5 Inspired Islay Whisky Cocktails

The 'Old Fashioned' whisky cocktail

If there’s one thing the Queen of the Hebrides can hold claim to, it’s producing some of the world’s best Single Malt Whisky. Renowned for producing Whiskies with strong peaty tones, a trip to Islay is a Whisky connoisseur’s dream. Get ready for your next trip to the island with these 5 Inspired Islay Whisky Cocktails.

The Islay Whisky Sour Cocktail

Ingredients: 2 parts Islay Whisky, half an ounce of sugar syrup, half an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 egg white, 1 dash of Bitters crushed ice. Complete with a cherry and orange slice.

Here, the trick to creating the perfect Whisky Sour is to mix the sugar and lemon evenly. Shake well! If you’re not too keen on egg-whites, then this is merely an optional ingredient. Now, watch the video below to see how it is done…

The Rob RoyWhisky Cocktail

Ingredients: 2 ounces of Islay Whisky, 3 quarter ounces of Sweet Vermouth and 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters and serve over ice. Finish the cocktail with a cherry garnish or alternatively, a lemon twist.

In fact, this cocktail, unlike its name suggests, was actually created at the Waldolf Astoria in Manhattan. The barman decided to mark the celebration of the opening premiere of the Rob Roy operetta in 1984 with his creation, and as such the cocktail grew in popularity very quickly.

Today the Rob Roy continues to thrive as a popular choice of drink – so why not try it with an Islay Whisky twist? Watch this video guide on how to make this cocktail…

The Suburban Whisky Cocktail

Ingredients: 3 parts Islay Whisky, 1 part Dark Rum, 1 part Port Red, 1 dash Orange Bitters, 1 dash Angostura Bitters served over ice cubes.

This classic cocktail packs a real punch. Not for the weak of stomach, this cocktail is perfect for “thrill-seekers” looking for a concoction that delivers a triple whammy of a bitter kick, soothing smoothness and a hint of sweetness. If this has tickled your fancy, watch the video below and get making…

Old Fashioned 

Ingredients: 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters, 50ml of Islay Whisky, 1 teaspoon of caster sugar, cubed ice and 1 orange.

This Old Fashioned cocktail is better known as the chosen drink of Mad Men leading character, Don Draper. Did you know that it is estimated this cocktail recipe goes back as far as 1806 and is usually made with rye whisky? Why not swap it out for Islay Whisky and be on your way to sweet peaty cocktail heaven. The video below takes you through step by step on how to makes this delightful cocktail…

The Famous ‘Hot Toddy’

Ingredients: 3/4 Cloves, 2 Star Anise, half snap of a cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons of honey, half a thumb of ginger, orange zest, grapefruit zest, 500mls boiling water, 50mls of your chosen Islay whisky per glass.

This aromatic, heartwarming, head zinging recipe is perfect for that cold winters day. Snuggle up on your sofa by the fire and sip away. Or fill up your thermos flask and enjoy it in the vast outdoors on a chilly winters day. See the video below for full instructions…

Islay Whisky with Islay Cottages

Is your mouth watering at the thought of these wonderful smoky cocktails? Why not book your very own Islay Whisky break with Islay cottages! You can explore the vast choice of distilleries and enjoy an array of whisky tours.  Then come back to your cosy cottage and try out making some cocktails with your days finds! With plenty of fantastic special offers to choose from, there’s no reason not to book your very own Islay Whisky adventure today! Call us today on 01496 850 382 or book online here.

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An Essential Guide to Whisky Tasting

A photo of a bottle of whisky and fireplace

Whisky tasting is a niche for some, and most people will tell you that the perfect whisky has this or has that or is between this age and that age. The truth is, it’s all subject to personal taste. But what really makes a whisky a whisky? In our essential guide to whisky tasting we’ve picked things which might help you work out what’s for you and what’s not when it comes to this fine art.

Whisky Tasting Experts

The first thing you need to know, is someone who says they’re an expert when it comes to whisky tasting and then follows to share their opinion on what a good whisky is not an expert.

The truth is there is no such thing as an expert .. or even the perfect whisky. A whisky is a whisky and will appeal to different people with different tastes. Some people will tell you never to mix a whisky with anything other than water. While others will happily tell you their favourite whisky cocktail recipes.

Often, you will find the the locals will be more than willing to share their favourite malts with you, who have had several years to explore the tastes of the local distilleries.

There is no such thing as a double or triple malt

Anybody who tries to sell you a “double malt” or a “triple malt” is having you on! There is no such thing.

Single malt simply means a whisky unblended with any other malt. So, anything other than a single malt is a blend. No ifs or buts about it! 

It’s all about the barrel!

This might sound a bit cliche, but it’s true. The kind of barrel and where it is from has an impact on the flavour and composition of the whisky. Usually whisky distilleries will use barrels that were previously used for alcohols such as sherry and therefore soaked in flavour. Furthermore, casks are usually made of oak.

The Key Malt Whiskies 

The five most common types of Scotch Whisky, named after the area in Scotland where they are distilled: 

  • Islay Malts
  • Highland Malts
  • Strathspey Malts
  • Lowland Malts
  • Campbeltown Malts

Each of these whiskies have their own signature taste. Of course, a trip to Islay is incomplete without a whisky tasting session or two! Islay itself is home to eight whisky distilleries and with copious supplies of peat and fresh water on hand, Islay malts have arguably the strongest taste out of all the malt whiskies in the world. Islay malts are well known for their dry finish and particularly those from the southern part of the island are known for having quite the bite too!

So without further adieu, we beckon you to come join us on the beautiful island of Islay and use this tasting guide to help you begin exploring the wonderful whisky offering of Islay!

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Bird Watching on Islay

The rare Chough bird and visitor to Islay Scotland

Here on the Scottish island of Islay, around 100 species of bird live within a variety of habitats! From open moorland and hills to rugged cliff faces, woodland, mud flats and beaches, you are really spoiled for choice when it comes to bird watching on Islay! So, lets delve into the detail of what you can expect to see here, be you a beginner or a pro!

Species You Can See

Close up of the head of a Golden Eagle

Mass migration happens in spring, bringing with it many winged visitors from afar, ready to settle down on this scenic isle for the summer! Some of the love songs you may hear across the breeze come from the Corncrakes, Lapwings, Larks and Choughs – a rare species to the UK, but a welcome inhabitant of Islay. If you are lucky, you may see a flock of these striking birds with their charcoal black bodies and striking bright red beaks and legs!

You may also spot birds of prey, such as the Golden Eagle and White Tailed Sea Eagle, gliding around this island and seeking out their prey. The excitement and anticipation of this event is something you will never forget, as they stalk their dinner amongst a small flock of birds and make the kill. Not for the faint-hearted!

Places for Bird Watching on Islay

Tawny Owl asleep on a branch of a tree

The Loch Gruinart Reserve provides many habitats where you can view an array of species including the famous geese on tidal flats and open farm and moorland.

Inland areas are ideal places to observe a variety of birds, such as Bridgend and Ballygrant. You can meander public paths through the old Victorian woodlands. Here, you may see Finches, Tits, Treecreepers and our nighttime friend, the Tawny Owl.

The West Coast hosts many habitats for Islay’s seabird colonies, where the Gulliemot and Razorbill strut their stuff, as the sea crashes beneath them. This is also where Islay speciality, the Chough is found in abundance.

When to Visit

Two Razorbill birds on a rock

There is never a bad time to come bird watching on Islay, given the many exciting species our island plays host to.

You can be sure to relax after a day in the fresh air here at Islay Cottages – why not take a look at our special offers? 

We hope you will join bird enthusiasts from around the world and come and visit us here too!

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The Jura Music Festival

A fiddle player and an accordion player

Music to your ears at the Jura Music FestivalA fiddle, guitar, ukulele and accordion

The Scottish Traditional Music Awards ‘Best Music Festivals’ nominees are ready to do it again! Having reached the top 3, being pipped to the post by Celtic Connections, the Jura Music Festival is set to host another astonishing music event this 2017! So why not start thinking about a musical Autumn break and visit us here on Islay and Jura? Running from 22nd- 24th of September, music will echo the Isles!

Top class musicians performing and running workshops

As a result of a dedicated and passionate Committee, as well local residents, the festival has become as accomplished as it is. As a result of its stature, a pool of top class musicians will be hosting exciting performances and inspiring workshops for all to enjoy. 

Important to point out is that Jura has music in its core. With artists such as Peat Smoke and the Roaches, Simon Moran from Deoch and Dorus, Danny Moran a top traditional musician and many more Jura has plenty of rhythm and beat. So they know what they are doing when it comes to music.

So what is on at this year’s event?

Hence the popularity of The Jura Musci Festival, there is a strong lineup this year.  Heron Valley, The Fold and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year finalists, Talisk, are performing on Saturday. Furthermore, you can enjoy the sounds of Ho-Ro and Tide Lines on Sunday. There is more information on the acts performing here. Furthermore, you can come along with your dancing shoes and enjoy the fabulous Saturday night Ceilidh!

Looking for accommodation?

A view of Kilchoman House and Cottages from a nearby hill.

If this is music to your ears and you are looking for accommodation then check out our holiday cottages on Islay. Here you can relax in our quaint and cosy cottages with views of the sea. As well as our cottages, larger groups can book our stunning Georgian house. See our accommodation here for more information.  What is more, we are only a 30-minute drive from the 5-minute ferry crossing to Jura at Port Askaig. So, if you are planning visit one of the top music festivals in Scotland, we would be delighted to accommodate you on your stay. Book online here or call us on 01496 850382.

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Creative Retreats for Writer’s Block

a photo of a discussion with writing

Dying to put pen to paper and churn out that next chapter of your debut novel? Perhaps you’ve simply had enough of your final year university dissertation. Creative retreats for writer’s block can work absolute wonders and Islay Cottages is the destination for you.

Immerse Yourself in Natural Beauty

Can’t quite put pen to paper? Whatever the block is to your creativity, the Queen of the Hebrides, Islay is certain to help clear your mind. Benefit from a stroll across one of Islay’s twenty unspoilt beaches and meditate on the tranquillity that the remote island brings.

Enjoy one of Islay’s many nature trails, or if you’re looking to give your mind a complete break, why not hop onto one of Islay Sea Adventures for a wildlife spotting excursion! Spot seals and porpoises in their natural habitat whilst scaling the Islay coastline. If you’re luck, you may just spot some basking sharks too!

Look to Islay’s sky to spot some of the rarest and most majestic birds in the world. Islay is home to over 100 species of bird including eagles, hawks, falcons, ospreys and buzzards – and that’s just a few!

Immerse Yourself in Local Culture

Islay is also home to rich culture and history – a quick visit to the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte will be testament to that. Be inspired for writing the next chapter of your book with the Islay community and take the time to explore the eight active Whisky distilleries on the island. Dip your toes into Whisky tasting with a tour around Kilchoman Distillery, conveniently located a stone’s throw away from our lovely self-catering cottages accommodation.

Escape to Islay and beat Writer’s Block – Creative Retreats

An escape to tranquillity and serenity can only be a good thing for writer’s block. Why not kick back and relax at Islay Cottages – we’re guarantee your creative retreats for writer’s block will be nothing but soothing. Book now and get planning your trip to the Outer Hebrides.

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Scottish Island Hopping – Islay Cottages

The Scottish Isles are the perfect getaway from hectic city life.  This summer, why not check out the Isle of Islay which is part of the southern Hebrides.If you’re planning to do a spot of Scottish Island hopping, make sure you visit this beautiful scenic hot-spot. Perfect for relaxing, this stunning little island has lots to offer.

Known as the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’, The Isle of Islay has been coined as Scotland’s answer to the Caribbean!  This paradise has some of the loveliest beaches in the UK. With a coastline stretching over 130 miles, take a stroll from shore to shore starting with Loch Gruinar, Laggan Bay and Machir Bay. Machir Bay is a great location if you surf, known for its magnificent sunsets, spend the day there riding the waves then chill out on the beach late into the evening.

Saligo bay is popular with the tourists for it’s soft sands and dunes. The water at Saligo can be temperamental however it does not stop our visitors from going to soak up the views. If you’re around this area, two miles north Saligo bay is another great location for day trippers,  Kilchoman. Kilchoman is home to Islay’s newest distillery; with a great gift shop inside why not treat yourself to an Islay souvenir for one of your loved ones. There is also a great café inside if you are planning on taking a break after walking over our endless coastline. Not mention only mere minutes walk away from our gorgeous self-catering cottages!

Whisky tours are daily on the island; the experience offers the chance to taste some of the production after seeing it being developed on site. Organise your trip before you even arrive and let Islay Sea Adventures do the hard stuff.  If not, taxi tours are also available.

Scottish Island Hopping – Islay Cottages

Islay is the perfect destination for some Scottish Island Hopping. With lots to do and no shortage of scenic locations book now at Islay Cottages for a memorable experience guaranteed to stay with you for a life time.


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A Brief History of Islay

A photo of Laphroaig

Islay Prehistory

The history of Islay goes back to when hunter-gatherers settled here many thousands of years ago. With the discovery of Mesolithic and Ice Age artefacts in the area, researchers have come to the conclusion that Islay was occupied from around 10,000 BC.

You can see many of these ancient tools and other items at the Islay Museum in Port Charlotte. And you can visit many prehistoric sites on the island, including ceremonial standing stones, burial cairns and forts. 

Medieval Islay

During medieval times, ordinary people on the island were farmers, who bred livestock and produced oats and barley in the rich and fertile land. 

From the 6th century, Islay was ruled by a Gaelic overkingdom named Dál Riata. Then in the 9th century, Norse Vikings took control. By the 12th century, Scotland started to reclaim its islands. Helped by a warrior named Somerled, who seized them in 1156 and founded a dynasty that became the ‘Lords of the Isles’Islay was under full Scottish rule by 1493.

Islay changed dramatically throughout the medieval period, as different cultures and influences shaped its landscape. There are several Medieval ruins that remain on the island, including Kilchoman Church and Finlaggan, the powerbase of the lords of the isles. 

British Era and World Wars

Islay was under Scottish rule until 1707, when the Scottish and English thrones merged to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. Many battles were fought between the Scottish and the British over the leadership of Scotland. And later in the 20th century, both countries joined forces to defeat their shared enemies in World Wars One and Two. 

You can visit more historic sites on Islay from this period. And view many items from Islay’s history, including artefacts from the two world wars, at Islay Museum. 

Discovering Islay’s History Today

For a relatively small island, Islay is saturated in history and culture. Why not come and visit one of our cottages for a taste of Islay life and truly take in the ambience of an island with many tales to tell.

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