The Island Bear owners Fiona & Duncan were both born & brought up on Islay and recently have returned to run the B&B in Bowmore.
Fiona has experience in both hotel & business management.
Duncan joined Bunnahabhain Distillery straight from school as an apprentice engineer. He spent many years in the whisky industry, on Islay, Speyside and Central Scotland, and prior to early retirement, was Engineering Manager for Chivas Regal based in Dalmuir. Over this time he has seen a tenfold increase in the interest in all things ‘whisky’….
“I have to admit, that I do not drink whisky. However, having worked in the industry for many years and in various departments, including, engineering, production, and maturation, so now have a wealth of knowledge, but take pride in the fact that my beloved "home", Islay is at the heart of the whisky industry in Scotland. During my many visits home especially over the past 10 years or so, I have seen the numbers of visitors to the island, not only with a passing interest in whisky , but also those with a raging passion for the stuff, increase dramatically. The thing about Islay is the fact that we have (currently!) 9 different distilleries producing some of the best single malts in Scotland. More than that, we have some of the most passionate distillers in the world! Because of this, whether you have a passing interest or are a full blown connoisseur, Islay has got to be the place to come. Whether you just want to try a quick nip at one of the island bars or want to visit a distillery, find out about the whole whisky making process, have a tour, look in the shop and buy a bottle of your favourite or a rare and expensive collectors edition, it’s all here for you!”
Please remember that with this increase of interest you will need to book, well in advance, both tours and tastings, especially during the holiday season. Find below ways of contacting Islay’s distilleries along with tour schedules. Also remember to make your travel arrangements to the distilleries before your visit. At The Island Bear we can help arrange tours but it is always better to talk to distillery staff direct and remember that disappointment may ensue if you try to book tours once you actually arrive on Islay. It is worth pointing out at this stage, to those group members who are not so keen on whisky, that we have other drinks produced on Islay. The Bruichladdich distillery have now been producing a fabulous gin called ‘The Botanist’ for over 2 years. They also bottle an excellent Jamaica rum. Islay also has it’s own micro-brewery which for real ale drinkers is a Godsend! Islay Ales now produces more than 10 ales ranging from light and golden to black and heavy!
Click the link below and you will be taken to the islayinfo blog page and the leaflet produced in 2011 showing the Islay and Jura distillery opening and tour times. Please note that times may be different for 2012.
Alternatively go to each individual distillery website (if they have one) using the links below.