Cycling on Islay: Whisky Trail
Distillery by Bike: the Islay Whisky Trail
Now, they say the customer is always right - and some times that's hard to hear, believe you me. However, in this case the above fact is not faulted, nor questioned whatsoever, not one bit! Fellow whisky connoisseurs and buddying TCJ fans Rick and Stu took to the illustrious Isle of Islay to experience the islands eight working whisky distilleries.
Bunnahabhain Distillery; the most northerly of the distilleries and considered by many to be the most untypical of Islay... Swooping through the single track road, the momentous smell of malt was enough to awaken the Giant within!
- Production Tour: 09:30 (50 mins - £7)
- Warehouse 9 Experience: 10:30 (1 hour/ 5 drams - £25)
All aboard the ferry Port Askaig-Feolin (duration 5:00 mins) - £3.20 return.
Isle of Jura Distillery - previously known as: Craighouse, Small Isles and Caol nan Eilea, is next on the list and home to a peaty whisky (and about 6000 deer). The road to Jura is peaceful, in fact there are probably as many cars on the road there as there is distilleries on the island! The reserved shoreline road eventually takes a turn inland and begins to climb - there's really only one path to follow; that of the overgrown ferns and grass. Further along the road, walls and farms begin to emerge and the chimney of Jura is in plain sight - a quick descent and you'll be right outside the stunning Jura distillery.
- Distillery Tour: 14:00 (45 mins - £6)
Caol ila Distillery; situated on the NE shores of Islay, with magnificent views across the Sound of Islay to the Paps of Jura. This is the largest distillery on Islay, traditionally producing peated whiskey, but unpeated has since been produced - primarily for blending purposes.
- Distillery Tour: 16:00 or Drop in for a wee complimentary dram (open until 17:30)
Kilchoman Distillery - small in comparison to the others on the island and farm based, located not too far from Bruichladdich distillery. Every step of the production process takes place on-site, giving the grand old expression 'from barely to bottle' great meaning. By now there's probably been a few tumbles from the bike (nothing the Whisky can't help though, I'm sure), but you're well on your way to the next two distillery stops as over and beyond the dips, either side sits Kilchoman and Brusichladdich.
- Distillery Tour: 10:00 (1 hour/ 2 drams – £7)
- Tasting options not time specific
Bruichladdich Distillery - the very distinctive aqua marine colours of the casks and the bright yellow MOD registered submarine (you'd need to read the story to believe it) haha! The welcoming gesture marks the halfway mark on the Islay tour.
- Tour: 11:00, 13:00, 14:00 (1 hour - £5)
- Drop in for a free tasting – licensed after 11:00 (bottles under £200)
Bowmore Distillery - the original Islay distillery and home to the oldest Scotch Whisky maturation warehouse in the world! 'A place of legend and craftsmanship, of beauty and reflection, the No. 1 Vaults is where Bowmore single malt Scotch whisky is meticulously matured until perfect. Our master distillers have been doing it that way since 1779'.
- Classic Tour: 12:30/14:00
- Tasting Bar: 12:00 – 15:30
Ardbeg Distillery - a favourite in the office, for sure! 'Ardbeg has been called “as close to perfection as makes no difference,” by whisky connoisseurs'. These three distilleries are all only a matter of miles away from each other (1.1m to Lagavulin)
Are you part of Velo Club d'Ardbeg yet...?
- Full Range Tour & Tasting: 10:00 (1 hour 45 mins/ 5 drams - £20)
- Old Kiln Café (lunch)
Laphroaig Distillery - Closest to Port Ellen, Laphraoig is the most informal tasting experience offered on that part of the island. Only 1.2 miles to Lagavulin!
- Laphroaig Experience Tour: 14:00 (1 hour/ 3 drams - £10)
- Layers of Laphroaig Tasting: 15:15 (1 hour - £20)
Lagavulin Distillery - another favourite in the office over here (watch this space for a jersey)... Situated at the picturesque Lagavulin Bay, this is an experience not to be missed. The sight of Lagavulin distillery hits you like the first time you put your nose to a smoky whisky - WOAH! It's certainly makes a big entrance, the way that it suddenly comes into view and how perfect it looks. The buildings are white and there is not a single blemish on them. There is a pagoda roof and a wall with “Lagavulin” in large lettering.
- Core Range Tasting Tour: 15:30 (1 hour/ 3 drams - £15)
- Sensory Tasting Experience: 14:30 (5 drams - £35)
Cycling on Islay is something you have to experience! For one - Islay whisky is among the best in the world, but there is also over 131 routes across the island!