Monday, May 20, 2013

05/02 - 05/11 - A trip to Scotland

We planned it for a while and on May 2nd it was about time to make my first trip to Scotland! We took the plane from Munich to Edinburgh where we stayed the first night at a hotel close to the airport to pick up our rental car at the next morning.

The way from Edinburgh took us to Campbeltown... welcomed by "full Scottish weather" with all kinda rain we only made a stop for some fish'n'chips and a battered mars bar (which was not too bad)...

Even though it's too wet to take some pix we enjoyed our ride... I'd to get accustomed to drive on the wrong side of the road but after a while it worked.

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A stop for fish'n'chips

In Campbeltown we stayed for two nights in the Craigard House where we'd a fantastic room with nice view on the seaside and the harbor of Campbeltown...

Craigard House

Craigard House

On Saturday the distillery tour and a tasting at the Cadenhead's shop was on the schedule... Springbank's the first visit to a distillery, so I was curious to get to know more about the whole process... The tour was really great as Springbank's one of those distilleries which's doing the whole process at the distillery... from the malting floor to the bottling of the final product... the bottling itself is done manual, the labels are also applied by hand without any marks on the bottles... great to see all those little details...

View to Campbeltown

Springbank Distillery

Springbank Distillery

After the tasting we walked a few minutes to Cadenhead's where we got a dram to officially end the tour with a 10 yo., knowing that I'll have some stuff in the local tasting room...

There I got the following line-up:
  • Hazelburn 12 yo.
  • Kilkerran 9 yo.
  • Springbank 12 yo., Calvados Wood
  • Longrow Rundlets & Kilderkins, 11 yo.
  • Longrow (without age statement on it)
  • Longrow 9 yo., bottled for the Open Day 2012
Springbank 12 yo. Calvados Wood

Longrow Rundlets & Kilderkins, 11 yo.

After a quick lunch we walked a few minutes to reach the second distillery, Glen Scotia. Normally they don't make guided tours due to this they also have no visitor's center. But I was lucky enough to arange a appointment with Iain McAllister, the distillery manager who arrived exactly in time... He informed me that the tour should be around 15 to 20 minutes but we ended up with more than one hour... thx a lot for that expirience.

Glen Scotia Distillery

Glen Scotia Distillery

Across the street from Glen Scotia you can some of the leftovers of another distillery that has been here many years ago: Benmore. Now just the red entrance door and the typical roof (without pagoda) of the malting floors are left... the buildings're used as a bus garage.

Benmore: one of many lost distilleries in Campbeltown

Benmore: one of many lost distilleries in Campbeltown

Day 4 was another day of traveling and so we hit the road to drive from Campbeltown to Kennacraig where we took the ferry to Islay. It cleared up a little bit and so we made to excurstions before we continued our way to the final destination of the day: the Bowmore House.

MS Finlaggan

First stop: Bunnahabhain. Just two cars around, maybe some guys on shift and doing their usual stuff but unfortunately closed for the public on Sunday. So we walked around a bit, took some shots...

Bunnahabhain Distillery

Castle Finlaggan, which's been the home of the Lord of the Isles a few hundred years ago, was the second stop... unfortunately the rain started again when we walked to the tip of the tongue of land but after the last days we got used to those rapid changes from sunshine to rain.

Castle Finlaggan

The last part of this daytrip ended up in Bowmore, at the Bowmore House where Andrew welcomed us and brought us to our room. We took the suite for this stay of 4 nights, a very nice room with the same kinda view we'd at the Craigard House before... but this time we saw the harbor and distillery of Bowmore and at the other side of the Bruichladdich distillery (as long as the weather was good enough).

Our stay at the Bowmore House was really awesome and subject to a separate report.

The suite in the Bowmore House

Day 5 was filled with a tight schedule: 3 distillery tours, 2 of them with a tasting... and before we also planned to see the Kildalton Cross.

We started in Bowmore early after a fantastic full Scottish breakfast which should be a good base for those whiskys which should follow... and in time when we arrived at the Kildalton Cross... guess what... yes: the rain started!

Kildalton Cross

I heard rumors about Ardbeg being overcrowded at any time, so I was very happy to see the parking lot nearly empty when we arrived and luckily the tour was also with a small group.

But... I cheered to soon... after the tasting which took place after the tour we wanted to take a seat in the cafe to have something small to eat... no chance... we're asked to wait in line until we're supposed to get a free seat. A bit strange for me not to inform the people about that when paying for the tour and tasting... but it seems that this company doesn't care too much... the most important point is to fill all capacities at any time.

Ah yes... tasting in this narrow room at the end of the cafe with 3 seats for a few more people... here's the line-up we had:
  • Blasda
  • TEN
  • Alligator
  • Uigeadail
  • Corryveckan
Ardbeg Distillery

Ardbeg Distillery

In the tasting room at Ardbeg

After a small lunch with some of the stuff we'd in the car for situations like this we changed places to Laphroaig... still some time until the tour so I grabbed those flags, received the required infos at the desk, put on some Wellingtons (which're necessary) and took a walk to sign my landmark...

My plot on the land of Laphroaig

The tour itself was fantastic! Much better than Ardbeg... we could also see the peat fire and the barley which's in the smoke... ending up in Warehouse No. 1 where could've a view on some of the casks... what a great smell of all this Laphroaig Angel's share.

Laphroaig Distillery

The flavor tasting took place in the Lounge of the Friends of Laphroaig: three whiskys, three different types of food to go with it:
  • 10 yo. & Rochefort cheese
  • Triple Wood & orange
  • 18 yo. & chocolate glazed coffee beans
Additionally we received also a dram of the PX which's only available in the Duty-free shops... should I mention that you could get more drams at the bar? For free...

In the lounge of the Friends of Laphroaig - flavor tasting

David, who held the tasting

The last distillery of the day was Lagavulin... in this case we got a private tour because Tanja and myself were the only people for the tour at 05.30 pm... so we spend a relaxed time with our tour guide and I'd some drams in the really convenient lounge afterwards... the offered a 12 yo., the Distiller's Edition and the 16 yo.

Lagavulin Distillery

Lagavulin Distillery

A wee dram after the tour at Laphroaig

After a short night and a lot of fun at the Bowmore House with Andrew and some of the Swedish guests we started the next day with sunshine and a short drive to Caol Ila, the most industrial of the distilleries on Islay, producing 6.5 millions litre of alcohol per year. The tour was as short as the ride and after trying the actual range (12 yo., Distiller's Edition and the new Moch) we drove back to Bowmore where we explored the village... of course we also spent a visit to the well known Round Church.

Caol Ila Distillery

Caol Ila Distillery

Round Church in Bowmore

Round Church in Bowmore

In the afternoon I'd one of my personal highlights... the so called "Craftman's Tour" at Bowmore. A private tour, just myself and the tourguide. Timeschedule? It takes as long as it takes... detailed explanations, time to take pictures... ending up in the famous Warehouse No. 1 where I tried the following:
  • New Spirit
  • 1996 straight from a Bourbon Cask
  • 1995 straight from an Oloroso Sherry Cask
Back in the lounge I could try the whole range and I had:
  • 12 yo.
  • 15 yo. Darkest and Mariner
  • 17 yo.
  • 18 yo.
  • Springtide
You've to pay a few pounds more for that kinda tour but it's definitely worth it... thx to Linda for taking me around...

Bowmore Distillery

First dram of the Craftman's Tour

On the malting floor

In the stillhouse

The spirit safe

My tourguide Linda

After returning back to the house Andrew told me that I could've the chance to meet Duffy... Duffy's the guy who owned the Lochside Hotel and the bar (where you can get some really nice stuff) and it was a great pleasure to meet him, have a dram with him and talk about this and that...

That's a serious dram

View to the harbor


Our final full day on Islay... I just had Bruichladdich on my schedule (it was planned to meet Jim but unfortunately he wasn't there) but I also got the chance to be booked in on a tour at Kilchoman in the afternoon.

The Bruichladdich tour was another great tour which's done by Kate... we'd the chance to try some "beer" directly from the wash back and ended up in the warehouse for a nice tasting experience:
  • 23 yo. straight from a Bourbon cask
  • 8 yo. Port Charlotte which's been finished in a Grenache cask
  • 10 yo. Octomore which's been finished in a Chateau Iquem cask (80 ppm and not as sweet as the Comus which made this one much better imho)

All of those three were very good even though I liked the Octomore most. Thx to Raymond for this tasting... but believe me, Raymond: the Octomore is peaty, but it's not as intensive as you said... I know.. that's a part of the marketing you guys have to do... but don't overact... ;-)

Bruichladdich distillery

Tourguide Kate

Directly from the washback

In the stillhouse

The "Ugly Betty"

Spirit safe


Warehouse tasting

Warehouse tasting

Finally... the last distillery on Islay to visit... Kilchoman. A very small distillery, everything's so close together... two small stills... Luckily some of the guys who registered for the tour didn't show up and so we walked around with just 8 people which made it much easier...

We also tried some of their new spirit and had the 100 % Islay and the Machir Bay later in the tasting room.

Kilchoman distillery

Klichoman distillery

New spirit

The sun's going down over Bowmore

On Thursday we left Islay from Port Ellen but not without spending a quick visit to the "leftovers" of the famous Port Ellen distillery. The buildings are still there and the warehouses still contain some nice casks which'll be bottled in the future...

Port Ellen

The ferry to Kennacraig

Port Ellen

The ferry brought us back to Kennacraig where we took the ride to Oban. Luckily we also left the rain behind us and arrived at our destination where we'd some sunshine while we walked to the town centre... and the Oban distillery.

The distillery is located in the middle of the town (but was in the middle of nowhere when it was build) and due to this they don't have any chance to increase their capacities... no chance to expand in any direction.

The tour was ok but the scheduled tasting's a bad joke. They wrote about a dram of the 14 yo. and a sample directly from the cask. The 14 yo. was good and a regular dram... BUT: do you guys really consider a few drops which have been put into the glass with a pipet as a dram?!? Avarice is a big understatement in this case... I said it directly when we'd been asked about the taste... but how can I say something about the taste with app. 2 ml of liquid?

High Cliff Oban

Harbor of Oban

Oban distillery

Oban distillery and McCraig's Tower

Spirit safe at Oban

The last full day of our trip started sunny and so I took the chance and went up to McCraig's Tower which gives you a nice view over Oban... very nice especially with the sunshine...

A drive through a nice landscape along the Loch Lomond brought us close to Edinburgh where we stayed the last night... we relaxed at the hotel, had some last drams and went to bed early because we'd to stand up around 3 am to get ready and catch our flight back to Munich.

McCraig's Tower

McCraig's Tower

View over Oban

Balgeddie House

Balgeddie House

Last dram in Scotland

It was a great trip... our first to Scotland but definitely not the last...

Stay tuned for a new sequence of blog reports which are called "A visit to..."; they'll contain some more details to some distilleries (Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Glen Scotia, Kilchoman, Laphroaig, Oban, Port Ellen and Springbank) where I made a tour (and tasting)...