DramVentures Islay Epic 2016 ~ Ardbeg!

DramVentures Islay Epic 2016 ~ Ardbeg

 

Distillery – Ardbeg

Tour – Full Range Tour and Tasting

Cost – £20

Host – Dionne

 

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So where else would we go when we get off a ferry on Islay at 9:30am? Ardbeg of course! This turned out to be a brilliant first distillery for our trip for so many reasons…

 

First of all, the main thing that struck me was just how beautiful this wee section of Islay is. The team at Ardbeg really have done an excellent job in how they present the distillery. You can’t help but notice how clean and well maintained everything is but the main centre piece is the copper still in the grounds.

 

Still Outside 1

 

When we arrived we were welcomed in by the staff, who really were fantastic. We had some time to look around the gift shop before we set off on the Full Range Tour and Tasting experience priced at £20. There’s loads of great stuff there and although tempted to buy one of the coats from there, I didn’t fancy getting stick at every other distillery that we turned up to!

 

We were met by ‘Dionne’ who was our host for the tour and tasting. She was friendly, very knowledgeable and took us for a tour around the distillery, which included a taste of the ‘wash’ recovered via the traditional ‘copper dog’. I personally think that they should make an Ardbeg beer as well because that was very tasty!

 

Next, it was onwards to the stills, which are designed specifically to catch the heaviest elements of the spirit as they are wide and angled downwards at the top. Always good to know!

 

Stills

 

Once the tour was over, it was on to the tasting…huzzah!

 

Tasting bottles 1

 

The tasting room is set at the back of the main restaurant and is a cosy wee room set for maybe ten people max, which we thought was a great idea. It makes people on the tour interact and that always gives a better experience.

 

Of course, there was the usual polite quietness to start but once we were all a few drams in, conversation started flowing and we had a great time.

 

The drams….

 

Drams 1

 

  1. Ardbeg 10 year old.
  2. Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Release.
  3. Ardbeg Uigeadail.
  4. Ardbeg Supernova.
  5. Ardbeg Corryvreckan.

 

Dionne took us through the drams and had a very relaxed style of running the tasting, which we thought was excellent. A lot of places can be slightly formal, which makes getting conversation going quite awkward sometimes but there was none of that there!

 

I think it’s fairly easy to say that this was a fantastic set of drams to kick off our time on Islay! For me personally, the Supernova was the star of the show, but we all had different favourites, so that speaks for itself.

 

After our tasting we went for food in the café, which was excellent. Very reasonably priced, great service and a belly full of their mac and cheese set me up beautifully for the day!

 

Overall, Ardbeg was an impressive place to visit with excellent staff but most importantly…drams that were superb. The Full Range Tour and Tasting is a steal at only £20…great value for money and highly recommended.

 

K G B Ardbeg

 

Slainte

Kenny

Islay DramVenture ~ The new plan!

DramVentures 2016 ~ Isle of Islay ~ the new plan

Just when you think you’ve got it all sorted…the ferry goes and changes the port it sails to last minute! Ah well! So, we’ve had to make some changes to our itinerary for the weekend; here’s how it’s looking now…

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Day 1 ~ Friday 29th April

We’ll be up very early to leave Edinburgh and get our trip underway, which is probably a good thing really as I’m struggling to sleep because I’m so excited already…

3am – we will load the bikes onto the car, throw our panniers in the boot, whack some funky beats on and hit the road. G’s request for One Direction tunes has been denied so hopefully he won’t be in too much of a huff.

7am – ferry from Kennacraig over to Port Ellen now. We were originally planning on the ferry going up to Port Askaig but they’ve decided to delay the terminal works till after the Islay Festival so that’s made us do some jiggery pockery with our timetable.

9:20am ~ ferry arrives in Port Ellen then we’ll be off quickly to make the short trip up to Ardbeg.

10am ~ Tour and full tasting at Ardbeg…there just isn’t a better start to a trip like this than with none other than the distillery that came out top of our ‘ranking’ system (more about that in our final review).

After this we’ll have a hearty lunch in the Old Kiln Café at Ardbeg then have a wander down to Laphroaig to visit and have a dram in their bar there.

1:30pm ~ Back along the road to Lagavulin for their tour and ‘premium tasting’.
Following this, we’ll have a wander down into Port Ellen to have a look around and let the effects of all our drams wear off, before we get kitted up and cycle the 20 miles up to Port Charlotte where we will be staying for the weekend. This will undoubtedly be a slog of a journey but hey…it’s all part of the adventure.

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Day 2 ~ Saturday 30th April

Early rise again for us, but thankfully not as early as the day before…

0730 ~ the plan is to get up and last into the sea has to buy the beers in the evening…after a quick dip in the sea, we’ll get some breakfast (ibuprofen/paracetamol etc) down us then we’re off on our adventures again cycling to our first stop of the day.

0930 ~ Bowmore ~ only the standard tour and dram here, which is a shame because I love this dram but it’s just the way all the tour times etc works out…still going to be great being there though.

12pm ~ we’ll make the cycle back round to Bruichladdich for a bit of a special one here…we’ll be taking part in their ‘warehouse experience’. This is certainly not your standard tour so we’ll do a full write up on this one. Can’t wait!

4pm ~ tutored tasting at Kilchoman to finish off day 2 then hopefully if the weather is nice, we’ll get down to the beach then the war memorial there.

Once we’re back at the hostel, we’ll grab dinner then find ourselves a local public house to see in the rest of the evening.

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Day 3 ~ Sunday 1st May

I’m sure we will be feeling slightly worse for wear on this morning, but at least we will get a long lie in before we’ll get a quick dip in the sea, breakfast/lunch then back on our bikes for the 15 mile trip up to Port Askaig.

2pm ~ Caol Ila tour and premium tasting. That’ll see away any remnants of hangovers…

Then we will head up to Bunnahabhain for a visit and dram before we head back to the hostel.

Once we’ve freshened up we’ve decided to head out for a nice dinner in the local and have booked table in the bar so we get best seats to listen to the evenings traditional folk music band. A perfect way to end such an amazing trip, I’m sure.

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Day 4 ~ Monday 2nd May

Depending on what the weather is doing and what time we eventually get kicked out of the hostel…we’ll either make the 15 mile trip to Port Askaig or the 20 mile trip to Port Ellen for the ferry back over to Kennacraig to collect the car and head back home with what I’m sure will be some great memories and where plans will no doubt be made for the return trip!

We’re planning on keeping you all up to date with our antics as much as possible via our facebook page so keep your eyes peeled there. We might even ‘go live’ now and again but we’ll let you know when that’ll happen!

Here’s to a great trip away to the world famous whisky mecca!

Slainte

K

Islay DramVenture Training – Glenkinchie 28/03/2016

Islay DramVenture Training – Glenkinchie 28/03/2016

So since we will be doing an awful lot of cycling on our magical trip round Islay drinking whisky, we thought it might be an idea to do some ‘training’ for it and we thought it would be best to make it goal specific…a big cycle with a wee dram in between!

Little did we know that this would actually turn out to be a lesson in how to replace a bike tube and repair a puncture instead!
So, the plan was that I would cycle from my place at Murrayfield in Edinburgh along Princes Street and down to Leith to meet fellow DramVenturer, G, before we made the 16 mile cycle from his place out to the Glenkinchie Distillery in Pencaitland.

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Edinburgh has a fantastic cycle network that means you can travel great distances across the city without being on a main road, which is great. There’s loads of good info on these routes here.

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20087/cycling_and_walking/453/cycle_routes

The route we took was on the cycle paths down to Portobello promenade then through Musselburgh briefly before we were back on the number one cycle path pretty much all the way to Pencaitland.

So, punctures…

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…there were lots of them. 5 in total, 4 for G and 1 for me.

Needless to say, we’re now like a finely tuned Formula 1 pit stop team when it comes to sorting out punctures. All character building etc!

That brings me to my next point…if you are cycling the number 1 cycle route out to Glenkinchie then I’d strongly advise that road bike tyres simply won’t cut it on these paths. Most are fairly decent but there’s a large portion which is quite rough and give your tyres a good old going over.

Overall, it’s not the hardest route to cycle but there are a few steep hills to tackle and as always, the wind will be in your face when going up them (I can’t say that for sure but it’s certainly how cycling works for me – whichever way I point, the wind blows right in my face!), so remember to bring some food with you as there’s no café at the distillery.

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On arrival at Glenkinchie, we couldn’t actually find an area to secure our bikes in the sign posted bit, but we were probably just being lazy and not looking properly! There’s large wooden fences near the car park and that did us nicely.

As we are both members of the Friends of the Classic Malts, we used our passes to gain free entry and we were also given a voucher for money off a bottle in the shop. We then took the time to look round the fantastic ‘museum’ that includes a great model of all the different areas of a working distillery. This alone makes the visit worthwhile. We did have a long think about having a go on the distilleries old pennyfarthing bike but thought better of it for our own safety (how on earth did folk ride them things?!).

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Since we have both been to numerous different distilleries, including this one before, we went straight for a tasting and were met by ‘Bill’ one of the staff there to take us through it. I’ll just say now that we couldn’t have asked for a better guy to take us through a wee tasting…he was knowledgeable, friendly yet not falsely so, and overall a great laugh with some good stories to tell.

We started with the Glenkinchie 12 year old, which I thought was great but it didn’t set my pants on fire if I’m honest. I got a hint of smoke in this one and it had a medium finish so I certainly wasn’t complaining. Would I buy a bottle? Aye, probably would actually. Cheapest I can see this online is around the £35 mark so I’d say that was good value for money. I’d probably recommend this to anyone wanting to get started drinking whisky.

Next up was the Lagavulin distillers edition…now this stuff is the business. I have a very peaty/smoky whisky palate so this is right up my street. I’m not going to go too much into this one as I’m hoping this will be one of our ‘malts of the month’ soon so we’ll do a full review on it soon. This comes in at around the £70 per bottle mark and it’s worth every penny in my opinion!

Last up was another cracker…Caol Illa Moch. This for me, is up there with the best of the non-age statement drams out there. This was the first time I had tried this and it was brilliant. As I’m sure you’ll figure out, I’m not the greatest at describing the tastes in whisky, so the best way I can describe this is all the best bits of the standard Caol Ila 12 expression with a slightly softer feel to it. I could drink this all day long. We’re looking at around the £40 region for this one…again…well worth the money.

Overall, this was a great wee half hour tasting that was made all the better for Bill’s chat and banter. Glenkinchie was well represented by him and the rest of the staff. A very warm welcome, friendly service throughout and with free entry and drams via the Friends of the Classic Malts, well worth the cycle out there.

Highly recommended.

Slainte.

K

Walking & Whiskey – Bynack More 02/04/2016

Walking & Whiskey – Bynack More 02/04/2016

The Walk

Mountain: Bynack More
Range: The Cairngorms
Height: 1090 metres
Distance 20.5kms with a total of 872 metres of ascent.
OS Map 36 NJ042063

Leaving from the layby just past Glenmore lodge the walk begins with a gentle stroll through a forest along the Ryovan Pass and past An Lochan Uaine. This is a beautiful wee spot to pause and take in the view.

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About 500 metres past the lochan take the easterly path toward Bynack Stable. As you cross the river Nethy over a foot bridge bear right and begin to climb south easterly along the shoulder of Bynack More. At about 860 metres and 8.5km into the walk you’ll start to climb steeply up the north ridge, reaching the summit just before you hit 10km. The summit is the further along the ridge than you’ll hope or expect as you pass over Bynack Beag firstly. The long walk is certainly worth it for the views of the Cairngorms

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If you have the time and the energy continue beyond the summit to visit the impressive granite castles of the Barns of Bynack.

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At this point you’ll want to break out the whisky! To return back to the start retrace the route of ascent!

The Whisky

Region: Highland
Distiller: Tomatin
Age: 14yo

For this walk I selected a relatively new expression from a local distillery, Tomatin 14 year old – http://www.tomatin.com

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The Tomatin 14yo is aged in bourbon barrels before being finished for a year in port pipes. That year in port pipes certainly pays off adding a beautifully fruity finish to what is an easy drinking and smooth dram.

The initial nose & palate on this dram didn’t blow me away but the finish was smooth and offered a lovely mix of vanilla and rich syrupy fruit flavours so I quickly got over the slow start.

Google tells me that this dram is available online for about £55 – 70cl bottle. Would I drink it again? Hell yes!

Would I buy a bottle? Well, I’ll certainly visit the distillery and see what I come away with.

Slainte

B

*** Always drink responsibly – please note that drinking any alcohol while hillwalking may be very dangerous. The amount drank here is merely a taste and we do not advocate any more than that. Always stay safe first and foremost ***

Glenlivet ‘Inspiration’ Tour and Tasting – 26/03/2016

Glenlivet ‘Inspiration’ Tour and Tasting – 26/03/2016

The Glenlivet Tours

glenlivet map

Saturday 26th March 2016 saw the first distillery visit to be recorded for DramVentures with a trip to The Glenlivet for their ‘Inspiration’ tour and tasting.

Arriving too early, we enjoyed an excellent lunch in the visitor centre café, before spending some time wandering around the exhibition until it was time for our tour.

The tour began as James, our guide, gathered a small but friendly group of whisky enthusiasts together. After a quick introduction, health and safety brief and explanation of the whisky making process, it was into the still house.

Most modern distilleries are an industrial affair, and The Glenlivet is no exception. The main stillhouse is large, open and metallic, boasting 6 stills (3 pairs) producing some 10 million litres of spirit per year, with plans to almost double that in the near future.

We then journeyed on to the exclusive ‘Warehouse No. 1’ where we were shown the range of bourbon casks, hogsheads and ex-sherry butts. Of particular interest but unfortunately unavailable were the two 53 year old casks. What was on the menu however was a dram of 39 year old malt, drawn straight from the cask, which this writer can honestly say (at the time of writing), is the best dram he has ever tasted. The subsequent two, courtesy of the designated driver, and a generous guide were as well received as the first.

g dram

The tour now concluded, it was up to the loft tasting room for a further 7 drams consisting of:
Clearic (New make spirit)
Founders Reserve
15 French Oak Reserve
Nadurra
Hand filled 16 year old single cask, exclusive to the distillery
Uisage Beatha (16 year old single cask)
XXV (25 year old)
Not to mention the complimentary pen and ‘The Glenlivet Story’ booklet, which was a nice touch.

tasting table

the drams

All told, the tour was worth well more than the £35 price, and is thoroughly recommended. The only problem with this tour is developing a taste for exclusive, expensive whisky!

G