the warehouses. It was reopened in 2001 and their iconic turquoise colour is meant to be the colour of the seawater the day they reopened. I bought a dinky bottle of The Botanist Islay dry gin which is from 22 foraged island botanicals. We then drove along the rugged coastline to Portnahaven in search of the Celtic stone before Lossit. We could not find it. Strangely we could not pick up BBC Scotland, but we could get BBC Ulster. We had to coerce the cows to move off the road where they were grazing. Our drive took us through Kilchiarn back to Port Charlotte. We pulled off the road and had lunch before heading to Kilchoan – an Islay farm distillery owned by an English family. The distillery is on Rockside Farm and was established in 2005. There is a long list of distilleries that have closed including Mullindry Distillery build by John Sinclair in 1826. This closed in 1831. We had espressos at the coffee shop before doing a tasting. We started with the 100% Islay which has 25ppm and is a 5 year old aged in Bourbon casks. It has white chocolate on the palate and a citrus finish. We then had the Machir Bay which is 50ppm and aged in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. This is a classic malt with lovely smoke in the taste. Our final taste was the Loch Gorm, aged in Ola Rosa sherry casks and has a great taste of sweet dried fruits. The tasting costs £5 which is not too bad as we shared the tasting and it was enough. We did our tasting with 3 Danish guys who told us that only 2 people live in Port Askaig and that there are 4 policemen on the whole of Islay. As we left, we drove down to Machir Bay and then past a coastal defensive structure before looking for the Ballinaby standing stone, which we did not find. We did find Maclean’s cairn which is from the 1500’s. Before Arsnave farm is the Kilnove ruin and commonwealth war graves. Our route took us to Mulindry and then back to Skerrols House for some R&R. Dinner tonight was at The Bridgend Hotel and Restaurant. On our way back to Skerrols House we followed a hare down the road who ran and stopped and ran some more, in front of us the entire length of the road. It was quite charming.

Islay - September 12

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