Westering home

Most whisky lovers dream of visiting Islay, but what about living on the island year-round? German SMWS members Sabine and Rainer Münch visited Islay for the first time in 2007. Today, it’s their home. Mads Schmoll found out more about their story


Sabine and Rainer Münch have been Society members for more than 10 years. Originally based in Frankfurt, Rainer was self-employed with a company of 20 employees. Sabine was an IT project manager. Some of their first whisky tastings were with SWMS brand ambassador Gregor Haslinger. “In a way it’s my fault that they ended up on Islay,” says Gregor. “My enthusiasm for Feis Ile made them go there one day, and then on a yearly basis until they got stuck there!”

“We just fell in love with this island,” says Rainer. “After I sold my company in 2007, we were able to drive to Islay for the first time, pushed by Gregor, and that was it...we fell for Islay.”

Over the next years they returned to Islay at every possible opportunity. “In the years to come we spent more and more free time here and in Scotland, then in 2014 we bought a house on Islay,” says Sabine. “In the meantime, we had more and more friends on the island – an essential prerequisite for living happily here.”


Today the couple run a small B&B on Islay called St Mary’s Cottage, in addition to offering guiding for groups. “We also do tastings and at other times you can find us at trade fairs in Germany,” says Rainer. “We now see ourselves a bit as ambassadors for Islay.”

The duo are now firmly stuck into island life. “The longer we live here, the deeper our understanding of this place becomes, and the more we notice what there is still to discover,” says Rainer. “Sabine is now also involved in the reorganisation of the Islay Museum library. This is a port into the island’s long past – always important, always with understatement, always somewhat mysterious.”

That’s not to say that there haven’t been funny moments as they became used to living on Islay. “The first two weeks we slept on borrowed mattresses in a corner of the living room because our furniture didn’t want to make it to the island,” Sabine says. “Our hearth ended up somewhere on the Isle of Wight! It’s a clash of cultures when Germans come to the island, but with a lot of respect for each other and if you don’t take yourself too seriously, you have a lot of fun here.”

“Don’t bring the stress on the island that you want to see all nine distilleries in 24 hours – then you might have been here, but you didn’t understand the magic of this place.”

Rainer Münch


Now that they’ve settled, there’s plenty of wisdom for new arrivals experiencing the island for the first time. “This island is so much more than whisky, so if you are planning a trip here, take some time. Even if you only come here for the whisky, two or three nights are not enough,” says Rainer. “Don’t bring the stress on the island that you want to see all nine distilleries in 24 hours – then you might have been here, but you didn’t understand the magic of this place.”

The best moment of their time on Islay so far? “That’s the moment when you realise that you have really arrived and have been accepted. The many little moments that make life simply beautiful,” says Rainer. “Beyond that, when you go to the pub on New Year’s Eve and the world around you lights up in green, in the middle of an Aurora Borealis storm,” Sabine says.

As you might expect for someone living on Islay, the couple’s favourite Society flavour profile is Peated, but whisky aside, it’s the people that they most love about the Society. “It is a delight to be surrounded by those who share the same passion for enjoying whisky,” Rainer says. “We really love the venues in Leith and Edinburgh – and look forward to visiting the SMWS Members’ Room in Glasgow.”

And for those of you who may now be persuaded to take up island life, Rainer and Sabine offer a bit of advice. “Look at island life at different times of the year, it makes a huge difference,” says Sabine. Rainer adds: “Accept that everyone knows everything about you!”

Check out Sabine and Rainer's B&B, St Mary's Cottage, at