Concurrent with our newly launched “Scotch Whisky Journey”, I began to research distilleries, etc. so I’d have some idea of what I was doing, and what I was seeking. One of the first places I read about was Islay. If I recall correctly what I read was that Islay whisky was very peaty, smokey, strong, loved or hated; I had to try it. I loved it from the first sip. We, mo bhean (my wife) and I, have visited and tried whisky from all of the distilleries; Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain, and Caol Ila.
One thing to make clear is that not all Islay whisky is the smoke/peat monster of legend. Bunnahabhain in particular is very mild. Bruichladdich also can be very mild, but under the guidance of Jim McEwan they have produced some extraordinarily peaty whisky; e.g. Octomore. At the same time, “standard” Ardbeg, and Laphroaig are peaty/smokey enough to offput many. Heck, I’ve even known folks to be put off by Lagavulin.
Eventually, after we’d tried all the Islay whisky available to us locally my wife and I made a trip to Islay and blogged the adventure: First post to OorAlbaBlog. There we heard, and saw, Norma Munro performe the song for which this blog entry is named: Westering Home. I’ve embedded links to the song lyric, and her singing (at a different performance from that which we saw). Westering Home lyric and Norma Munro singing Westering Home While visiting Islay, we were able to sample some drams that were, and are, not available to us at home. And we made several friends with whom we have remained in contact, and have visited during further voyages to Scotland.
In summation, and closing, this entry; if you’ve not tried Islay whisky, I urge and implore you to do so. Start with Bunna, then perhaps Bruichladdich. Follow those with Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg. I have not drunk enough Kilchoman, although what I did have (courtesy my friend Gordon Campbell, at his house in Duntocher) was very nice, to be able to accurately place it in my continuum-recommendation. As for Bowmore, it’s the one Islay to which I have not (yet?) warmed; although I did try, when it was recommended, a particularly interesting Bowmore that rewarded me with a wee taste of grapefruit upon first drawing it into my mouth.