The Ladies’ Share on Islay – day 3 – Ardbeg, Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain

Nigel took a picture of us in the tasting room at Caol Ila.

Friday 16 September 2016 – our third and last day on Islay. How could this day possibly be as good as day 1 and day 2? Well, Rachel (Wild and Magic Islay) sure knew how to spoil us with some lovely distillery visits this day as well. As the day before she picked us up after breakfast and then our Islay adventure continued.

Ardbeg Distillery

We started our day at Ardbeg Distillery. Dougie was our tour guide, and oh! what I great guide he was. He described every part of the distillation process in a very thorough and educational way. Of course our tours at Laphroaig and Kilchoman Distilleries already had laid the foundation for our understanding of the whisky production process, but he truly did a great job.

After the tour Dougie took us through these whiskies:

  1. Ardbeg 10 YO, 46 ABV – first fill and second fill bourbon casks (my review – in Norwegian).
  2. Ardbeg Dark Cove, 46,5 ABV, NAS – American oak PX (Pedro Ximenez) sherry casks, 11-12 YO (my review).
  3. Ardbeg Uigeadail, 54,2 ABV, NAS – 8 years in bourbon casks, then 2-7 years in European Oak Oloroso sherry casks.
  4. Ardbeg Supernova 2015, 54,3 ABV, NAS – bourbon casks, 12 YO, 100 ppm instead of the regular 55 ppm.
  5. Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 57,1 ABV, NAS – virgin oak casks, a mix of 10, 11 and 12 YO.

Say "whisky"! Our new way of making everyone smile when someone is taking our picture ;)

We started off behaving very quiet and polite at the tasting, but the chatter increased with the number of whiskies we had. At Ardbeg we tasted one whisky at a time which meant we had to drink and not sip! There was not enough time to enjoy and drink whisky in the paste we are used to 😉 Dougie seemed to handle our chatter very well though!

Islay Woollen Mill

Rachel managed to find time for us to be a bit non-whisky-cultural this day as well. On our way from Ardbeg to Caol Ila we first stopped at the beach in Port Ellen where the Ladies wanted to take a picture of the Port Ellen warehouse where the name is still shown on the wall, and then we visited the Islay Woollen Mill. It was first established in 1883 and then it re-opened in 1981. They were the ones who made the fabric for Mel Gibson’s kilt in Braveheart! A couple of the Ladies treated themselves with some lovely items from Islay Woollen Mill.

Caol Ila Distillery

We were supposed to do a tour at Caol Ila Distillery, but due to reconstructions we had a tasting instead. Nigel told some of the history while we were standing outside in the lovely sun out on the pir. Then he took us inside to the tasting room where the whiskies were waiting for us. Since we could not do the tour he gave us a compensation: a couple of chocolates to pair with the whisky. He served us:

  1. Caol Ila Moch, 43 ABV, NAS – second and third fill bourbon casks, 7-9 YO.
  2. Caol Ila 18 YO, 43 ABV – second and third fill bourbon casks.
  3. Caol Ila 25 YO, 43 ABV – second and third fill bourbon casks.
  4. Caol Ila Festival 2016 12 YO, 56,2 ABV – a vatting of one first-fill sherry butt and two first-fill bourbon casks.
  5. Caol Ila Unpeated 17 YO, 55,9 ABV – first-fill bourbons casks.
  6. Caol Ila Distillers’ Edition, 43 ABV – a bonus since we had chosen this one as part of our line-up at Tunsberg Whisky Festival 2016 (article about the festival will follow) – 12 years in bourbon casks and then 6 months in Moscatel casks.

Bunnahabhain Distillery

Our last distillery visit was Bunnahabhain where I had not been before. I was really looking forward to this. We were supposed to have a small tasting there, but ended up getting a tour with the lively and lovely guide Sara before we tasted a couple of whiskies in the shop afterwards. What was special that day, was a hand-filled whisky Sara had bottled herself earlier the same day! Well, first we had the regular 12 YO. According to Sara all the core range whiskies from Bunnahabhain is a mix of sherry and bourbon casks. The gem Sara saved for us to taste last was a single cask: 8 YO Moine from cask #3657 which is a first-fill Oloroso sherry cask at 60,2 ABV.

The mash tuns at Bunnahabhain were huge! Second biggest in Scotland. Only Glenfarclas has bigger ones.
The mash tuns at Bunnahabhain were huge! Second biggest in Scotland. Only Glenfarclas has bigger ones.

Dining in Bowmore

There was not enough time for a swim on the last afternoon of our stay on Islay. We had to give packing priority. If the suitcases were too heavy, well, then we would have a problem. Luckily it all turned out just fine, but it certainly took some time 🙂

After the packing was done, we decided to check if Lochside Hotel (which was almost our neighbour) had a table available for us. We were lucky and got seated at once, and I could end my stay on Islay with haggis and whisky!

Port Ellen was a bit pricy to enjoy with the haggis, I thought...
Port Ellen was a bit pricy to enjoy with the haggis, at least that was what I thought…

Back at The Saddlers after dinner we spent some time planning our “mistressclass” (thanks, Rachel!) at Tunsberg Whisky Festival 2016. I will tell you all about it later.

Going home

Saturday morning Rachel picked us up for the last time (at least in 2016) and brought us to the airport. Checking in went well, the plane was on time, and it was time to say goodbye to Islay for this time. I certainly hope to be back again!

Time to say goodbye to Rachel – for this time!

– Tone

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