We started our morning on a pretty tight schedule, since we needed to be on the other side of Islay for our first whisky tour of the day by 9:45am. Still, Suzy and Elin wanted to make sure that we didn't miss out on what the owner of our rental had described as the best "bacon rolls" on the island and possibly in all of Scotland. So while the rest of us waited in the car, they ordered a bunch of bacon rolls to go from the market right next to our rental. Turns out a bacon roll is just a pile of bacon served in a big puffy dinner roll. (Side note: Canadian bacon should really be called British Commonwealth bacon because all of the bacon that we have come across here is like Canadian bacon. It's much more ham-like than bacon. And very tasty!)
The bacon rolls were a lot for the tummy to handle on a windy road so early in the morning, but I was very happy to have tried one.
The first distillery that we visited was Laphroaig. When we were planning the trip, Elin offered to treat everyone to a really nice tour at a distillery of our choosing. We chose Laphroaig for our fancy whisky experience!
We started off with a pretty normal tour of the distillery. The distillery was currently in its brief off-season when it doesn't run for three-weeks so all of the machinery can be repaired and the workers can have their holiday time. It ended up being a plus in some ways, because we got to tour parts of the distillery that you normally can't.
Here is a picture of our awkward but very entertaining tour guide making a big show of the very technologically advanced process of transporting grains from one floor to the next. (It gets shoveled into a hole in the ground.)
And here's Dylan in the kiln (definitely not a usual stop on the tour). The barley gets funneled into the room from a chute in the room and then a guy normally stands underneath with the giant metal shield you can see in the picture. He uses the shield to deflect the barley across the room before it gets smoked.
We also got to see and touch some of the peat that is used to smoke the barley and give the scotch its distinctive, "fiery punch to the throat" flavor. Islay is basically an island full of peat. According to the distillery's estimates, they have a measly five thousand years of peat left on the island. So no need to worry about Scotch being hard to come by anytime soon.
We also got to see Laphroaig's "Magnificent Seven" stills. We have all become experts on the different shapes and sizes of stills on this trip. One of my favorite parts of this section of the tour was walking past a bunch of photos of famous people at the distillery. Laphroaig is well-known as Prince Charles's favorite Scotch. He looks pretty stoked on the whole Scotch-making process here.
After the normal tour experience, we came to a really beautiful area overlooking the water. We got some photos in before the next and best part of our tour, where we got to go into a warehouse and taste three different barrel-aged Scotches, directly from the barrels.
Our guide used a giant valinch dubbed the Crucifix to get the whisky out of the barrel for us to taste initially. He also put on a side show, flipping bottles filled with very expensive Scotch. He was very proud of the fact that he has made people nearly faint by tossing such nice Scotch about.
After we tasted the three different cask-aged Scotches, we got to each choose our favorite and bottle some to take home!
Here we are being master bottlers!
And at the end, we recorded our bottles in a book and signed our names to document the process.
Or tour guide told us about how a couple of swans, Gary and Mrs. Gary, lived in the bay right outside of the distillery. When we were done with our wharehouse experience, we saw them and took advantage of the sunshine for some more photos.
After getting our fill of Laphroaig, we all got in the car to experience something new - our very skilled, non-Scotch drinking designated driver Suzy! She did a great job of getting us around Islay safely.
Our second stop of the day was the Ardbeg distillery which was nearby. This distillery had a really nice cafe and did table tastings of whisky, so we opted to eat lunch and do the table tastings instead of a tour.
At the cafe, I got a Scottish pie which was delicious although the shape of the mashed potatoes was a little suspect. Dyan and I also got a langostine appetizer to share. We ate most of the actual meat out of the langostines, but we weren't brave enough to suck the eggs and juices out of the heads and abdomens. Elin was much more thorough in her langostine eating!
We got two flights of Scotch after eating lunch, and one of the distillery people explained them all, so we would know what we were drinking. One of the flights included some really high-end Scotches. Below is Dylan holding a taste of Scotch that costs upwards of $800 a bottle in the US!
Post Scotch tasting, we ventured out to take more photos around the distillery. Suzy isn't a big fan of the Scotch, but she has quite the eye for photo opportunity spots around distilleries. Here are some of the highlights of our Ardbeg photos. The last one is one of my favorites. Cole and Dylan decided that if they hid, maybe they would avoid having to be in more photos.
On our way back to our rental, we decided to make a quick stop at the brewery on the island, Islay Ales. We talked to one of the owner/brewers and sampled some of their beers before returning to the rental.
Since this was Elin's last full day on the island before she had to head home, she wanted to check out the Bruichladdich distillery which makes a gin as well as a Scotch. She, Suzy, and I ventured 5 minutes down the street from our rental with the intention of a girl's gin drinking adventure. Unfortunately, the distillery closes an hour early on Saturday, so we didn't have time to do any tastings. Still, Suzy got an excellent photo op in, and we picked up a small bottle of the gin to try back at our rental.
The gin is made with 22 botanicals that are foraged by a full-time forager on the island. Elin did some foraging of her own on the walk back to our rental and in our food supply to add a couple more ingredients to our gin and tonics. I wasn't brave enough to put any Elin-foraged rose petals in mine, but I did love the orange peel that she added!
We ended our day with a nice dinner in Bowmore, which is one of the bigger towns on Islay. We got a "haggis tower" to share, which ended up just being haggis on some mashed potatoes with gravy. Turns out I actually like haggis! I was expecting something much scarier and grosser, but it just tastes like a well-spiced meatloaf.
Another highlight from dinner were the scallops that Elin and Dylan ordered. They came with all of the scallop bits still attached. We looked it up after they ate them. Turns out its a sac of scallop gonads and intestines. Yum!