If you didn’t read part one, you probably should. To be quite honest, I’m pretty sure you can figure out what’s going on if you start here, but you’ll have to apply some suspension of disbelief and just accept that for no apparent reason I just woke up near Tarbert, Scotland, having breakfast out of fancy plates. Carry on.
On the plane ride in, both the pilot and co-pilot got strangely sick due to having shared a bad cocktail shrimp, so I actually had to land the plane at Edinburgh airport. I was greeted like a hero, and the whole city threw an impromptu parade. I hear many kids are now named LeSombre, and also a few candy stores. We spend three days living like Kings and eating dinosaur steaks, while the Scots rebuild a life-size replica of the Eiffel Tower (My French accent threw them off I think). We then teleported near Tarbert, where part two begins.
You wanna read part one now, don’t you?
Toujours est-il que …
The Pink Place
This was our first real B&B – meaning the first place where we were actually sleeping in a house not an 8 room building – and we didn’t really get to enjoy it after all that intense driving. We had a few drams in the living room, and quickly called it a night.
Next morning we had breakfast in the conservatory. It was all good, except for the toasts, who were cold – that seemed to be the norm – and slightly fuzzy – not the norm. We left for the 2 hour ferry ride.
The ferry ride in was pretty good. We went through rain, sunshine, hail, rain, wind, rain and sunshine. Coffee on the ferry was excellent. Lots of great pictures of the sound of Jura, many more of the flag located at the ship’s bow. We couldn’t go to the front of the ship to reenact Titanic, we had to settle for the obligatory Titanic shots from the observation deck.
Getting to Port Askaig is awesome, there’s an old lighthouse near the port and the view is very cool. I mean the port is really really small, which plays havoc with my northern american concept that “big ship must dock at big port”, if that makes sense to you.
Islay, day one
Finally we were on Islay (pronounced more like “Hi-law” or if you’re French “Eille-là!”). Right off the ferry we took the long road from north to south to reach Port Ellen, where we had a Laphroaig Master Tasting Class booked at 1:30. The first thing we noticed ton the road was the signpost for Cao Ila Distillery (Coal-eel-law) followed immediately by the Bhunnahabein (bound-ah-haven) one. We had arrived to the land of a thousand distilleries*. On the way to Port Ellen we experienced our first “single lane road” where you have to use small passing places to either wait for an incoming car to go through, or a following car to pass you. The experience is different, but not too scary. Scots are very fast drivers, but they also wave at oncoming cars – or that might just be a tourist thing. 😉 We stopped for a quick soup at the MacTaggart Cyber Café (free wifi!). The soup was very good and the staff was very nice.The tasting class was very well done, and we sampled 5 different whiskies.
I was impressed with the toasts, and made a mental note to work on my toasts for future occasions. (Later we discovered some of the toasts were actually songs, and started toasting with all worst of Quebec folk songs, like “heureux d’un printemps” and anything by Gabrielle desTroisMaisons.)
The other takeaway from that first tasting is the different ways to nose the whiskies. The first one, classic nosing, has to be done with your mouth open as not to overpower your receptors. Close your mouth and you’ll get a knock back effect. So you stick your nose in, open your mouth and breathe through your mouth. Neat trick, and it beats the “cover the glass a few seconds and fan the fumes towards you.
Martin demonstrates the right way to nose a whisky. (taken at Talisker)
The second – more impressive – way is the way used to nose the barrels. It is the way the master distillers use since they can’t stick their nose down a barrel. It consists of covering your glass with the palm of your hand and then shake the glass until your palm is wet. Put the glass down and rub your hands together quickly (think Mr. Myagi) to burn off the alcohol. Then quickly cup your hands and stick your nose in, breathe in. Welcome to Laphroaig.
While at Laphroaig, we claimed our lot, and got a dram in exchange. To claim your lot, you have to walk into a field counting paces… The whole thing is a little fishy but it was fun. 😉
Claiming our lot. What we wouldn’t do for a dram! (And yes, that’s a tasting glass in my pocket, I’m not that happy to claim land)
We then made our way to our B&B – Lyrabus Croft – before heading out to dinner. When we reached the B&B (right after the cockerel), we met Diedre and Gibson. They are lovely hosts, and are very endearing. I would return there without hesitation. For dinner, we tried to go to Bridgend Hotel, but because of the Festival, most places were fully booked for dinner. We ended up having dinner at the Harbour Inn in Bowmore, where the food was excellent if a little pricey.
Called it a night around 11 pm. Come to think of it, I’m not sure you can call anything “a night” at the 57th parallel. 😉
View from my B&B window at 4am.
Islay, day two
After yet another full Scottish breakfast, we headed to Bowmore, and went on the express tour. Bowmore is one of the few distilleries where they still use the malting floors.
Malting floor at Bowmore
We then headed to Ardbeg for some food at the Old Kiln Café, right before our “Now and then” tour.
Note: During my stay, I visited 18 distilleries. I’m not going to write a step-by-step description of each distillery, but I’ll briefly mention the highlight of the distillery, if there’s one. I’ll most likely then do a post just about the process of creating whisky. That last sentence? It will eventually become a link.
The highlight at Ardbeg was when we got first crack at the exclusive Festival bottle (only 1,000 bottles not available before Saturday). This is one of the four bottles I brought back. You can read about my loot in a previous post.
Clowning off at Ardbeg (after a few drams, of course)
After Ardbeg, we decided that we should drive to Kildalton to see one of the finest early Christian crosses in Scotland, the High Cross of Kildalton, dating from the second half of the 8th century.
The weather turned for the worst, but we decided to push further and go for the lighthouse at the end of the road. That made LovelyWife really happy.
This is also the spot where we say our first Hairy Coo.
Food at the Bridgend Hotel and sleep. That was the end of day two on Islay.
Islay, day three
We got up early to hit Caol Ila, where Martin got the Distillery exclusive, I got the Friends of Malt bottle). We then dropped by Bunnahabeihn for a quick dram and a stamp. We again had lunch at the Cyber Café, where the owners recognize us!
The highlight of the day – and possibly of the whole trip for me – was Lagavulin, where we got drunk in the warehouse with Ian the Master Distiller.
We stopped for wine on the way to dinner in Port Charlotte, and the girls managed to get another free dram while we were buying wine. Short pit-stop at Bruichladdich, where the Master Distiller told us that if we didn’t ask, we couldn’t get, so we asked and even though the shop was closed, we still managed to get a dram before leaving.
As you can see, we were all a little more than tipsy when we managed to get back to the B&B.
And thus concludes part deux of the massive Scotland recap. Stay tuned for parts three (and possibly four) of this magnificent adventure.
*There are only 8 distilleries on Islay. We visited 7.
You can read all the recaps by following these links:
- Scotland Recaplet
- 1,737 Pictures
- The Loot
- Scotland Recap – Part one
- Scotland Recap – Part deux
- Scotland Recap – Part three
- Scotland Recap – Part four
- Scotland Recap – Part five
- Ode to Secret-Scotland