August 31, 2011

Bowmore distillery visit

This was actually the highlight of our visit. I have noted earlier that we stayed here, at a lovely cottage. With the cottage came a complimentary bottle of whisky, and a distillery tour. We potetgull for the special though, and it really was. The price were rather steep, 40£ I think, but it was worth it.
The tour
First of all, we got our own personal guide, and we got to do the round in our own tempo. This is very nice as we experienced being left behind on several other visits. The guide knew what she was talking about, and was pleasant company all along. Made us feel welcome. A job well done.
At what usually is the end of the tour, the value unfolded itself. We were shown into one of the warehouses, got to meet the manager, and got to taste new make and whisky from both sherry and bourbon barrels. The warehouse manager spent at least half an hour with us, and we had a very good chat. Drinking whisky from the barrels and photographing.

After this we was escorted to the bar and was served a selection of the distillery expressions. As much as we could drink, actually, but sadly we had to move on for lunch and the visit to Kilchoman.
The visitor centre
There was the bar, a restaurant and the shop, all quite nice, bot nothing out of the ordinary.
The shop
A good selection of what the distillery has to offer, and the usual stuff. What you'd expect, but not much more.
Overall verdict
Having such an offering as the special tour makes the Bowmore visit much more interesting than the standard tourist offering. That sets Bowmore apart. A visit to Bowmore is absolutely recomended.
The special tour has to be booked in advance though.

February 26, 2011

Distillery visits in general

I have been to quite a few distilleries, more than most, but I’m pretty sure not as much as some others.I don’t do this for a living, just to put it in perspective.

I do feel I’ve been to enough of them to form an opinion of what they shoulkd be like. So, here is a few pointers divided into subjects, just to make it easier to understand

1. Before the visit

It should be easy to visit a distillery. For most, it is part of a vacation and the effort to find out where and when should be small. An accessible website is a first. This should not be based on flash, cause it is unreadable on most cell- and smart phones. If an appointment is needed, state so, clearly, and make sure there is someone to answer the phone.

2. The tour itself

There should be more than one option. A lot of us have seen mash tuns and stills before. We want to know why your distillery is special. What do you do that is special? Why do your stills look like they do? How does your new make taste? What’s so special about those mash tuns? And so on.

The guides should know what they are talking about, and be enthusiastic about it. I’ve met scripted guides and it really sucks. Citing marketing mumbo jumbo with no connections to reality, what so ever.

A “multimedia experience” should be just that, and not something you could watch on youtube in the comfort of your own home. If all you can come up with is a video, resembling a TV commersial. leave it, it’s just a waste of time.

A lot of us are actually willing to pay extra to get an interesting tour at your distillery.

3. The visitor centre

How much effort one puts in this is based on the number of visitors. I understand that. But, there should be, at least:

  • Interesting stuff to look at and excamine. Good museum stuff. Related to the distillery and it’s history, of course. Models of what it looked like when first founded. Pictures from days gone by and so on.
  • A shop. With the range of whiskies, of course. Aside from that, one should try to be original and interesting and avoid the typical souvenir shop items.
  • A nice quiet bar/pub to sit down and enjoy the offerings of the distillery.
  • Good food

I will elaborate on this one as I come up with other ideas, but it will be based on what I like from my distillery visits and what is possible to achive without to much effort.

Until next time. SKÅL

Ardbeg distillery visit

A rainy morning in march, we stood at the door step of Ardbeg distillery. This was our first distillery visit, of several on this trip to Islay. Distillery visits were actually the purpose of the vacation.
Here we learned our first lesson regarding distillery visits: Allways check the distillery’s own webpage for tour hours, cause we missed those with a mile.
_IGP1635We took a taxi from Bowmore and as we were leaving the car he started to ask when to pick us up for the ride to Lagavulin and Laphroigh, and then cut himself short saying something like: “I forgot that you were Norwegians, you’ll probably want to walk between the distillerys.” As opposed to Americans who: “Don’t walk, even if they have to.”

The tour

_IGP1664After a wait, we were ready for our tour. This is the standard offering and nothing more, if there is an offer that includes more than this, it isn’t stated anywhere.
The guide seemed both knowledgable and enthusiastic enough about the whisky and brand, and the tour was pleasant enough. We shared the tour with three germans who seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.
After the trip we got a dram or two in the visitor centre, with a free choise from any of the great range of Ardbeg.

The visitor centre


is very nice. Contemporary looking, and stylish. There is also a restaurant there wich seemed popular with the locals, wich is allways a good sign. We did’t have time to eat, so I really can’t say anything about the food.

The shop

This is where Ardbeg stands out in comparison to several others. Someone has put effort into this range. They have their own tasting glasses instead of the standard Glencairn offering. This is nice I think, but it also messes with my collection of Glencairn glasses from the distilleries I’ve visited.
Aside from that there is also some nice clothing, my friend John bought the hooded jacket, and I really wanted the cufflinks, but they were sold out. Clumsy.

Overall verdict

Not much more than the standard offering, and if you know a still from a mash tun, you might as well pass. I missed a bar, to sit down and enjoy a dram or two.
The centre and the shop are nice though.

The last personal twist

While visiting, I saw a bloke around the premises wich seemed strangly familiar, and just before leaving he was there again. So, I asked, where have I seen you before. He didn’t know either, but we sorted it out anyway. It turned out to be Michael "Mickey" Heads himself, distillery manager for those not in the know. And we met at the Whisky festival here in Oslo the year before. We met again this year,by the way.
Until next time. SKÅL

February 24, 2011

Info on Islay

When going to Islay, you might want to pick up some info beforehand.

That is what I recommend before going anywhere, because it will make your journey so much more interesting.

  • The Islay blog
    Allways up to date, this blog gives a good picture of what goes on at Islay.
  • Welcome to Islayinfo - the Ultimate Online Guide to the Isle of Islay”
    - their own words that. In my experience: Check distillery opening hours on the respective websites, see below.
  • Islay from Wikipedia

And then there is the distilleries, with comments. Will be updated reularily, I’ll even consider giving them stars, or something other equally …:

  • Ardbeg
    have a brand new website, wich is nice, but it’s Flash, big boo for that one.
    I really like the shop at Ardbegs, they have some nice items.
  • Bowmore
    Also relatively new, and partly Flash. A little better but still…
    Here you can also rent cottages, like we did. Very nice cottages, and reasonably priced as well.
  • Bruichladdich
    has a new site under development. This is good, cause the old one was a mess, to say the least.
  • Bunnahabhain
    These were really nice, and no flash either. Look here you other morons.
  • Caol Ila
    does not have it’s own adress, wich makes it harder to find. This is a corporate decition, Diaego, cause it goes for  Lagavulin as well. The one making this call has made the wrong call, even if it saves a few pennies. There is also the individual brand forced into the corporate profile. No room for individuality.
    ”I don’t care if your square, here is a nice round hole for you to fit in.”
  • Lagavulin se above
  • Laphroaig
    these are really nice too. And there is a lot of content as well.
  • Kilchoman
    Simple, stylish and easy to navigate. Text book example, but a little boring.

And here is a big boo for a lot of these. What’s with the age statement, and country of origin, it’s a hazzle and a big pain in the …, to go through every time you visit a site. Anyone under age will just lie, and the rest of us, wich are in majority, are just bothered by it. Stop doing that to us.

Did I mention I find it annoying and unnecesary.

Until next time. SKÅL

February 23, 2011

Ardbeg 10 year old


Ardbeg is my favourite distillerie and was among the distilleries visited when on Islay in 2010. The distillery has a long history but was finally reopened, after an uncertain period dating back to the closing in 1981, in 1997.

Ardbeg is known for it’s peaty, smoky expressions, and this 10 year old is no exception. They are also known for their expressions without age statements, due to a limited stock of older whiskies and good quality younger stock. Among these is the Uigeadail, my #1 choise, more on that in a later post. I have tasted most of the Ardbeg whiskies, and have yet to find one I do not like.

The 10 year old was finally launched in 2008, after a period of waiting expressions like: Very Young, Still Young and Allmost There. All good whiskies and hard to come by today.

You will allways find this in my whisky cabinet, as it is a lot of whisky for the price, and it has all the characteristics that i prefer in a whisky. It really tastes coastal, with tastes of tar, seaweed, smoke and peat. Is well rounded and complex at the same time.

But as usual, don’t take my word for it, as I’m quite subjective when it comes to Ardbeg:

That’s it for now, two posts in one day isn’t bad. SKÅL


_IGP6474Talisker whisky is from the Isle of Skye and is the only distillery on the island.

My first experience with Talisker was at a whisky tasting by Chris Maile and Aperitif. Chris himself is from Skye and this is of course his favourite. He used to get Talimilk, a mix of Talisker and milk, to cure the flu when he was a kid. That really is growing up with whisky.

This is a whisky with all the characteristics of an island whisky, smoke and peat, but I find it more balanced and complex than some of the other offerings.

This bootle is a Distillers Edition from 2009, distilled in 1998, and is double matured, wich would imply that it is matured in both bourbon and sherry casks. This makes it a more accessible island alternative than many of the regular offerings.

I like this whisky a lot, and since I don’t feel I have the nose or taste buds to give tasting notes I’ll rather share what other thinks of this whisky:

As this is a limited offering, tastings around the net are harder to find, but I do hope you’ll get what you want from these.

Until next time. SKÅL.

January 11, 2011

Highland Park cask at dr Jekylls

This cask is located at dr Jekyll's, my favourite whisky bar in Oslo, where I live.
I tasted it, I'm not sure how long it's been stored, and it really has a lot of taste from the cask, a bit to much for me, but well worth trying.