Day 1

We met at Glasgow airport, happy smiling faces as they came through. I have met most of the guys on a previous distillery tour, last year. Luggage loaded, off we went to Ardrossan, whilst the guys enjoyed lunch (and drinks) I ventured for some Whisky & Haggis crisps. We were taking the 15.15 ferry to Arran – it was 20 minutes late,  we were lucky to be third off but behind a large artic lorry. This turned off shortly to allow us to pass and I flew up to Arran Distillery (we were late). Dropped off our group and drove doon to the ferry at Lochranza.  This done, went back the mile or so and caught them up in the distillery, great tour by the way by Stewart Dunsmuir. On the ferry back to the mainland, a nice breeze, landing at Claonaig and a short drive to Tarbert where we stayed that night.

Day 2

Och an early start as we had the van in line at Kennacraig for 06.20, taking the brand new ferry Finlaggan to Port Ellen. 2 hours later and off to see a wee bit of history: Kildalton Kirk derives its’ name from a stepson of one of the Macdonalds of the Isles.  The Macleans and the Macdonalds fought over this land with the Macdonalds driving the Macleans out. Here endeth the  history  lesson, as usual there was the wee table with teas/coffee biscuits and cakes here with an honesty box. Due to a funeral staff at Bowmore were all out, so we switched the day around and took in Bunnahabhain Distillery first. This was a great tour and taste and many thanks to Andrew Brown, Distillery Manager who took us around and, more importantly, set me up with wee drams to go!  Over his 22 years at the distillery he’s worked every part of the Bunnahabhain and now enjoys day-to-day running of the distillery. Back to Bowmore and another distillery visit, I sat this one out as I needed to do some work for later on in this tour. Overnight Bowmore.

Day 3

An early start (again) for a visit to Bruichladdich  arriving here at 8.20. The tour was taken by Allan Logan, a great first half hour just chatting about himself, his experience and tutor, the aims of the distillery etc, I learned a lot! I left Ingvar to it and went for my driver’s cup of tea!  Chatted to the girls in the visitor centre, learned a few more bits of knowledge, the tour group came in for their tasting, again, thanks Allan for the drams! From here to Ballygrant for soup and sandwiches, great whisky bar and a grand chat with Ewan on island whisky news. In line for the wee landing craft that is the Jura ferry. A short sail, a bumpy drive and an island distillery. Willie Cochrane started his career at the Jura Distillery as a Mash/Still Operator in 1976, a week before our visit he retired! Graham took our tour, a new distillery manager who has been here many years, good tour by the way! More great drams before another road from hell journey to the ferry, I had planned getting back here early, we did. Drams and crisps (whisky and haggis) came out with some chocolates.  On the ferry and back to Bowmore, day over, relax, dram and bed!

Day 4

Early start again, this time away doon to Laphroaig, where David took the tour, known him many years, tour in good hands I sat it out.  Joined them later at the tasting, am thinking they enjoyed that. A wee drive to Ardbeg, met Michael (Mickey) Heads who took the tour and a grand tour it was, relaxed, informative and – plenty of drams at the end, many thanks for my 6 driver drams! Still to sample these, saving them maybe? He sat with us for lunch chatting away, a great distillery visit. After a good fish pie and Irn Bru, I drove the wee distance for our final tour of the day, Lagavulin. Boy was this a good ‘un, Pinkie took us right to the warehouse for tasting, nae distillery tour. He then took the Michael out of all of us in his own strange but hilarious way, no one escaped his humour, but we did enjoy 6 great drams – and, aye, I got 6 wee pots to take away. The funniest visit on the island to be sure for all.  After this, we stopped at the Machrie golf course for a peep, then the peat moss (Laphroaig) and a few drams at the Irn Bru Corner at the airport. I have named it so because we had a dram of Glen Marnoch here, with Irn Bru fudge, followed by an Edradour Fairy Flag. This was voted by Ingvar as the best Edradour he has tasted!  I have two bottles at home. Back at Bowmore – day ended.

Day 5

Left Bowmore at 8.30 for Port Ellen and our ferry to the mainland. A brief stop in Inveraray for butties and drinks before heading south to Loch Lomond.  Stopping for a rendezvous at MacDonalds to meet a lovely lady from Loch Lomond Distillery, who handed me bottles of Inchmurrin, Glen Scotia and LL, pre arranged with a pal who works for them. Bottles on board we hit the road to Auchentoshan Distillery.  Iain McCallum took us around, shared drams at each step and warehouse dram. Once back in the warmth of the bar, more drams followed, a great final whisky tour for the group. We then went to Edinburgh., sad farewells and “see you again”’s. I left my group here, but not before a very nice “thanks you envelope”, thank you all for this; Ingvar Ronde, Mats Rodenstam, Peter Rodenstam, Dag Lennartsson, Ingemar Nordblom and Hans Hulthén, I will have many happy memories of this trip.  Drove home, awful traffic on the bridge, so pulled off for some grub, then home, arrived 9.15, tired but happy!

Once again Ingvar has entrusted us with his tour group, last year it was Speyside, what is it for 2017? Ireland? Thanks Ingvar, photos on the way over, see you soon.

Story and pictures by Paul McLean, driver/guide – April 2016