The sun rose on another splendid morning in Islay, highlighting the underside of the clouds in a marvellous rippling pattern. I should have taken a picture. But I didn’t and half an hour later the sea fog, or ‘haar’ as they call it around these parts, had rolled in. 4 seasons in one day? It can be 4 seasons in two hours in Islay.
Still that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for distilleries and 3 more were on our agenda for today. We began with Bowmore – the oldest on the island. The tour was very informative but unfortunately they’re very secretive about their processes and we weren’t allowed to take any photos beyond the maltings – 25% of which are made on site.
I tasted a pleasant dram of 12-yr old Bowmore overlooking the shores of Loch Indaal – a really stunning place to drink whisky.
Our next stop was Bruichladdich, but with some hours to kill before then, we stopped on the Islay Woollen Mill – an amazing operation in a stunningly beautiful setting and patronised by royalty. My wife bought me a jumper.
It really is a great place to visit to see a master craftsmen at his traditional best.
Our guide then took the cunning choice to walk the mile and half to Bridgend for lunch. A good idea on the face of it, even the dram of 12-yr old Bowmore we took half way couldn’t disguise the muddiness of the path, nor the wetness of the drizzle. Both of these things preceded our bedraggled arrival at the Bridgend Hotel, which I can say, serves both excellent food and excellent whisky.
Our next distillery stop was Bruichladdich. A relatively new distillery having re-opened ten or so years ago, this place boasts an overwhelming range of different whiskies – almost too much too choose from. However when I tasted the heavily-peated, 9-year-old, wine-cask-finished Port Charlotte and then discovered I had the chance to bottle my own – I just had to go for it. I was also impressed with the Octomore 4.2 and came away with a bottle of that too.
Kilchoman was a last distillery on the tour. Having started in 2006, it only has very new malts, but both that we tried were really pleasant. The 5-yr old bourbon-cask was heavily peated, but excellent, and the 5 yr-old sherry-cask was much richer, but with an equally long peaty aftertaste – my favourite sherry finish that I had tried thus far.
Now there remains a ferry trip and a stop at Loch Fyne whisky shop on the morrow.