During the grand days of May and early June when Glasgow and surrounding areas were shocked by weeks on end with no rain (are you, like me, still in shock?) my husband and I had the great pleasure of going to Islay for 3 days, while hosting friends from the USA. We had planned it well in advance (ferry and accommodations book fast!) and I had been looking forward to this time as well-earned down time from my PGR stress.

Image source: Victoria Shropshire

The beach of Bruichladdich – a small faction of the 15:30 sheep meeting.

While living in Glasgow for my PhD, we’ve managed to travel to a number of Scottish islands, but had somehow managed not to go the mecca of Scottish whisky that is the Isle of Islay. With eight distilleries (and a ninth one on its way soon) plus the two distilleries on neighboring Jura, if you love whisky already, or if you are new to whisky, or even if you are curious about whisky – this is a must-visit island, the “Queen of the Hebrides”!

Being from the Southern US, I was a devoted bourbon drinker before moving to Scotland in 2015. Many distilleries (including our local favorite, Lowland whisky Auchentoshan) use American bourbon barrels in their aging processes. The sweet notes from bourbon often come through and made for an easy transition for me. Armed with a little knowledge, a few preferences, and a designated driver, we were off to Islay!

Islay from Glasgow was a 2-hour car ride and a 2-hour ferry, but the Cal-Mac Ferry Finlaggan was a delightful ride with sunny skies and views of Jura and Islay upon approach were enough to ease my PGR stress a full notch.  

Image Source: Victoria Shropshire

Straight off the ferry (before we even checked in to our cottage!) we headed to Bruichladdich, near Port Charlotte. They are not giving tours this summer, as they are investing in a massive refurb, but this is my favorite whisky, so it was a must-go-see.  And good thing we did! In addition to giving FREE DRAMS in the gift shop, Bruichladdich is also where Botanist Gin is made. So there is something for everyone here!!

https://www.bruichladdich.com/article/the-2016-feis-drams

Straight off the ferry (before we even checked in to our cottage!) we headed to Bruichladdich, near Port Charlotte. They are not giving tours this summer, as they are investing in a massive refurb, but this is my favorite whisky, so it was a must-go-see.  And good thing we did! In addition to giving FREE DRAMS in the gift shop, Bruichladdich is also where Botanist Gin is made. So there is something for everyone here!!

Bruichladdich also make a whisky called PHD (available here) which just further supports my theory that the Universe supports us in mysterious and wonderful ways.

http://www.loribregman.com/uncategorized/there-are-signs-everywhere/

Next distillery stop in our long weekend was Caol Ila, where we booked a whisky and chocolate pairing/tasting rather than a traditional tour. Iain Burnet Highland Chocolatiers makes bespoke chocolates that are thoughtfully paired to each dram in a 4-dram flight. Now might be a good time to mention the Driver Dram.

If you have a designated driver, they are absolutely included in tours and fun tastings, but their drams are put into small bottles for them to enjoy once their driving duties are finished. Important to new considering the island’s police take drink-driving laws very seriously. If you have no designated, the island has no shortage of buses and shuttles that will take you from distillery to distillery, and there are lovely walking paths/sidewalks that connect some of them.

Image Source: Victoria Shropshire

Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Ardberg are all clustered together on the island’s southern tip. These are also known as the “peatiest” of the Islay whiskies, for those of you who like their whisky with a distinct (and for Laphroaig, in particular) strong flavor of earth and smoke. Laphroaig has a “'Friends of Laphroaig” program in which you own an honorary plot of land at the distillery! There is a huge room or Wellies for loan, where you temporarily exchange your own shoes for Wellies (think a la ten-pin bowling alleys) and slosh out into the vast peat fields with a guide map to plant your country’s flag into “your” 30cm X 30cm plot of Islay.

Photo Source: Victoria Shropshire

Ardberg: one of the distilleries with a full-service restaurant.

A full tour at Ardberg for £20 lasts 2 hours and includes 5 drams in the chairman’s study. Lagavulin’s tours include Sensory Tasting and Core Range Tasting tours, and Bowmore offers a “Vaults Secrets Tasting Tour”. Look for the tours that appeal to you and fit your time on the island.

Photo Source: Victoria Shropshire


The view from the Bowmore tasting room Photo: Me

As one of its top exports, whisky also provides 7000+ jobs in Scotland, which is not surprising since 39 bottles were shipped overseas every second in 2017. And, on the sad day when I must return, I will contribute happily to the USA as the top global consumer in those export figures.

NOT INTERESTED IN WHISKY? ISLAY HAS PLENTY OF OTHER THINGS TO DO!
Islay has lovely beaches, and plenty for animal lovers, including sheep, horses, otters, red stag, Helian Coos, selkies and even dolphins. Not to mention world-class bird watching! Also: amazing celtic, crafts, pottery shops and bookstores. History and historic spots like The Museum of Islay Life, Islay House, Kilnaughton Chapel, Finlaggan Trust Visitors Center (Ancient Seat of the Lord of the Isles), the and Balinaby Standing Stones. And the Islay Woolen Mill, where the owner will regale you will lovely stories of making tartans for films (like Braveheart and Rob Roy) and the day he met the Queen and Princess Margaret. Need Another reason to visit? The ISLAY BOOK FESTIVAL is 27-30 September 2018.

Immodesty and Being Part of the Ingenious Knicker Machine

Immodesty and Being Part of the Ingenious Knicker Machine

All that (Glasgow-) Jazz!

All that (Glasgow-) Jazz!