Call me a frugal German (or perhaps it’s the Scottish frugality which surrounds me), but in order to get £9 back for two t-shirts which I bought on Tuesday and hadn’t worn (so glad to have the suitcase back) I decided to skip the Islay Ales visit today after visiting the two northeast distilleries. I have gone on my fair share of craft brewery tours in the US (and have been surrounded by the brewing process for the last few days anyway), so this particular stop on the itinerary seemed like it could be put off until the next time. Besides, the bike ride from Bunnahabhain to Caol Ila and from Caol Ila to Bowmore featured some of the most intense climbs (both of these distilleries are right on the shoreline), so getting back to hit the shower – even though I biked through a relatively brief shower – was also high on the to-do list. Yes, next time (with a car?) a few more options would present themselves… many historic sites on Islay, a trip over to Jura, etc., but the vistas I enjoyed from the road were truly marvelous. (I had little time to stop for photographs as I was trying to maintain my momentum.) After these three biking days it will be nice to relax in Glasgow over the weekend – I am infinitely glad that I took a cab to Bunnahabhain this morning as a there-and-back ride would have really taken a toll.
a private and free tour (by the lookalike of a friend) – the power had gone out across the entire island as I took the cab from Bowmore; as a decision on whether or not to proceed with the tour was being made, I took a stroll along the shore to see a shipwreck (don’t drink and sail)
exterior views of the distillery
mash tun – apparently the biggest in Islay (Bruichladdich uses Bunnahabhain’s old mash tun)
several photos of the wash and spirit stills
from here it was all down hill to the distillery… and then back up
exterior view of the distillery – interior photography was not allowed
Caol Ila is a huge facility; 85% of the distilled spirit (which is shipped to Edinburgh for cask maturation in tankers, one of which I happened to encounter on the single-track road up from the shore) is primarily used for Johnnie Walker blends. They have only been producing single malts since the 1990s, and as part of the tasting we were offered a fantastic 26-year-old whisky direct from the sherry cask in which it is maturing. This particular whisky is not for sale anywhere, and once the barrel is empty it will be gone… next year, it will be a 27-year old! Well worth the price of admission.
view of Jura from the Caol Ila pier