With the recent announcement that Elixir Distillers are planning to establish a distillery on Islay’s south coast [further reading: SW], the near completion of Ardnahoe, the potential of Gartbreck and the hopeful re-opening of Port Ellen are set to make it a dozen on Islay.
When I visited the Gartbreck plot in July , there was nothing but the original farm house and a sign [pic above] to indicate we were in the right spot. As I know nothing of Gartbreck other than what I’ve read in the press, there’s nothing I have to add except for some snaps I took. Thankfully, scotchwhisky.com has covered the story so far, comprehensively.
However, in November  just gone, scotchwhisky.com reported that a resolution to end the messy stalemate may have been found.
Let’s hope so as it ‘s a superb location, and its creation will give whisky fans two distilleries to visit in & around Bowmore town.
To the east coast now.
My pictures [below], show Ardnahoe last July, when it was hoped that the distillery would be open in time for the Islay Festival. Though a little behind schedule, scotchwhisky.com recently reported that spirit could be running any day now, and that Islay’s newest distillery will feature in this year’s Feis Ile.
Ardnahoe enjoys similar views to that seen at nearby Bunnahabhain.
Finally, to the south of Islay and the hopeful re-opening of Port Ellen as a distillery. It would seem the sun hasn’t set on Port Ellen just yet, though plans to open by 2020 seem rather optimistic.
I got to visit the sight during an open day of the Port Ellen Maltings [report to follow in due course].
Here are three Islay malts, tried whilst on location.
Bruichladdich 1993/2016 23yo MoM cask #1639 47.5% WB90.25
Aside from a 1960’s vintage, this is easily Master of Malt’s second oldest bottling of Bruichladdich – handed out by the MoM team at Islay’s Feis Ile 2018.
- N: Savoury < sweet with a little weird sourness. Descriptors talk of malty/Weetabix-y notes along with summery dried fruits, namely: dried apple, melon papaya and a fancy dried fruit bar.
- T: Distillate driven given the continued cereal profile. Weetabix remains alongside dried bakers yeast, sweet lemon, lemon detergent, lemon gin,…
- F: A slightly edgy cereal-dry finish with a little chalk, one noticeably lacking in richness.
- C: The Nora Baty of whisky perhaps?
Scores 83 points
Port Ellen 13yo MoM cask #1846 43% [5cl btl code 05029301] WB0
Another MoM bottling. Master of Malt was founded in 1985. Their shop in Tunbridge Wells was established in 1990, closing in 1998, a year after their online website was launched [in 1997]. An online relaunch in 2009 reflects how we may view them today.
- N: Port Ellen in Port Ellen, aah! A naturally styled number with coastal, mineral and iodine elements showing up first. Descriptors talk of lemon >> oysters and < savoury=sweet barley with rubber bands, though it’s a flinty, mineral-y lemon barley number in the main and decidedly neat & tidy.
- T: That’s tasty peat, though subtle. Caution reveals it’s a touch soapy with some lemon Jif notes, and that it doesn’t take to water. Otherwise it’s like squirting malted smokey liquid barley in your mouth, mixed with lemon, honey and popcorn-like toasted malt sugars. Salad leaves, scallops, varied rubbery seaweeds and bitter herbal notes [valerian root, digestif tinctures], herald the concluding scenes.
- F: Clean, light, straight-ahead/plain and slightly waxy barley juice with only a touch of dried sour-ish lemon pith and the reprise of those bitter herbal tinctures. Hints of OBE at the death are largely irrelevant.
- C: Certainly a very natural one. I’d be hard pushed to think of a more literal example, in true toasted/peated, barley maltings style.
Scores a festival-y 86 points
Laphroaig 1988/2015 27yo MM [bottled at Bruichladdich] The Syndicate’s cask #9207 [btl #098/114 bts] 44.3% WB91.14
- N: Dirty mango & >>papaya juice no less, and with its fruity dustiness, we are harking back to Laphroaig’s golden era. Becomes more [dusty] dry, smokey & meaty [smoked turkey slices] with time, whilst maintaining its lusciousness.
- T: Forgiving OBE with dusty peach/orange/passion fruit >soap flavourings, putty-like smokey turkey slices and duck pate.
- F: Tasty dry-yet-salivating, dusty clay-like/soft permeating smoke and old fusty maltings at the end with a crazy-long ashy herbal finish.
- C: If this trip to Islay was worth anything [and it certainly was for all sorts of reasons], it’s sealed my love for old Laphroaig – a totally different beast to nowadays. Brilliant whisky this, sadly currently extortionate.
Scores 90 points