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From Muckle Flugga To The Mull Of Galloway

General chat and talk about whisky.

Postby Spirit of Islay » Sun Oct 30, 2005 6:21 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:Hey, Gordon, why are we talking this up? It's just going to be that much harder for us to find rooms next time! Damn, I'm going to have to buy a cottage. ( :idea: Hey...then I can rent it out to you lot...)

I'd buy a cottage and NOT rent it out :twisted:
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Saturday 15 October 2005

Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Nov 01, 2005 4:18 am

Blether, Rhinns, Repeat
Saturday 15 October 2005

We have only one distillery tour today, at 10:30, and we are already on the property. Thus we have some slack time after breakfast, which we use to repack our luggage and the car. It’s amazing how much disarray we have been able to achieve in such a short time.

Gareth, our guide, handles the full complement of tourists with ease, and this seems the most complete and edifying tour yet. The distillery is not working today, and we are in fact surprised when we peer into the open still and find someone smiling back at us. A bit of repair work going on, apparently. Bruichladdich seems almost like a DIY distillery, with everyone doing whatever it takes to keep the place running. Duncan MacGillivray, clad in coveralls and carrying tools, smiles and waves at us as he passes by along the way. We spoke to him briefly last night in the Port Charlotte.

The bottling hall captures our attention. It is not, I am sure, anything particularly amazing as bottling halls go, but it is , by mere virtue of its existence, unique in Islay, and unusual in Scotland. Bruichladdich’s shop is the only one on the island that doesn’t have to get its bottled stock from the mainland.

In the shop, Gareth pours us samples from several bottles, including a recent bottling called Yellow Submarine. He tells us how an Islay fisherman found a banana-colored drone submarine drifting without power, and brought it back to shore. It was plainly marked “MOD”, so he called the Ministry of Defense, who denied any knowledge of it. So it sat in the fisherman’s front garden for most of the summer, until early one morning a mine sweeper pulled into Port Ellen harbor (as if this could be done without anyone noticing) to reclaim it–saying, in effect, “It’s not ours and we’re taking it back.”

“Any excuse for a new bottling,” says Gareth, finishing the story.

There are two Valinch casks in the shop, one available for us to fill our own bottles from, the other one waiting its turn, off limits, we are told. There are also three fill-it-yourselfs from other distilleries, as well as shelves full of various Bruichladdich, Murray McDavid, and Celtic Heartlands offerings. We each fill a bottle from what is dubbed the Tonga Valinch, so named in honor of a visit from Tongan royalty. Actually, I fill two, and also pick up bottles of two previous Valinches from the shelf–a Flora McBabe, and what appears to be the last Lord Robertson, named for the son of Islay who served as Secretary General of NATO. I also grab a Yellow Submarine.

Jim McEwan arrives in the shop, and the level of blether increases a hundredfold. He tells the Yellow Submarine story, and, although it is virtually word-for-word the same one that Gareth told, we are amused by it all over again. He pours us samples from the forbidden Valinch, a particularly interesting wine-cask finish; with Mark Reynier’s wine trade connections, there will surely be more of these experiments. We ask him to sign our Valinches, which he does directly on the glass with a metallic-ink pen. He botches the “J” on Bob’s bottle and starts over, saying, “A little nail polish remover will take that off.” I think to answer, “But no–we now have proof of a mistake by Jim McEwan,” but think twice and swallow it. He kindly poses for a photo with the five of us–Gareth, Bob, Tattie Heid, Ron, McEwan.

It’s 1:30 when we finally leave, feeling very warm and happy. We drive out on the Rhinns, past Port Charlotte and down to the pretty village of Portnahaven. It’s cloudy, but we walk about and take lots of photos, anyway. The tiny pub in the village, An Tigh Seinnse, serves us a surprisingly good lunch. After, we drive the twisting single-track road around the Atlantic side of the Rhinns, through Kilchiaran, back to Port Charlotte. It’s been several years since I went this way, and I’d forgotten how ruggedly scenic it is. Then around Loch Indaal, through Bridgend and Bowmore we go, across the long stretch of road floating on the bog, past Port Ellen and out onto the Oa.

The Oa is a wild place, seemingly apart from the rest of Islay. The first time I came out here, it was late in the afternoon on a dark, rainy day, and that first apocalyptically gloomy impression has stuck with me. Today is merely overcast, and windy. We drive to the end of the road and then take the circular walk that ends at the American Monument, high on a cliff overlooking the Irish Sea. It’s yet another extremely windy walk for me. Standing on the Mull of Oa, we can see a spot of sunlight out on the water, but it will not move. In the haze, we unfortunately cannot make out the Irish coast, normally visible from here, or even Kintyre.

Back near Port Ellen, we take the side road to Kintra, at the southern end of the long strand on Laggan Bay. The beach is nearly five miles long, but we have only fifteen minutes before sunset, and get only the briefest taste of it. The red ball of the sun, unseen all day, descends from the cloud and sinks into the bay.

We have a pint at the Machrie Hotel. The place is not so formal and ritzy as we’d feared, but still we forego dinner there in favor of the familiar Port Charlotte. Fraser is tending bar tonight, and we are sure we will not have to endure any endlessly repeating CD’s. We have our last pints and drams in Islay and retire early.

Edit: A mine sweeper, not a destroyer.
Last edited by Guest on Tue Nov 01, 2005 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Saturday 15 October 2005

Postby bernstein » Tue Nov 01, 2005 12:02 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:[b] He pours us samples from the forbidden Valinch, a particularly interesting wine-cask finish; with Mark Reynier’s wine trade connections, there will surely be more of these experiments.

Great report, MrT! Thanks a lot!!
Just one more thing: Is it another "cold-war secret" to tell us, what "forbidden" wine-cask finish you sampled here? Don't want to get you into any trouble of course...

:wink:
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Postby MGillespie » Tue Nov 01, 2005 12:44 pm

If he told us, he'd have to kill us... ;)

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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Nov 01, 2005 6:02 pm

No big secret--it was simply the next Valinch in line, which the guide had already told us was not "ready" to be poured. Just doing his job, of course. It was ready enough for McEwan! And I'd have no trouble telling you exactly what it was, except I forget. A white wine finish, I think. I'll email them and ask.
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Sunday 16 October 2005

Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Nov 02, 2005 4:48 am

Stones
Sunday 16 October 2005

One last time, we drive through Bridgend and Bowmore, and over the moor to Port Ellen. We board the ferry and climb to the upper deck, where, out on the water, it is very windy, of course. We button up tight, although it is not really cold, and watch the whitewashed, black-lettered warehouses come into view, each in turn, as we sail up the Kildalton shore: PORT ELLEN... LAPHROAIG... LAGAVULIN... ARDBEG. The first drops out of sight as we curl out of the harbor; the rest fade into the haze a short time later. As Islay recedes from view, we go down to the cafeteria for coffee.

The A83 ascends the west side of Kintyre, past the ferry terminal at Kennacraig, before crossing over the narrow isthmus at Tarbert–the name itself means “isthmus”, and there are countless Tarberts and Tarbets in Scotland–and skirting Loch Fyne on the eastern edge of Knapdale. Knapdale’s three peninsulas extend west toward Jura like pennants flapping lazily in the breeze, each to the north smaller than the one to the south. Loop roads circle the larger two, forming a sagging backwards B. I haven’t been out these loops before, and there are some antiquities marked on the map I want to see.

The first of these is a display of carved stones at Kilberry. Most of them are grave slabs which have been collected from various parts of the Kilberry Estate and put under a shelter. We’ve seen better ones at Kildalton and Finlaggan, and drive away a bit disappointed. Unfortunately, we give hardly a glance to the nearby manor house, which apparently was a medieval castle, modified over the centuries, and still is a private residence, presumably for the lord of Kilberry. There is probably a lot more of interest than some weathered grave slabs here, but it is unavailable to the public.

No matter; what we really want to see is Castle Sween, a 12th-century pile around the next loop. Alas, at the turnoff at Achahoish, we find a sign reading “No through road to Castle Sween”. A closer look at the Landranger map shows the road between Ellary and Balimore is a decidedly minor track, and apparently it is no longer maintained. Disheartened, we give up on Sween and pull out onto the A83 again.

Up the road a few miles, we stop for a break in Lochgilphead. From a distance, it looks like a pretty town, sitting at the head of its bay. A closer look reveals it to be slightly shabby. But the park on the waterfront is very nice.

A few miles north on the A816 is Kilmartin Glen, an area with a wealth of archeological treasures. We see standing stones and burial cairns, including the spectacular remains at Temple Wood. A half mile walk up the road, we see a family emerging from a hatch in the top of a large cairn, and I immediately am reminded of the chambered tombs of Orkney. This cairn, however, has no proper chamber, just an added-in room in which one may view the small burial cist. I crawl in and allow the lads to photograph me.

There are more things to see in Kilmartin Glen than we have time or energy for–a museum in the village, and a nearby hillfort, to name two. After a couple hours tromping over the fields, we’ve had enough, and we drive back through Lochgilphead and on up the shore of Loch Fyne to Inveraray. It’s Sunday, and Loch Fyne Whiskies closes at 5:00. I’d hoped to arrive ahead of that, but the other lads, having blown their budgets in Islay, had already decided they didn’t really need any more temptation, so we’d made it a low priority. We pull into Inveraray at 5:05, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find LFW still open. The staff are engaged with two customers, and very shortly they are engaged with us. They assure us that they are in no hurry to lock up, and we may browse to our hearts’ content. One offers me a sample of a Signatory Brora in which I show an interest. These people are really interested in service! USAirways, take note. I reluctantly pass on the Brora, but have them ship a Port Ellen 3rd Release to my home.

Image
Panoramic view of Inveraray, 2002.


Inveraray is a pretty little town, and, after checking into the George Hotel, we take advantage of the remaining hour of daylight to walk around and take pictures. Then I take an hour’s nap. I meet the lads in the bar, and ask about their room. I have the same one I had last year, looking out at a blank wall in back. They are looking out at Loch Fyne Whiskies, across the street. Crumbs.

The house is very busy this evening, but we shortly have a table in the charming, flagstone-floored dining room, and dinner is very good, as always at the George. After, we sit at the bar and have a blether with the young Australian barman. Here, at Glencoe, and in other places about the Highlands, it seems that all the service staff are young folk from Australia, South Africa, Canada, the US. They come for a few months or a year or two, for the adventure of living in a place as romantic and exciting as the Scottish Highlands. I imagine a few never go home. I wonder, over a Glengoyne 17, why I never thought to do such a thing when I was a lad.
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Re: Sunday 16 October 2005

Postby MGillespie » Wed Nov 02, 2005 5:03 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote: Here, at Glencoe, and in other places about the Highlands, it seems that all the service staff are young folk from Australia, South Africa, Canada, the US. They come for a few months or a year or two, for the adventure of living in a place as romantic and exciting as the Scottish Highlands. I imagine a few never go home. I wonder, over a Glengoyne 17, why I never thought to do such a thing when I was a lad.


You and me both...I'm going to insist that my daughters do something like that at some point during their college years, even if I have to pay for it!

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Re: Saturday 15 October 2005

Postby rthomson » Thu Nov 03, 2005 1:20 am

bernstein wrote:
MrTattieHeid wrote:[b] He pours us samples from the forbidden Valinch, a particularly interesting wine-cask finish; with Mark Reynier’s wine trade connections, there will surely be more of these experiments.

Great report, MrT! Thanks a lot!!
Just one more thing: Is it another "cold-war secret" to tell us, what "forbidden" wine-cask finish you sampled here? Don't want to get you into any trouble of course...

:wink:


It was a 15yo finished in a marsalane cask. I
haven't done my research yet so I don't specifically
know what "marsalane" is. It sounds French so my guess
is that it is a region or village in France as opposed
to a grape varietal. BTW- I heard Jim McEwan say that
the cask is the most expensive one at Bruichladdich.

Cheers,
Ron
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Nov 03, 2005 2:40 am

Could that be the area around Marseilles?

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Postby rthomson » Thu Nov 03, 2005 3:44 am

Marseilles is a good guess. Now that I've taken some time to reflect on it I think another possibility is it refers to marsala, which I believe is a fortified wine.

Ron
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Monday 17 October 2005

Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 03, 2005 4:53 am

Journey’s End
Monday 17 October 2005

We must leave early this morning, and so we eat alone, the three of us, in the dark breakfast room of the George. The first fifteen miles or so out of Inveraray are a splendid stretch of Highland road, around the head of Loch Fyne, up Glen Kinglas, over the pass known as Rest And Be Thankful, and down Glen Croe. Then it’s along the shore of Loch Lomond and over Erskine Bridge, and before long we are at the airport. I make sure the lads get checked in all right, bid them safe journey, and go on my way.

As I mentioned, the peculiarities of the IcelandAir schedule have left me with an extra day on my own. I’ve been thinking about what to do with this day all week. Stay in Glasgow? Spend a last evening in Edinburgh? A couple days ago, it struck me what I had to do.

First things first: I get lost coming out of the airport. The signage here can be frustrating to an American, especially in the urban sprawl of Glasgow. I’m used to having directions attached to the route signs, like “I-91 N” or “US 20 W”. Here, you get “A726 Kilbride” or “A736 Barrhead”. If you don’t know where Kilbride and Barrhead are, and can’t spot them in a hurry on a map, you’re in trouble. The GPS helps with direction, but I become so disoriented so quickly that I’m not sure what direction I want.

Finally, after a tour of Paisley which is far more thorough than the one we had of Edinburgh, I pick up the A736 and head south through Barrhead (so that’s where it is). Outside Irvine, on the coast, I pick up the A78 southbound, and then the A77. I pull into Ayr, thinking I will find a room for later this evening. It’s not too far from the airport, if you don’t get lost. But after circling around town for half an hour, I don’t feel really good about it, and leave. I’ll go back to Glasgow tonight instead, and get a room in one of the small hotels on Renfrew Street, and have my last pints and drams at uisgebeatha, over by the university.

I continue south, through Maybole and Girvan and Ballantrae and Cairnryan. It has been overcast up to now, and as I enter Stranraer, it becomes misty and foggy. I have a quick look at the town, and then push south again. Down the A716, along the fog-wrapped coast, through Drummore, and onto a single-track road. I drive across a narrow isthmus and up onto a little headland, dangling like an appendix in the Irish Sea. The road ends at a parking lot. Directly in front of me stands a white lighthouse in the mist. I have completed my journey from Muckle Flugga to the Mull of Galloway.

The tip of the Mull is a tiny nature reserve, but a few acres in size. I enter the little visitors’ center and look at displays explaining the history and geology of the place. When I step outside ten minutes later, the sky has miraculously cleared. It is a beautiful, sunny day, with little cumulus ships sailing by on the azure sea overhead. I walk past the lighthouse and down a long flight of concrete steps, to the foghorn, now disused, on the cliff. This is as far south as you can go in Scotland–N 54° 38' 03.7", W 4° 51' 20.7". It’s only about 450 miles from here to Herma Ness on a straight line, but it seems a world away. And yet, the stark moorland here would not look at all out of place in some corner of Shetland.

It’s said that you can see four nations from here on a clear day–England’s Lake District to the east, Ireland to the west, the Isle of Man to the south, and, of course, Scotland beneath your feet. Alas, the horizon is hazy once again, and I can see none of those. I look hard, as if, by furrowing my brow, I can make Man emerge from the mist. I think of my father.

On the long drive back to Glasgow, I consider that this really hasn’t been the best possible use of my day. I won’t be back until evening, and I’ll have spent most of the day in the car. But I don’t really care; it was important for me to do this, for reasons I can’t really explain. I smile as I think back to the day I struggled against the driving rain at Herma Ness; it was worth it. Tomorrow I will go home and face a deferred reality, but just now I can think about Shetland and Craigellachie and Plockton and Islay and Ron and Bob, and feel in my heart that it was a worthy voyage.


...........................................................................Image...........................................................................
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Nov 03, 2005 4:07 pm

Just heard from Bruichladdich--the Valinch-in-waiting is a "1989 - 15 years in bourbon oak and 8 weeks in Marsane Hermitage Guigal Blanc, strength 53.1%". Still waiting for labels! You stuck an extra syllable in there, Ron, but given the number of samples we had, and the presence of McEwan, a few extra syllables here and there are inevitable.

I have re-edited, offline, the early entries of the entire journal above, and will shortly repost it all under a separate thread, to be titled "MF2MoG", in one swell foop if possible, or as few foops as I can. Will post photos on that thread as well, as they become available. Gotta go digital.
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Nov 03, 2005 4:09 pm

rthomson wrote:Marseilles is a good guess. Now that I've taken some time to reflect on it I think another possibility is it refers to marsala, which I believe is a fortified wine.

Ron


That makes even more sense...good thinking, Ron.

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Postby Lawrence » Thu Nov 03, 2005 4:16 pm

Tattieheid I enjoyed reading your posts and am suitably excited about my trip next year to Scotland. While it's a ways off we are travelling in a herd so we have to pan ahead thus air line tickets have been booked and two rooms at the Vaults have been paid for. For those in the area the night of August 15th 2006 will find us nicely ensconsed in the bar at the Vaults.
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Postby rthomson » Mon Nov 07, 2005 2:19 am

TH-

Hope you don't mind my adding this pic to your story. This was taken on our last full day on Islay. From left to right is our friendly, humorous, and patient (at least with me while I was on the shop phone for about a half hour- more or less being accused of credit card fraud) tour guide Gareth, Bobby, Mr. TH, myself, and Jim McEwan. TH is standing in front of the just identified Valinch.

Image

Ron
Last edited by rthomson on Tue Nov 08, 2005 4:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Wendy » Tue Nov 08, 2005 1:48 am

Hi Ron,
I am wondering if you would try to post your photograph again. It did not come out. All I have up on my screen is a white box with a red X in it. Thanks.
Regards,
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Nov 08, 2005 2:32 am

Actually, that's what we looked like at that point.

Ron tells me he has a minor technical issue which will be resolved shortly.
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Postby rthomson » Tue Nov 08, 2005 4:20 am

I edited the message and hopefully the pic appears now.

Ron
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Postby Admiral » Tue Nov 08, 2005 11:28 am

We could start a new thread....."What did you look like last night?" :D
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Postby MGillespie » Tue Nov 08, 2005 1:45 pm

That's a better idea than "What do you look like this morning?" :shock:

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Postby mar_mcdo » Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:14 pm

hey Mr T,

have a great time on your trip, and if you happen to be in edinburgh on a weekend come into the SWHC (where i work) to say hello! bow bar was my second home this summer, but had to start behaving again now that i'm back to uni.
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Postby mar_mcdo » Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:15 pm

lol, just realised i was on the first page of the thread and not the last when reading bout Mr T's trip. doh!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:53 pm

Sorry your timing's off--we skipped the SWHC, but surely would have stopped in to say hi. Maybe next year!
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Postby mar_mcdo » Tue Nov 08, 2005 10:13 pm

well if i'm there i'll sneak you a free dram, but if your coming in the summer i'll hopefully be working at springbank on my placement.
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