Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul – Part 1 of 4 – Scotch Whisky News

Trip to Islay – Part 1 of 4

by Mark Dermul

End of September 2017 my wife Sofie and two friends (Niek & Ilse) joined me for trip to Islay, that mythical whisky island on the west coast of Scotland. It will be a trip long remembered. Therefor, I gladly share it with you.

Now… planning a trip to Islay is one thing. Actually getting there is quite something else. It took a drive from Ghent (Belgium) to Amsterdam airport, a flight to Glasgow, a two-and-a-half hour drive through scenic Scotland to the Kennacraig ferry port and a one-hour trip by boat to reach the Queen of the Hebrides. But so worth it…

During our first night in Glasgow, we visited the well-known pub The Bon Accord where we treated ourselves to some lovely malts, such as the Port Ellen 7th Release and the Ardbeg 30 years old. Just to get in the mood, you know?

When we arrived the next day, our first distillery visit was to the oldest distillery on the island: Bowmore.

While we were very well received and got a private tour (as we arrived just in time for the final tour), we were somewhat disappointed with the fact that we were not allowed to film inside the distillery. We had to make do with photos. Which we did.

1 bowmore

Having said that/, we were treated to a very informative tour and got a lovely Bowmore 17 Year Old 1999 Warehousemen’s Selection in the visitor center afterward.

The next day, after visiting the historical site of the Kildalton Cross, we spent half a day visiting the three distilleries on the south shore: Laphroaig, Lagavulin & Ardbeg.

2 laphroaig

The Laphroaig tour, that lasted a little over an hour, ended with four lovely drams. We even got a peak at HRH Prince Charles’ cask from 1978. No touching, though! It was well protected behind bars.

The Lagavulin distillery – again no photos allowed, unfortunately – lies hidden in a dramatic bay. The wind was fierce and the sea wild, adding to the impressive scenery. But we were welcomed to warm up in the visitor center with a few drams, including the Feis Ile 2017 and Jazz 2016 editions. The cold soon left our bones.

3 lagavulin

But so much whisky while it was not even lunchtime! So we walked over to the Old Kiln Café at the Ardbeg distillery where we had a lovely meal and tried the new Ardbeg Kelpie and Arbeg An Oa.

Ardbeg has quite a bit of a cult following and it shows. There has clearly been a lot of money invested in the distillery grounds and the visitor center. Everything had a museum quality to it. But all was spic and span. No cobwebs here… and to us, it was lovely, but just a tad too… artificial? Maybe that’s not the right word, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

4 ardbeg

After lunch, we travelled back to Kilnaugthon bay. We wanted to check out what was left of the legendary Port Ellen distillery, that has been closed to 1983.

to be continued… (Part 2 will be published October 22nd)


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