Day 15: The Island of Islay
After driving through the wild rocky coast of Argyle, and taking 3 Ferries, which cost an exorbitant amount of quid, I arrived on Islay and was greeted with a coastline reminiscent of Newfoundlands rolling rocky shoreline.
This place was beautiful, in an exposed and weathered kind of beauty. The small villages along the one track road (like a one way but with on coming traffic) seem almost mediterranean with their whitewashed plaster and blue doorways. their's free range sheep and sows everywhere one turns, and the locals speak Galic (not the Irish one, the Scottish, which is a completely different language) or at least they do when Foreigners are about. I found a hotel/resturant/pub called "The Port Charlotte" in the village of Port Charlotte, and set up shop for the night. They had a wonderful selection of whisky, a roaring fire, inlaid wood and quirky framed pictures everywhere, it was costly, but I felt that I had finally found the proper traditional Scotish atmosphere.
Day 16: Whisky Day
Clean and efficient, and corporate. The Malting floor which is one of the 6 in all of scotland smelled fantastic. We we're originally told no pictures, but we eventually came abreast with a large tourist group taking hordes of pictures so I joined in. We we're given a nice dram after the tour, and after a quick breakfast at a quaint as sin restaurant called Kathys Cafe, I rushed off to Laphroigs Distillery across the island by way of the peat bogs. I had originally planned on checking out Bruchladdich but had just missed the last tour of the previous day, and the Bowmore tour went late, so I missed the first of that morning.
I arrived quite early and had the opportunity to explore a bit before the tour. Directly beside the entrance to the distillery I stumbled upon an ancient gateway. Naturally I hopped over it and went to see what I could see.
I found myself upon the oldest most most covered spooky lane flanked with a crumbling old stone wall I had ever come across. The moss was literally 3 inches thick on every surface. Hoping to stumble across some sort of woodland elf or sprite or something I wandered about, but finding nothing but more moss I returned.
Laphroig itself is my ideal distillery. Super personable, right by the water, crazy liberal with their whisky pours, and a rockin lounge for the "friends of Laphroig".
One benefit of having scattered showers every day without fail is the constant smattering of rainbows about the sky. I even saw my first moonbow.. nightbow? I donno, a rainbow at night.
Best whisky experience of my life, hands down. We tried 5 different drams at 10:30 in the morning, all cask strength, directly from the cask, in the warehouse. I was in heaven.
By we I mean a large family group from Turkey who wound up completely inebriated, and a small group from California. A list of the whiskies is necessary, for until I return to the Island, and maybe even not then, will I experience such a tasting again. Sorry Dennis.
Lagavulin new make spirit: Directly from the still, never seen a cask, and crazy potent yet delicious at 64%
Lagavulin 8yr. (I syphoned this one out of the cask myself) quite nice, no finish, but tons of flavor on the start
Lagavulin 30: If Whisky has a god, it is made mortal in the Lagavulin 30. The fact that the only bottles in existence are in private collections made it all the more exquisite.
The rest of the day involved sobering up at a cafe and interweb time, then touring around the western tip of the island for the afternoon. I couldn't get over how beautiful is was. The view, or the wind, brought me near tears a number of times. Ancient ruins dating back 1000's of year scatter the countryside with nothing but small rock walls, equally as ancient to keep out the curious traveler. After my tour I returned to a small local whisky bar in Port Ellen where the whisky is cheep and the locals are friendly and enjoyed a supper and dram by the water with a killer sunset and a couple of swans.