Ardbeg is the last of the three distilleries on the south coast at three miles from Port Ellen. There is a walking/cycle path, if you plan to visit all three on the same day, this is definitely the safest option (some of the tasting drams are greater than 50%).
We visited the Old Kiln Cafe which is in the refurbished malt kilns. We were offered a free dram of our choosing to go with our lunch. I tried the Corryvreckan aged in wine casks but the Uigeadail aged in sherry casks is also really good.
Ardbeg is famous for sending a sample of whisky up to the international space station. Chemical analysis showed an effect on terpenes and a 'dramatically different flavor profile' was reported when comparisons were made with an earth based control.
After lunch we took a walk towards Kildalton. A really a nice amateur naturalist called Mick, who can be found in the Islay hotel bar, had given us some otter spotting tips. What luck grey seals bobbing in the waves, deer lurking in the undergrowth and an otter eating a fish.
Thanks Mick for sharing your extensive experience.
Bruichladdich Distillery is neither the biggest nor the most famous, but it is essential to all those who live within a 5 kilometer radius of this small village on Islay. The whisky produced here are not entirely unknown, but beside Bowmore, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, they occupy a small niche. The whiskey, produced here since the nineteenth century, is a little smoother than many others. There are many different variations on offer, and they even make their own gin. The standard range of whiskey are smoked, un smoked and intensely smoked (the latter can be a bit much for people who aren't used to whiskey). The tasting is more interesting than the visit to the distillery, which could use a bit of work, but among the 24 distilleries I've visited, I really liked this one.
On a seemingly inaccessible rocky island, the raging waters of the open sea contrast with the calm, still water of the bay. The visuals here are simply stunning. This lighthouse is located on the rocky island of Orsay near Portnahaven and is one of the main attractions of this town. Tall, majestic and vital for many years at this point of the island, it is still fully operational and, as is often the case, was automated in the late twentieth century. It was built in the nineteenth century and named Rinns of Islay. Curiously, Rinns was the original name of this area of the island, but nowadays is only associated with the lighthouse. Direct access to it can be tricky due to weather or and the availability of boats to take you there. The problem is the sea and the strong winds. But it's a stunning destination for lovers of wild weather. I loved it.
I was initially surprised to see that this distillery has only operated since 2005, but in reality they have been making whiskey at Kilchoman for more than 100 years. Until 2005, the whiskey made here on the family farm was for private consumption (something that is common in Scotland and doesn't require a license), so when the company opened to the public, all the machines and equipment were already in place. It is one of the few distilleries that has a malting floor, something that is no longer customary due to the extra work it creates.
Kilchoman has two unique points: it is the smallest distillery in Islay, and in Scotland, as well as the only distillery that does 100% of its production on the island. Its flagship product, the Kilchoman 12-year-old, is one of the most expensive on the island, and doesn't really have much to set it apart from its competitors. With that in mind, I don't think a visit here is an unmissable part of your tour of Islay.