Monday, March 28, 2016

Part 8... Finally, a new island for us! Islay!



There are many distilleries on Islay, so it makes sense that our next stop on our whisky cruise would be on Islay.  However, because we were coming from Kintyre, we had some distance to travel before it would be time for another distillery tour.  We spent Saturday morning cruising past Northern Ireland on the way to our next stop, the Laphroaig Distillery.  Laphroaig is a well-known whisky and when I posted that we were headed there, I got a few likes from friends, as well as a spelling lesson.  It's not so easy to spell Laphroaig properly, you know.

Bill and I took the opportunity to enjoy some local-ish beers offered on the ship, as well as try a gin that was new to us called Isle of Harris.  I had to point this out to an old friend of mine from Virginia whose last name happens to be Harris.  After lunch, we anchored in Port Ellen.  I was excited because I had heard about Islay, but had never actually been there.  Iain, the hottie hotel manager, came from Islay and told us where he grew up.  Apparently, everyone on that island knows each other.  This was later confirmed to me when Bill and I were in England and happened to run into an Englishman with ties to Islay.  He said he went there once, mentioned his family name to a bartender, and the bartender called up his relatives and they later showed up at the bar to drink with him.


We were loaded up on a truly *shocking* bus.  It appeared to be a school bus with a big sign at the front demanding that everyone wear seatbelts.  However, all of the seatbelts appeared to be badly damaged.  I noticed the upholstery on the seats was torn and poorly repaired with duct tape.  Then I noticed food stains and dried boogers smeared on the seatbacks.  Apparently, we were using a schoolbus!  Never mind, it got the job done.  Some of the cruisers weren't interested in the whisky distillery, so they went to see Kildalton Cross and walk around Port Ellen.  The rest of us went to taste more whisky.


More barley malting...  Laphroaig has much of theirs trucked in.


Peat, which gives Laphoaig its distinctive flavor...


And another kiln...

The Laphroaig Distillery has an interesting history which I read about on the display boards in the visitor's center.  Our group was divided into two groups.  I am sad to say that I don't remember our tour guide's name, but he was a very knowledgeable and entertaining chap.  He had been told that we knew about the whisky making process, so he simply showed us around the distillery and allowed us to taste the wort.  A wort is basically the same stuff one uses to make beer.  In fact, all whisky starts out as beer before it turns into spirits.



The Duke and Duchess...


Stainless steel tanks as opposed to the oak ones we saw at many other distilleries...




The spirit safe.

Like Springbank, Laphroaig was in the middle of malting barley.  Once again, we were shown how it's done, though it appeared to me that Laphroaig has a slightly more sophisticated system all the way around.  I noticed a couple of shots of Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla on the walls, indicating that they had paid a visit.  Also, a lone stag passed us as we walked through the distillery.

After we toured the distillery, we visited Kildalton Cross, where I managed to take some really beautiful photos of Islays' stark and haunting landscape.  Bill commented to me that he'd like to find a self-catering cottage on Islay and just hang out there for a week.  I'd be up for that myself.  It really is a beautiful place and there are plenty of other distilleries there that we didn't see, namely Bowmore and Ardbeg.  We were supposed to see the Bowmore Distillery, but that was replaced at the last minute.

I like to buy music when I take trips, so instead of buying whisky, I purchased a couple of new CDs from Laphroaig's gift shop.  I have now listened to both of them twice and really enjoy them, though I had never heard of the performers before I bought their music.  That night turned out to be pretty musical anyway, since Angela Paterson and her violin playing friend Fiona showed up to perform for the passengers after we'd had dinner.  Bill and I only stayed for about a half an hour.  That's not a reflection on the quality of their playing.  I thought the ladies were very talented and I would have liked to have stayed longer.  However, Bill was nodding off and I was pretty tired myself.  I usually spend a lot of time by myself, so it can be taxing to spend the whole day around people.

I heard that after an hour or so, people started dancing to the music.  I wish I could have seen and/or participated in that.  I did, however, take away some inspiration from the musicians who played after we visited Port Ellen...



I learned "Wild Mountain Thyme" after hearing it performed on Hebridean Princess.









Credit the call of nature for my getting this shot...


Kildalton Cross...










John, our guide, and the lovely musicians from Islay.  I think that was the only time I ever saw John wearing pants as opposed to his kilt.


I just learned "Wild Mountain Thyme" today, thanks to Angela and Fiona...  



Laphroaig casks!







Stags!



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