Like other Islay distillers, Bruichladdich had had a recent rebirth after years of silence. Bruichladdich is not as old as some of the other distilleries, dating back to only 1881, but their name in the whisky world is as strong as its name is long (13 letters makes Bruichladdich the longest name of the active distilleries. Bunnahabhain - the other contender - is only 12 letters while at the other end of the spectrum, Arbegs has only six.). You find Bruichladdich on the west side of Loch Indaal opposite Bowmore and about a mile north of Port Charlotte. There are three tours a day and a gift shop on site. Bruichladdich offers you a chance to buy a cask of whisky for the future (one cask will give over 600 bottles, so you might want a few friends to go in with you!) and they also have a cask on tap so that you can bottle your own 0.5 liter bottle right there. For the appropriate fee, of course.
Bruichladdich has been know for an understated Islay whisky style (less peaty) in the past and with the new management since the 2000 reopening, it seems they want to stay somewhat true to their history. One of their newer styles still aging in the cask - Octomore - has the potential to be something quite different though with peat levels three times what Ardbeg (considered the peat-master at present) puts into its spirit. We'll see in 2010 or so.
Bruichladdich offers a four night stay at their Academy which pairs you up with one of the distillery craftsmen to show you the entire process in depth. See their website for more information. Tour times: 1130, 1430 with another 1030 offered in summer months cost four pounds
On Islay, there used to be far more than eight distilleries - as well as many other non-registered farmers' stills - though most were fairly small-scale producers. Kilchoman is a new distillery and is still waiting to be able to legally sell their first whisky. By law, whisky must age for at least three years, though most distilleries age a minimum of ten. The distillery is a salute to the smaller farm distilleries of the past. Located on Rockbridge Farm on the far west part of the island, the entire distillery operation could fit inside a single warehouse at one of the other Islay distilleries. The drive out here on the single land road branching off the Port Charlotte road just north of Bruichladdich is worth the journey alone. 3.50 pounds gets you on a tour and all aspects of the whisky process are done here from growing some of their own barley - up to 30%, to the malting and kilning process; the brewing and distillation and finally the aging. They haven't been open long enough to bottle their own whisky yet. Waste products from the production process are used on the farm as fertilizer for fields or as food for animals. Tour finished you still get a dram, only of their new spirits - spirits that went through all of the production except for the aging. New spirits are much higher in alcohol than the final product - 63.5% in this case - so you get a blast of peat unmellowed by bourbon or sherry wood and time, plus, an alcoholic jolt. Most whiskys in the past, especially those distilled for local consumption were excellent this - new spirits, or moonshine. There was never any aging involved and was really the reason folks gave it its moniker, Water of Life.
There is a gift shop/cafe on site, as well and an adjacent store that sells products from the farm. Tour times: 1100 and 1300; also like at nearby Bruichladdich, Kilchoman offers a chance for the real whisky aficionado to really get into the nuts and bolts of the process in a five day on-site course - contact the distillery for more information.
Also started in 1815, Laphroaig is the best selling of the Islay single malts and has a taste that has come to symbolize the Islay-style with its smoky peat and touch of iodine reflecting its heritage. As with any peaty whisky, the older the whisky, the more in your face the peat is. Age mellows the peat and the whisky mellows out taking on finer characteristics defined by the type of wood cask - and size of cask - used to age the whisky in. So, if you want to really taste the 'terroir' of Islay, save your money and buy a younger Islay. Laphroaig is the preferred whisky of choice for Prince Charles, a fact that they make you well aware of.
Being only a mile from the Port Ellen ferry terminal, Laphroaig can get busy on the tours they offer, but getting here early before the ferry gets in, increases your chances of getting on a tour. I had already been on three distillery tours, so I passed on the one here, however, being a Friend of Laphroaig (number 300000 and something) I claimed my rent for the plot of bog land that I was issued at the time I had become a Friend. I was given both a healthy dram and a small bottle of 10 year old in compensation for rent on my piece of the bog. The setting for Laphroaig, likes its neighbors Lagavulin and Ardbeg, is simply stunning, set along the craggy southeastern coastline. If it is clear, you can see across to the Kintyre Peninsula and over to Northern Ireland, as well.
Tour times: 1015, 1415 with 1145 and 1530 added during the summer months
If you're a whisky fan then you have to visit one. You get a tour of the distillery and usually free samples too. On Islay you can experience some of the very peaty whiskies produced on this island.
We spent the evening at a ceilidh held at Lagavulin Distillery on the Isle of Islay. What a night! For more on that adventure read the travelogue.
Lagavulin Distillery is located in Port Ellen along with the Laphroaig and Ardbeg, all along one stretch of the seafront.
Lagavulin is open year round from Mon to Fri though tours are by appointment, call 302400.
Tours to Ardbeg and Laphroaig can be arranged by calling 302244 (Ardbeg) or 302418 (Laphroaig)
Islay is well-known for its whisky distilleries, a major industry on the island, but only 7 are still running. These are Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin, Laphroig, Caol Ila, and Ardbeg. Wherever I go in the world I can usually find at least one of them!
So, if you visit Islay then a guided tour around a distillery is really a must... with the advantage that at the end you get to taste some!
The 3 mountains known as the Paps of Jura are, surprisingly enough, on the Isle of Jura -- which is accessible from Islay via a ferry from Port Askaig on the north side of the island.
Here we can only see two of the Paps.
The oldest standing cross can be found at the ruins of the Kildalton Church. The remains of the curch as well as the other gravestones are well worth visiting.
Please visit my Kildalton travelogue when it is done!
This church is interesting for its graveyard rather than the church itself. It is located on a desolate hill near Machir Bay.
Unless, of course, your ferry disembarks at Port Askaig or you fly in from Glasgow on British Airways :)
There are three major remains of old churches in Islay. This is Kilnave on Loch Guinart . It's graveyard contains an old slate cross -- please see the soon-to-be travelogue for more pictures!
Inside the roundness is not as apparent as from the outside. The church stands at the head of the main street in Bowmore. The water is Loch Indaal.
Be sure to take a distillery tour. There are seven active single malt distilleries on Islay. Please see the travelogue for pictures of our tour of Laphroaig.