Every year Director Karen enjoys a whisky trip.

Little did we know that last year’s trip was going to be the start of something pretty special for Nicola, Justine, Annabel, Karen and myself.

You may remember my ramblings on the blog last year of the inaugural trip. Quick recap here, in April 2022 in only a few days, six whisky industry enthusiasts (drinkers) travelled in a (luxury) people carrier and visited Ben Nevis Distillery, Torabhaig Distillery, Raasay Distillery, Talisker Distillery and Ardnamurchan Distillery. Reminisce here, here and here. Collectively we were given the name ‘The Playas’ by our amazing driver Grant throughout the trip, the name stuck and we feel we have grown into it. Here is a reel from last year providing a glimpse at the fun ‘The Playas’ had… I mean the whisky knowledge we amassed. ;)

So, this year had a lot to live up to, not only did we have to come up with a new location we also wanted to squeeze a few more days in. Easy we all said, let's go to Islay. 

Travelling from Jedburgh, Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow, we all headed west, arriving at Port Askaig on the MV Finlaggan (aka the Islay cruise ship) on time. Already we were on a tight schedule. We only had two hours to get from Port Askaig, to Port Charlotte to unpack and then travel to Glenegadale House in time for our pre-ordered seafood platters.

MV Finlaggan in Kennacraig

This was a last-minute addition to the 5-day itinerary, but one we did not regret. Glenaegadale House is owned and run by Emma and Graeme Clark. Located opposite the airport, this small, but luxurious hotel has only 4 bedrooms and once a month they host a supper club. There really are no words needed, these pics below say it all. We feasted on freshly caught Islay lobster, crab, langoustines, salmon… well you get the picture.  

Glenegadale Seafood Platter - Islay

Seafood Platter at Glenegadale House Islay

Sunday morning we had some free time which enabled us to take advantage of the newly constructed pathway which connects the villages of Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich - The Loch Indaal Way. As we were staying in Temperance House in Port Charlotte for the duration of our trip this new pathway was the perfect way to make our way to Bruichladdich for our high noon appointment with Lesley McGeachy. Lesley is a true Ilich and after working for many years at Bowmore Distillery (in her home town) in 2019 she decided to make the trip across the Loch Indaal to pursue her career at Bruichladdich Distillery. Lesley whisked us around the distillery, uncovering many juicy details not usually discussed on the ‘happy cows’ tours. Then we were treated to a few drams straight from the cask in one of the warehouses. Lesley has a true passion for the various types of barley used in the production of whisky, so much so she is knee-deep in several extra educational pursuits to build upon her already outstanding knowledge in this field, she is a true ambassador for Scottish barley. Lesley’s enthusiasm for Bruichladdich and their unique ways and approaches to making scotch whisky was infectious and the drams we drank together were all winners.

Bruichladdich Distillery Islay

Bruichladdich Distillery Warehouse Islay

We enjoyed a slower but more joyous walk back that ended with a few drams of The Glassblowers Malt on Port Charlotte beach. The Glassblowers Malt was released just a few weeks ago at our 10th birthday celebrations. The whisky is a limited-release single-cask bottling of only 60. This 10-year-old Linkwood Scotch from the Distillery in Elgin is finished in an oloroso octave for a few months before bottling. This finishing has given our inaugural signature whisky the most wonderful fruit sherry notes. These deep oak and sweet pudding notes were complimented by our salty coastal location on the whisky Isle.

Glassblowers Malt by Angels' Share Glass

We are already on day three and are ready to tackle the south coast strip. Ardbeg was first up, and we were treated to a walk around the distillery with Colin Gordon (Distillery Manager). This trip around the not so commonly toured parts of the distillery, provided two highlights for us, watching the dis-gorging of 40+ hogsheads in one of the filling warehouses and also watching the new still house ‘mega’ window open up like a massive aeroplane hanger door. Our first tour of the day was consummated with a few of Colin’s hand-picked drams in the courtyard tasting room. It is in this room where my one-woman mission began to rid the whisky island of PLASTIC PIPETTES!! Just my thoughts… distillers spend tens of millions of pounds to make their visitor experience the best it can be, then right when guests are ready to fully appreciate the dram they have just witnessed being made, and while they are thoroughly impressed by branded glassware, exclusive bottlings and the finest furnishings in the opulent tasting room they are faced with a glass jug of plastic squeezy straws… this should not to be your guest's last vision of the distillery!  Come on whisky tasting rooms all over Scotland, you can do better… we can create, for trade low cost multi-packs of glass pipettes, get in touch with us.

Ardbeg Distillery Islay

Ardbeg Distillery Casks

Ardbeg Tasting Room - Islay

TIP: when at Ardbeg make sure you leave plenty of time for lunch at the Ardstream in the courtyard, serving hearty bowls of soup with tasty sandwiches.

Next along the South Islay Strip is Lagavulin. With a healthy fill of Ardbeg, we met Kayla and with a few unsuspecting American Whisky tourists, we joined the group. As the Lagavulin ‘distillery exclusive’ experience primarily focuses on distillery-only bottlings we did not spend long walking through the key areas of mashing, washing and distilling processes. We finished with a 20cl fill your own bottling which after now several (lost count) drams was a little tricky to judge the fill line.

Lagavulin Distillery Only Tasting - Islay

Our last stop of the day was with Georgie Crawford a great friend of Annabel's, past distillery manager of Lagavulin, and the now distillery manager of Islay’s newest distillery, Portintruan. Thankfully, this stop did not include drams. Georgie spoke at length and enthusiastically of what was in store at the new distillery and the artist's impressions of the site brought her ideas to life. I am not sure what I can share in this blog post but rest assured, the distillery appears to incorporate a distiller's dedicated dream experimental area.

Portintruan Distillery Islay

Day four, was an early start and for this one, we arranged a local driver, ‘Lucas’ of Lamb’s Taxis… what a guy, highly recommended and very dependable. Lucas drove us to the north of the island where we spent the morning with Paul Graham, Operations Manager at Ardnahoe Distillery. Very different from the other distilleries we had visited so far as instead of narrow stairs and ‘watch your head’ shouts this one has accessibility at its core. The tour was all on one level and the warehouse/tasting area, shop and cafe all promoted wide open, airy spaces, the benefits of building a distillery in this century. 

Ardnahoe Distillery - Islay

Ardnahoe began production in October 2018 and is owned by Glasgow independent bottlers, Hunter Laing & Co. This meant that not only did Paul treat us to a couple of young Ardnahoe single cask drams, but also a few from other distilleries casks that are ready to bottle. Several breakfast drams led to some lunch in the cafe! Home baking, tasty soup and salads were required before heading along a single-track road to the second distillery of the day. Just over a mile down the road is Bunnahabhain.

Ardnahoe Distillery - Islay


Ardnahoe Distillery - Islay

Ardnahoe Distillery Warehouse - Islay

Distillery Manager, Andrew Brown, was ready for us. In complete contract to Ardahoe, Bunnahabhain embodies the traditional Islay distillery. Dark, industrial, noisy and BIG! Bunnahabhain was built in 1881 and has more or less produced alcohol since then. The one aspect of the distillery, other than the size of the stills, that everyone comments on is the view, from the pier and now also the new visitor centre, it is breathtaking. After a good look around the distillery, including the daunting vertical walk up to the washbacks, we were given the chance to sample the new Feis Ile 2023 drams led by Andrew Brown. This unique tasting overlooking the paps of Jura included Fèis Ìle Canasta Matured Limited Edition, 17yo Moine Triple Cask Distillery and 1998 Manzanilla Cask Finish. 

Bunnahabhain Distillery Feis Ile 2023 Drams - Islay


Bunnahabhain Distillery  - Islay


Of the distilleries visited it was great to see many of them using the glass millennium bowl in the spirit safes, namely Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Ardnahoe and Bowmore. These glass bowls are designed and created by Tom Young MBE, Co-Founder of Angels’ Share Glass but more importantly my Dad. In 1999, Tom designed the millennium spirit bowl. Spirit bowls in Spirit Safes in Distilleries were generally produced by a company called Monax. They were blown globes and then cut out by hand saws they were delicate and impractical for modern Spirt Safes and so Tom set about designing and creating a more durable bowl for fabricators and distillers. The Millennium Bowl was created and now is fitted in many Spirit Safe throughout distilleries worldwide.

Onto the last day and it was a belter. Day five was a bucket list day for me and fellow ‘Playa’ Nic. A chance meeting with Islay’s golf pro on Port Charlotte beach while enjoying The Glassblowers Malt, led us to The Machrie Golf Course on Wednesday morning at 8.30am. David Foley, The Machrie Pro, did not let us down. When we arrived, David was ready for us. We had arranged to hire two full sets of clubs (we didn’t have our clubs with us), and a buggy. The Machrie lives up to and surpasses its reputation as one of the top 100 courses, although please note the rough is rough and three balls each to tackle this spectacular course is not enough, remember to bring extras. The day started misty and breezy but by the 16th the sun was out and the scenery was glorious. Our scorecards were fair, better than either of us expected, and our cheeks were rosier than they had been all week, but the experience Nicola and I enjoyed was first class. 

The Machrie Golf Course Islay

Whisky drinkers the world over know and appreciate the Single Malt Scotch whisky that originates from the isle of Islay, but until you go there you cannot appreciate the workmanship, the heritage, the people, the stories and the landscape. 

Epic trip, too many great memories and laughs… can’t wait till next year.