Find out how Joe from our Sales & Key Accounts team spent a long weekend exploring the distilleries of Islay and Jura.
As most adventures tend to go this one started off with a loose plan, to head over to the west coast of Scotland in early Spring to catch the first ferry to Islay (also known as the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’) on a Friday morning. We’d explore some of Islay’s world-renowned distilleries and landscapes over the weekend, then spend the last night over on Jura. The only hitch was that we’d be travelling the whole way by bike carrying everything we needed with us.
In typical fashion training started the weekend before with an overnight trip to test out our legs and gear. As the forecast changed, we spent around 50 km ploughing into a head-wind taking the more scenic route along the local coastal path with fully laden bikes (including panniers in my case) whilst other members of the group more accustomed to bike packing were certainly more streamlined. At the base of a set of some 50 steps I did at that point regret packing a full-sized pillow and cotton towel. Although on longer trips I know that these small luxuries can make an inclement night in the wilderness feel like a 5* hotel.
Fast-forward to the following weekend, and we were about to step off the ferry into Port Ellen having filled up on Calmac’s famous breakfast on board. The next few days were a whirlwind of sunshine, rain, wind from every direction, moments of tranquillity as we pottered down the quiet back lanes of Islay and then by contrast hearing the sound of joyful visitors as we stumbled across all the incredible distilleries that are part of the land here. In 48 hours we visited Ardbeg, Lagavullin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Bruichladdich Distillery (also home of the Botanist Islay Dry Gin) and the only independent farm run distillery on the island, Kilchoman. Passing a few more on the way too, it was definitely a reminder of why many people choose to make the pilgrimage here to savour the excellent drams and witness the creativity of these brands at their home!
In the coming years there is yet more excitement on Islay, with the Port Ellen distillery now visibly under re-construction and due to re-open in 2023 having previously operated between 1825 and 1983 producing some iconic whisky over the years. Elixir Distillers are embarking on arguably the biggest project right now to open a brand new distillery in 2024 called Portintruan, which will turn the three distilleries path – leading east from from Port Ellen – eventually into the four distilleries path.
With such a vibrant whisky scene on Islay it is refreshing to have wild Jura on the doorstep only a 10 minute journey across the sound of Jura. You’ll be lucky to see anyone else whilst journeying along the one winding road here and it is common to stop for the locals to pass by, most often a large stag as here deer outnumber the permanent residents on the island. And this is where our journey finished at Craighouse – the only sign of civilisation on the island – with some fine hospitality from the Jura distillery that evening and an early morning swim before we cycled back for the ferry home.
What a weekend.
If you fancy recreating this unique trip, get in touch with us – [email protected]