MCLEANSCOTLAND tour to Islay – June 2014
We took a group from USA, German and South African ladies on a 12 day tour of Scotland. The first part of the tour was to Islay. After a shopping and tea/coffee break at Inveraray – Loch Fyne whisky… shop, we caught the 1pm ferry to Islay, arriving at the hotel in Bowmore, where we all took refreshments – the liquid gold. Both Mark (driver) and Paul (MS) lingered at the bar to enjoy a dram or three followed by a large cool beer. With a superb selection of local whiskies including many Port Ellen bottles, it was enjoyable to say the least.
Day 2; we travelled south to Port Ellen and our first distillery; Lagavulin, where the whole group took the tour and tasted the results. The single malt whiskies from Lagavulin, such as the legendary Lagavulin 16 Year Old, are amongst the world’s smokiest enveloping the palate. One of the trio of Ìleach distilleries gracing the isle’s South-Easterly shore, each sharing a characteristic peat smoke as well as being Scotland’s most pungent and perhaps most revered. In 1816, the Lagavulin whisky distillery was founded by John Johnston. Today, a great tour can be taken with some superb peaty drams at the end … we did! Our guide was Rachel, who worked wonders with our group – many thanks Rachel. After many photos we headed a mile or so along the road to Ardbeg for a second tour. Those lucky few who indulged in our special tour had an excellent tour – followed by an even better private tasting, courtesy of Heather. With 5 special drams on offer, especially from the oversized bottle, our wee group really enjoyed this tasting, some left a wee bit wobbly. Ardbeg was established by the MacDougall family in 1815, the same year as Laphroaig came into official existence a few miles along the road, although it seems that illicit distilling had already been taking place on the site for over twenty years, with Alexander Stewart having founded a distillery there in 1794. In 1997 Ardbeg was taken over by Glenmorangie plc. An initial release of aged stocks bottled as a 17 year-old in newly-designed packaging proved an instant runaway success, and has been followed by a string of highly successful official bottlings. Vintage releases of Ardbeg from the period before 1977 when the distillery’s floor maltings were removed (a dreadful error by Hiram Walker) are extremely highly sought-after. We know where we can get a couple! With some of our group up at Kildalton Kirk and cross – Mark does wonders driving the coach – we were reunited and made our way back to Bowmore, stopping to see peat cutting en route. Guess what? More drams/beers were enjoyed upon arrival.
Day 3; leaving Islay and lunching at Kilmartin Glen, before our arrival in Oban, some more excellent whiskies taken here – all in our job; research development mind.