The Whisky Tasting Club

Festival Events: be quick!

for the newbie festival attendees like us, here is a tip. If you want to go to the masterclass tastings keep an eagle eye out for when they are announced, this year it was early March. They sell out very quickly, usually before they are posted on the official festival site (link above,  I did not even find it until after they were announced, it does not register with google). The distilleries own sites were also a bit patchy about information, so here is a list of direct contacts

the diageo sites are surprisingly sparce and dont seem to be updated very frequently. Tricia on the other hand was very helpful and efficient and I booked tours on the phone (also email and

  • Ardbeg. The events were announced on the website in ample time, but it was not at all apparent how to book. I sent off a query but by the time they had replied (Janey Torrance, they were all booked up! I recommend phoning.
  • Laphroaig: very on the ball and the FOL site is excellent. Registered online then contacted Vicky Stevens for payment.
  • Bruichladdich. Missed the boat on the Master Class, sold out very quickly. Ella Edgar seems to organise it.
  • Killchoman. Likewise missed out on their special tastings. They were posted on the site, I just didnt look early enough. Laura MacAffer is the visitor centre manager who replied to my query
  • Bunnahabhain: funky if slightly confusing website had the info if you knew where to look. Lillian MacArthur was most helpful in booking our tours.
  • Bowmore: slick, but their events seemed either fairly standard (taste their normal range) or amazingly expensive (£150 for a tasting!) so we didnt bother

Note these may not work in future years! My advice would be to mail these people or their replacements in February to find out when the events can be booked. Its a shame to make the pilgrimage and not go to special tastings or have to do them at 9 am! We have a good mix booked. The gathering with laphroaig, warehouse visit with laga, master class with caol ila, cocktail tasting with bunna all booked and we will go to the open day general events for the others :) Excited now, although the drive up with the dog should be interesting…

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Getting to Islay

getting to islay is not easy. You can fly from Glasgow with flybe or loganair or drive. If you drive, you need to get a ferry from Kennacraig to either Port Ellen or Port Askaig, book via calmac

I thought there used to be a ferry to Oban, but cant find mention of it now. Calmac are actually very efficient, they responded to my email to within 10 minutes and changed my booking via email. There are three alternatives for getting to Kennacraig. This website summarises them well

1. Drive past Glasgow via Invarary. This is the most commonly taken route and is a lovely scenic drive. However, it takes 2.5 hours from Glasgow, so if you are coming from England it is not necessarily the fastest. We have done this journey twice, and if you live in the south I would not recommend doing it in a day, took us about 14 hours!

2.  Gourock – Cowal Peninsula – Tarbert. get a ferry from Gourock to Dunoon (or Hunter’s Quay north of Dunoon), which is a 30 minute crossing and then drive across the Cowal peninsula to Portavadie and catch the ferry to Tarbert, a 20 minute crossing. Not done this route, from our perspective it doesnt make sense, but it might for some.

3. Arran – Claonaig – Tarbert. We came via this route on our last visit, spending two nights on Arran. Arran is an extremely attractive island with some lovely walks, so if you havent been its well worth a visit. The distillery is nice, we did the tour and bought a bottle.

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Islay here we come

Tony, Michelle and Arby are off to the 2010 islay festival, woo hoo!  More info to follow

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