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Need advice on Islay distillery visit

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Need advice on Islay distillery visit

Postby Single Malt Kommunist » Tue May 29, 2007 3:05 pm

Im fortunate enough to get the opportunity this coming Sunday and Monday to visit Islay. My choices for visits (in order):

-Ardbeg
-Bruichladdich
-Laphroaig

My dilemma is that Ardbeg is closed on Monday/Tuesday for renovation (I guess they need a break after the Islay Festival) :sleep:

Any advice on where to head instead (no Diageo-owned distillers please)? Your comments are much appreciated.
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Postby kallaskander » Tue May 29, 2007 3:36 pm

Hi there,

if its got to be non-Diageo go to Bunnhabhain if you find the time. Try Kilchoman and have a look at the nascending Port Charlotte. And nothing speaks against Bowmore.

Greetings
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Postby martin grant » Tue May 29, 2007 3:41 pm

Good call Kallaskander!
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Postby Single Malt Kommunist » Tue May 29, 2007 3:53 pm

Thanks, Kallaskander. I mentioned the non-Diageo distilleries because of the copious negative comments made in earlier posts, and because of my limited time.

What are your arguments for Bunnhabhain? I havent tried it yet myself, so that could equally be a reason for/against the visit.
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Postby Lawrence » Tue May 29, 2007 3:58 pm

Single Malt Kommunist wrote:Thanks, Kallaskander. I mentioned the non-Diageo distilleries because of the copious negative comments made in earlier posts, and because of my limited time.

What are your arguments for Bunnhabhain? I havent tried it yet myself, so that could equally be a reason for/against the visit.


I had great visits at both Caol Ila and Lagavulin. And at all the other Diageo distilleries I visited.
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Postby fishboy » Tue May 29, 2007 4:02 pm

I'm going to go against the grain and try to push you towards Diageo!!

:shock: :shock:

I must admit that probably my favourite tour on the island is at Caol Ila. I've done this tour twice over recent years and really enjoyed it. On both visits I've been the only person taking the tour, which was conducted by Neil Ferguson, who worked at the distillery for many years (starting before the reconstruction in the early 70's) and ended up as stillman - with the best view in the world. The tour is really unhurried (1.5 - 2 hours) and what this guy doesn't know about making whisky isn't worth knowing. Ask him any question and he'll talk himself horse. He is a fantastic character - and features heavily in Gavin Smiths book Whisky men. If Neil is still doing tours I can't recommend him highly enough.

MUCH better than some 30 minute tour by some tartan-deressed tour guide reciting a script and unable to answer any questions that I've had at some distilleries (even some on Islay!!)
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Postby les taylor » Tue May 29, 2007 4:03 pm

Lawrence wrote:
Single Malt Kommunist wrote:Thanks, Kallaskander. I mentioned the non-Diageo distilleries because of the copious negative comments made in earlier posts, and because of my limited time.

What are your arguments for Bunnhabhain? I havent tried it yet myself, so that could equally be a reason for/against the visit.


I had great visits at both Caol Ila and Lagavulin. And at all the other Diageo distilleries I visited.



Me too I agree with Lawrence. Lagavulin was particularly welcoming and an interesting tour. In my mind not to be missed.


:)
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Postby Single Malt Kommunist » Tue May 29, 2007 4:14 pm

Lawrence, since never having visited a Diageo distillery I guess I cant say whether or not its worth visiting. But as mentioned, the earlier posts are scathing, and I find that the need to pay a tour fee (albeit good for a refund at the store) a bit of a scam.

Im looking forward to buying something in all of the distilleries I visit, but why make it a given? I think the majority of persons visiting Islay are there out of a much deeper love of the entire experience. If anyone from Diageo is looking at this forum, take some notes.

It is all about profit, but just try to hide that from us a bit. :wink:
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Postby Single Malt Kommunist » Tue May 29, 2007 4:23 pm

Ok, fishboy, Im a bit confused after your post.

Perhaps its time to get down off my soapbox and wait for a few more opinions.

@ Diageo, please keep shipments coming to Berlin. Im considering repentance !
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Postby Wave » Tue May 29, 2007 4:24 pm

A favorite tour on Islay last year besides Bruichladdich was the Caol Ila distillery. not only is it in a beautiful & scenic location the tour was very informative too, at least it was for me with an old stillman showing the way.

The Bunnhabhain distillery is another with a beautiful setting. The tour wasn't tops but it was still decent enough. plus you'll have a better chance of finding a nice distillery-only bottling of something tasty!


Cheers!
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Postby les taylor » Tue May 29, 2007 4:24 pm

Single Malt Kommunist wrote:Lawrence, since never having visited a Diageo distillery I guess I cant say whether or not its worth visiting. But as mentioned, the earlier posts are scathing, and I find that the need to pay a tour fee (albeit good for a refund at the store) a bit of a scam.

Im looking forward to buying something in all of the distilleries I visit, but why make it a given? I think the majority of persons visiting Islay are there out of a much deeper love of the entire experience. If anyone from Diageo is looking at this forum, take some notes.

It is all about profit, but just try to hide that from us a bit. :wink:




I guess it depends on how much you value your time. I would not be prepared to take around hundreds of strangers around my work premises for free, when I could be doing something else. To my mind if you think a modest charge is a scam DON'T GO.
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Postby Single Malt Kommunist » Tue May 29, 2007 4:52 pm

Thanks, Wave...

@ Les, point taken. But in an industry where it so rare to meet the customer face to face to hear their praise and suggestions, and to be an Ambassador for the product you deliver, it is strange to have to pay. This opportunity for the distiller is truly priceless.

If it was a paint manufacturer for the automotive industry, it would be a bit easier to understand the time/cost argument.

Ok, Im digressing a bit...
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue May 29, 2007 4:52 pm

fishboy wrote:I must admit that probably my favourite tour on the island is at Caol Ila...conducted by Neil Ferguson.... Ask him any question and he'll talk himself horse.


Ah, another neigh-sayer!

Thanks for putting a name to this gentleman (and giving me a reason to buy Gavin Smith's book). He is certainly reason enough to visit Caol Ila, and the view of Jura from the stillhouse is another. If you visit CI, be sure to allow plenty of time. In fact, my general advice for distillery tours in Islay is not to try to squeeze in too many in too short a time. Usually, one in the morning and one in the afternoon is plenty, unless the timings are well apart--otherwise, you find yourself rushing off to the next tour just when a good hospitality room blether is gathering steam.

My other bit of advice is this: While we all love to visit the birthplaces of our favorite whiskies, it's not necessary to love a malt to get a lot out of a visit to the distillery. Bunnahabhain does little for me, but it's an excellent place to visit, especially if the outspoken Mr McClellan gives the tour. Jura is just plain fun to get to, and the sense of remoteness is wonderful. Again, allow plenty of time for travel. (Mr Heads is no longer there, I guess, so I can't vouch for the tour itself--anyone been there lately?) And I don't care for Bowmore at all, but I enjoyed my visit last year. Worth it just to see the floor maltings--Laphroaig has them, too, but my recollection is that Bowmore's are more impressive, with a good up-close look.

Kilchoman is worthy of a visit, also, unique as a start-up boutique distillery. In fact, I'd say you can't go wrong--Bruichladdich is the one can't miss in my book, but each distillery offers something unique, and the experiences are all complementary. I think I'd rate Lagavulin last of the nine, but a visit there is by no means unsatisfactory.

Two days seems such short shrift--there's much to see besides distilleries! The Kildalton Cross, out the road past Ardbeg, is a must-see, and such places as Finlaggan, Portnahaven, and the Oa are worth going to if you have the time. But rushing around on Islay seems entirely out of character with the place...again, don't try to cram too much in; relax, enjoy yourself, you'll have plenty of reason to return.

If you are interested, my accounts of visits to Islay can be found on my website. The 2005 visit starts here, with the Islay visit starting at the end of Part 3 and photos starting on Page 4, and the next year's visit starting on Part 5 of the 2006 page. End of self-promotion. Hope I linked those right.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue May 29, 2007 5:11 pm

A fee for a distillery tour, a scam? Well, if it is, it isn't unique to Diageo--they all charge, and I've never felt cheated. In fact, the most expensive ones have been the most worthwhile. Pay the £2 (or whatever) and forget about it.
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Postby Single Malt Kommunist » Tue May 29, 2007 5:20 pm

Thanks for leading a horse to water/whisky Mr. TH (am I allowed to use that abbreviation yet?) :)

Ive seen many of your previous posts, and have also booked at the Bruichladdich Academy (yes, also your suggestion). Spent some time on your website...thats quite a bit of information. I need to come back with a few bottles from Islay to digest the rest.

Yes, I am also acknowledge that this is simply too short a stay, but see it rather as a beginning of a long-distance relationship with return visits coming.
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Postby kallaskander » Tue May 29, 2007 7:06 pm

Hi there,

Bunnahbhain belongs to a rather small whisky company and in 1997 they started experimenting with peat again. I had a 7 year old distilled 1997 bottled 2004. Very promising.

Well worth a try.

Greetings
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue May 29, 2007 8:40 pm

Single Malt Kommunist wrote:Thanks for leading a horse to water/whisky Mr. TH (am I allowed to use that abbreviation yet?)


I get called lots worse....
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Postby Wave » Tue May 29, 2007 10:42 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:A fee for a distillery tour, a scam? Well, if it is, it isn't unique to Diageo--they all charge, and I've never felt cheated. In fact, the most expensive ones have been the most worthwhile. Pay the £2 (or whatever) and forget about it.


Out of the some 2 dozen distilleries I've visited throughout Scotland about the only free tour I can think of is at the Glenfiddich distillery, at least it still was in '04.


Cheers!
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Postby Ganga » Tue May 29, 2007 11:30 pm

MikeyMad and I went off-season and were able to get some personal tours by contacting the distilleries in advance. I think we went through more than 30 of them, most of which had a nominal charge and some samples at the end.

We didn't get charged at any of the Islay distilleries but I believe this was because of the whisky weekend we were spending at the Lochside hotel.
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Postby TheLaddie » Wed May 30, 2007 2:53 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:
Single Malt Kommunist wrote:Thanks for leading a horse to water/whisky Mr. TH (am I allowed to use that abbreviation yet?)


I get called lots worse....


Examples?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed May 30, 2007 2:57 am

No, I've never been called "Examples".
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Postby les taylor » Wed May 30, 2007 7:49 am

How about late for dinner?




:)
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