Islay Diary - Day 5

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

An early rise and then mugs of tea and a round of bacon and tattie scone sandwiches before we started out on the journey to Lagavulin for their 10:30am warehouse tasting session.

It turned out to be a four and a half mile walk to the distillery, but we weren’t complaining as it was a beautiful morning, with the sun casting a golden glow across the breathtaking Islay landscape. 

From our house, it was two miles into Port Ellen before making the turn on to THAT road - the whisky trail that links Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.

This is a three-mile stretch to be enjoyed as it flirts with the rugged coastline and offers spectacular views across the island. There's an excellent, well-maintained and wide path that runs alongside the main road, allowing bikes and those on foot to take their time and gaze upon the stunning Islay coast without any fear of oncoming cars.

The first sign of a distillery is the thin chimney rising from Laphroaig which peaks out from the rolling landscape. The warehouses soon appear before the turn-off to the distillery itself... but we weren’t stopping this time. 

We pressed on towards Lagavulin and soon discovered a sign informing us that the Kiln Cafe at Ardbeg would be closed today. We had planned to drop in for lunch, so we had to revise our plans - although we weren't short on options.

Lagavulin was quiet when we arrived, but we were joined by another 11 people from Germany, Taiwan, the US and Canada in the warehouse for the tasting session, led once again by whisky legend Iain McArthur and Chris from the distillery.

Iain was in great form as always, cracking jokes and making everyone feel welcome and we sampled six drams drawn straight from the cask. We were here for a tasting during last year’s Feis Ile, but for me, this one was even better.

We were treated to the 2018 Feis Ile (an 18 year old at 53.9%), a 6 year old (61%), a 16 year old (51.8%), a 20 year old (52%), a 21 year old (52.4%) and a stunning 25 year old (49.2%) which costs £50 a dram in the newly opened Malt Mill Bar. All six were lovely, and along with the 25, the 2018 Feis Ile and the six year old were the stand-outs.

Following the session - as if we hadn’t had enough whisky - we moved into The Malt Mill Bar, which is right beside the warehouse. This wasn't here when we visited last May, but it's a welcome addition to the distillery.

We treated ourselves to a few more cask-strength drams - after all, it was now lunchtime. We dived into the 2017 Jazz Festival bottle and the recent distillery only offering. 

On the way out, we stopped in at the distillery shop where I was surprised to find they still had a few bottles of this year's Feis Ile release. Six thousand were produced and a few remained on the shelf. So I grabbed one along with the distillery exclusive – and a few surprise treats for friends.

If you're planning a trip to Lagavulin, booking a warehouse visit is a must. You can book well in advance and you only pay once you arrive. On an island full of whisky adventures, this is definitely one not to be missed.

You won't be surprised to hear that the walk back to the house took slightly longer than the journey there, but the fresh air (and lots of water) most definitely helped clear the head.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, but was spent taking in more of the spectacular scenery, lots of relaxing (aka snoozing) and then a very, very early night.

Tonight’s drams? You've got to be joking! I think I drank quite enough today!


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