Distilleries of Islay (pt.2)

Brace yourselves: a long, long, long post is coming.
Now that you are aware of that, let’s start from the beginning.
When we planned this journey we booked a tasting tour only for Caol Ila and Laphroaig distilleries. But when we arrived at Islay and we find out that the Bruichladdich one was interesting too, we couldn’t help to visit it as well!
Bruichladdich has a unique history because it was found in late 19th century and after decades of production it has been closed until 2000 when a small group of great men and skilled artisans decided to re-open it. In few months the whole distillery was dismantled and reassembled, with the original Victorian décor and equipment retained. Most of the original machinery is still in use today and you can see them still working in the whole whisky production. The entire production cycle – marketing and design too – is created in the same site: in old Victorian restored buildings placed by the Loch Indaal’s brilliant water, which inspired the amazing blue-sky colour of Bruichladdich modern-style bottles.
Bruichladdich is really cool and independent, an innovative and creative company. For the first time during our journey we have been allowed to take pictures during the tour. Moreover our guide offered us a taste of the fermented malt from the washbacks: it really taste like a strong beer that needs to be cooled down! And after the tour she was so kind to let us taste many kind of their whisky production and we discovered that Bruichladdich produces also the great Botanist Gin with local erbs: it became immediately my favourite gin on earth.
So, after all, you can imagine why Bruichladdich has been one of the two best distillery experience of the entire journey! The other one is Laphroaig.
This was happening in the morning – and thank to the strong Scottish breakfast eaten at the Skerrol’s House B&B we were well prepared to taste whisky at 10-11am.
The Laphroaig tour was scheduled in the afternoon, so we took some time to explore Islay and to visit the Kildalton Cross. It is a Celtic cross often considered the finest surviving Celtic cross in Scotland – and it is very old too, it was carved probably in the second half of the 8th century AD. The medieval parish church and the small graveyard adjacent the cross are worth too, especially if you’re lucky enough to visit them without tourists around. The silence and the peace of this place is really moving.
But the most surprising thing it has been how tourists can make an offer to this historical site: the people of parish of Kildalton leave everyday some sweets and hot beverages on the picnic area near the church. You can eat something and leave the money in a box placed under the break-area table, according to the price written on the blackboard. No one is controlling you. No one is cheating on the payment. I dare to say that I’ve never eaten a best chocolate brownie than the Kildalton Parish Church one!
Then we moved to the Laphroaig distillery for our tour. My husband is such passionate about Laphroaig that he signed up some years ago to the Friends of Laphroaig Club; so, as a member, he is granted a lifetime lease of 1 square foot of Laphroaig land on the island of Islay and he has an annual rent of a dram of Laphroaig, which can be obtained upon visiting the distillery. Terrific, isn’t it?
Considering that the tasting tour costs more or less 40£ and I was not (I’m using the past tense for a good reason) so passionate about peaty taste whisky, we previously decided to book only one complete tour for my husband and only the cheaper guided tour for me. But when the distillery tour was near to end the tour guide told me that one of the reservation for the tasting had been cancelled but they had already prepared the place at the table, so they were offering to me the tasting tour for free.
Now you know why and how I became passionate about peaty taste whisky. Especially for Laphroaig Quarter Casks.
So, sunny afternoon, a table by the sea, friendly people from USA, Scotland and Italy talking together about almost everything while they’re tasting amazing whisky… Who could desire more than that?
Before returning to our B&B we took time to try to visit our square foot of Laphroaig land – but it was really difficult to reach it for tick undergrowth grass and we sadly failed – and enjoy the summer sun of Islay on Port Ellen beach.
I don’t know if it was for the recent tasting or just because I’m a bit crazy but I decided to roll my pants and jump into the chilly but sparkling water!
What a wonderful day at Islay!

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