Ferry to Islay

Fèis Ìle 2013. Here. We. Come.

We set off for the Islay whisky festival on Thursday morning with Benedict and myself in one car, Cat and Monsieur Vachon in the Malt Mobile and a rendezvous set for that evening in Edinburgh, our port of call for the night. Successfully avoiding Ben’s extensive heavy metal collection, we were free to discuss vital musical questions such as “Exactly how many years have the ladies loved cool James for now?”. Vital, pressing questions.

LL Cool J

James Todd Smith: Rockin’ the Bells since 1985


Having travelled 450 miles from Kent, and spent a little time settling in, one of the first things we did was order a drink from… Kent. A 2007 Brut Reserve from Gusbourne Estate, utterly, utterly delicious sparkling wine.

With the News Master of Malt team successfully assembled, we headed to The Bon Vivant, a superb bar and restaurant with adjoining wine and spirits store on Thistle Street. We can attest that every single one of their starters are gooood (#nomnom) and that the Negronis we ordered, made with our very own Bathtub Gin, were truly fantastic. We also enjoyed a bottle of 2008 Amon-Ra, a masterpiece of a Shiraz from Ben Glaetzer and possibly my new favourite wine.

Photobomb attempt

One of the best photo-bombing attempts ever, this guy flew into shot but was just too slow.


By this point we were running a tad late, having agreed to meet the chaps from the Edinburgh Whisky Blog at The Last Word at around 9:30 (ish). This didn’t leave us time to visit Bramble Bar, which frankly, would have been unacceptable. We’re not big on ‘compromise’ or ‘missing out’ so we sped off to Bramble for a swift barrel and bottle aged Affinity Cocktail, their “potable zeigeist”!

Bramble bar Affinity cocktail

Potable Zeitgeist


…and so on to Bramble’s sister bar: The Last Word Saloon! Funnily enough, our friends from the Edinburgh Whisky Blog were already there when we arrived (sorry guys!), but we let them try a little preview of an upcoming release, which makes up for it, right? Good, lovely. The Last Word cocktail is a classic made with gin, Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and fresh lime juice and they also have a chainsaw that’s powered by Hendrick’s Gin (honestly!).

Last Word cocktail

The Last Word cocktail



Chartreuse on tap: unspeakably cool


BrewDog Edinburgh would be our next stop for a couple of Dead Pony Clubs and what turned into a tasting of their limited edition Abstrakt concept beers.

Edinburgh Whisky Blog and Master of Malt

A handsome bunch: Chris, Lukasz, Tiger, Ben, Cat and Leighton Jake


Here are my briefly scribbled tasting notes, along with what google has since told me each one actually is – happily they seem to coincide quite nicely!

AB:13 – Cherry imperial stout aged in sherry barrels:

“Black cherries, dog biscuits, slightly smoky, stout, biscuity finish.”

AB:12 – Black Belgian IPA, Scottish Berries aged in oak casks

“Fresh summer berries, raspberry, jam on the palate.”

AB:11 – Black Barley Wine with ginger, black raspberries and chipotle

“Gingernut biscuits, blackberries.”

AB:10 – Imperial brown ale aged in Spanish red wine barrels

“…” (Perhaps this one was less memorable?)

The rest of the evening involved Space Invaders, some Maker’s Mark and an impromptu blind tasting of Lagavulin 16 for Tiger. He did, of course, successfully guess the Lagavulin (eventually ;-).

Awaking naturally the next day and with daylight flooding into the room I had a brief panic before realising that the massive clock on the wall simply told completely the wrong time! A portion of Eggs Benedict later and we were back on the road to catch the ferry to Islay from Kennacraig.

Ferry Finlaggan

All aboard Finlaggan! (more on boats and ‘Finlaggan’ later this week)


Ferry Finlaggan

I’m on a boat and, it’s going fast and… where did I put that nautical-themed Pashmina afghan?


Ardbeg distillery and Jake

Hello Islay…