It all started so well. The Master of Malt Mobile was pimped, packed with drams and a simply outrageous selection of fine booze, and we were ready to go by 9.30am… not bad going I think you’ll agree.

We’ll be doing a bit of entertaining in Islay, so we packed our entire range of Vintage Cocktails, a selection of whisky and a few special bottles including Glenfarclas Cognac Cask, a single cask Ardbeg 1993 (more on this in coming weeks – yes – it’s going to be a new bottling from MoM), and a 28-year-old Port Ellen.

With the boot already bursting we set off from Tunbridge Wells in the glorious sunshine with Ben Behind the wheel, heading for Edinburgh on the first leg of our epic journey to Islay. After a brief sphincter-tightening moment, where Ben almost certainly went from Ben Ellefsen, to Ben ‘SP70’ Ellefsen, we were clear of the M25, and on our way.

Despite the vagaries of the M1, even the service stations seemed unusually pleasant. On the M6 we even found one with a barbecue and a lake, (with ducks!) a definite improvement over the standard week-old sandwiches and suspicious background smell of wee.

The Malt Mobile had the desired head turning effect, which triggered a wave of mild paranoia for Cat, who wondered why everyone was staring at her. But it was not, as Justin suggested, wildly ambitious motorway flirtation. People were simply reading the decals. We rolled into Edinburgh around 6.30pm, checking into the rather splendid George Hotel.

We had a table booked at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and decided to go for a swift pre-dinner drink at Bramble Bar, which is well worth a visit if you take your cocktails seriously.

The drink of choice – in the interests of expediency we opted for the same concoction – was The Butter-Scotch, a cocktail containing buttered Adelphi Private Blend, aperol, Oloroso sherry, ginger jam vanilla sugar and Peychauds biters. As you can imagine, this is a fairly decadent drink, but the flavours meld together perfectly and the butter gives it a depth and softness cut neatly by the subtle ginger

A Buttter Scotch. Very nice it was too

We chased it with a Brooklyn Lager, then headed off for dinner and single cask whiskies at SMWS. We started with 35.63, a superb 38-year-old Glen Murray as it turned out, which was very sweet and lively for its age, and packed with fruit.


We had plans to launch into the meal with a dozen oysters, but to our [ed – at this point Ben has taken over from Gareth to give him a turn in the hot tub] consternation – only six remained. To make matters worse, they were served with some kind of smingy sweetened white wine sorbet. No. Not so much. Blearch.

Great oysters, shame about the sorbet.


Rabbit terrine with foie gras

One absolutely fantastic meal later (there are probably some photos to be had in there somewhere) – and it was up to the top-deck meeting room in the SMWS for a quick couple of drams with Graeme and Tiger from Edinburgh Whisky Blog, along with an impressive gaggle of their followers, who had apparently been doing something to do with a Murder Mystery evening. Judging by the somewhat concerning notes on the tables.

That or murdering prostitutes. We never really got to the bottom of that. Thence, onto ‘some bar or other’ which had music that was too loud, and people with fashionable haircuts (Bramble had become too full – we tried, honest). A few G&T’s later, and myself and Justin wisely retired to our rooms.

Justin enjoys some whisky… but the glass… why is it so small?

At this point, the story of exactly what happened becomes slightly hazy. Something involving a Giant Fish, the cast of an off- Broadway musical, and a rubber fist. -I don’t think we’ll ever truly know. Judging from Gareth’s state today however, I think it’s fair to say that a dodgy prawn probably featured somewhere. So. That was what we’re referring to as ‘Day Zero’ (in more ways than one).

From now on, we’ll be endeavouring to post the day’s events as soon as physically possible. We’ll pick up therefore with a post tomorrow morning on the events of ‘day 1’. I think you’ll like tomorrow’s. It involves Port Ellen, If anything ‘too much cheese’, learning that yes, in fact, you can drift a land-rover, the repeated re-emergence of that gosh-darned dodgy prawn, and gratuitous images of a busty person in a hot tub*.

*Might not be a lady