Islay, The Whisky Isle

03/06/2017

This week's blog is written by Emma Clark, owner of Glenegedale House B&B on the Isle of Islay.

The Isle of Islay is the most Southern island of the Inner Hebrides also known as Queen of the Hebrides.  Rich in wildlife, flora and fauna however also home to just 3000 people known as Ileachs however one of the reasons Islay is most famous is due to the fact it is home to 8 soon to be 9 fabulous distilleries.  

• Laphroaig

• Lagavulin

• Ardbeg

• Bowmore

• Bruichladdich

• Kilchoman

• Caol Ila

• Bunnahabhain

• Ardnahoe is under construction 

Many visitors flock to the island to sample the finest malts that Scotland has to offer and our small island that is 29 by 25 miles is known as a whisky region all of its own. Sean Connery once said that everyone can find an Islay whisky that they like if they search. We are blessed that no matter what kind of whisky mood you are in there will be something to suit your mood. 

Ten minutes along the road from us lies Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.  Laphroaig is known to be likened to TCP and has a certain medicinal property to it and heavily peated, this remains Prince Charles favourite tipple and he regularly visits the island to check on his barrels.  Laphroaig launched their opinions welcome campaign a few years ago now to find the differing opinions of each person on how they perceive Laphroaig.  Some ranged from your granny's blanket to tarry road to the back of a dog's paw! Each to their own. Laphroaig won the best UK visitors attraction three years out of four and also continually win the “drammy” awards which is the worlds best whisky tour.  My favourite tour is the water to whisky tour which takes you on a whisky journey from start to finish.  You have lunch with some of the team, go to the water source, cut the peat, make the whisky for the afternoon and finally our your own bottle of Laphroaig to take home and of course there is plenty of drams to sample along the way. Here my favourite would be the 15 year old or the 18 year old.

 

One minute further along is Lagavulin whch is again peaty but has a certain element of sweetness that takes the edge of the smokiness.  For me this is a great after dinner drink in front of the fire after a long walk along the beach. I cannot say enough here about the warehouse demo at lagavulin, this is more of a tasting, than tour which takes you in to the warehouse with head warehouse man Iain McAurthur and you drink drams straight from the barrels starting at age 8 and ending at about age 50 with the famous “we really shouldn’t be drinking this but….” The sounds, smells and atmosphere makes this experience an amazing one that you will not forget.  On a weekday starting at 10.30am each day for one hour. Here I love the distillers edition.

Another one minute further on is Ardbeg, a great place for lunch to try and soak up some of the previous two distilleries. Ardbeg being again very heavily peated and a rougher whisky but one that has many die hard fans. Fabulous staff here most of whom are locals and indigenous islanders will help guide you on the tastes during a tour or tasting over lunch.  Ardbeg is a tricky one for me to pick as I find it a little too peaty however my husband loves the Ardbeg supernova. 

Five minutes the other direction from our home Glenegedale House is Bowmore, our children both attend school in this pretty village which was designed by Daniel Campbell and built on a grid system.  Bowmore is the oldest (legal) distillery on the island at just over 200 years old. It has the oldest vault in Scotland “Warehouse One”.  Bowmore is more soft and sweet and is certainly more of a smooth whisky, I am sure the connoisseurs would be cross but is also great for cooking. The is the easiest choice and my favourite tipple here is the Bowmore Darkest.

Kilchoman is the newest and the only privately owned farm distillery on the island and is now 12 years old.  A great place for lunch with some new tastes to enjoy and a beautiful beach to wander along to work off the whisky and the lunch. 

Bruichladdich lies about fifteen to twenty minutes from our home and has a special reason to love as not only is it home to some of the peatiest whiskies is also home to The Botanist gin - now this really is my drink of choice however back to the whisky.  Bruichladdich has a great team with a very loyal and huge following.  The Octomore range here is heavily peated however there is such a huge range to choose from that you will always find something that you will enjoy and the team here are young, vivacious and bubbly and are always happy to help. 

Bunnhabhain lies at the north of the island and is a very remote idyllic location.  This has to be closest to my heart with my father making the whisky here for over 25 years and i went to school and grew up in the tiny little village. The whisky here is soft and sweet with a delicate flavour and often described as a ladies whisky. Warehouse 9 tour here on a daily basis is not to be missed especially with the banter of some of the guides. 

Caol Ila, gaelic for the Sound of Islay which is the stretch of water running between Islay and Jura is also North of the island and produces the largest amount of whisky on the island. This is also soft and sweet which is often a great way to start your whisky loving life and develop the pallet further. 

Ardnahoe is the newest distillery and is being built now and will be complete early 2018. This is en route to Bunnahabhain so we will wait to see what the whisky itself is like. 

The three distilleries at the South, Laphroaig, lagavulin and Ardbeg all can  be seen by boat or kayak also and make for a fabulous trip out on the water with islay Sea Adventures or Kayak Wild Islay.  This is also a great way to see the 1000 seals in the seal colony just a short journey away. There is also “the three distillery pathway” that creates a safe walkway for guests behind a fence with plenty seats that allows you to walk from Port Ellen to all three distilleries taking in the breath taking scenery. 

All this and we haven’t touched on the historical sites, the amazing foodie places and the friendly relaxed atmosphere to while away the hours on Islay....we look forward to welcoming you soon!. 

Emma and her husband Graeme run Glenegedale House on the Isle of Islay.  Together they have won the Visit Scotland Thistle Award for Most Hospitable B&B in the west of Scotland and the AA Breakfast Award.  To read more about Glenegedale House or book a stay Click HERE

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