We have finally broken our duck. Last week we went to Islay, the island widely regarded as the 'home of Scotch whisky', for the first time. This why the blog has been a little quiet recently. The island is famous for its smoky and peaty whiskies and is home to eight single malt distilleries. Whisky fans from all over the world undertake the pilgrimage in search of the homes of their favourite single malts. We were no different and have always wanted to go. The opportunity had simply never presented itself or timings had not been right.
The hosts for our first ever trip to Islay were Diageo. Their Lagavulin single malt distillery and brand have been sponsors of the Islay Jazz Festival for the last four years. Last weekend saw a mix of international and local musicians, plus hundreds of jazz fans, descend on the island for a series of shows covering different styles of jazz and in some unique venues. This included the old Malt Mill within the Lagavulin distillery.
Our trip was a packed one and the three days flew by. We managed to visit three distilleries (Ardbeg, Caol Ila and Lagavulin) and see a couple of others (Bowmore and Laphroaig), plus get a tour around the Port Ellen Maltings facility. We also had a go at cutting peat, the vital ingredient that gives Islay whiskies their distinctive smoky flavour, plus took a bracing boat trip around the coast and saw spectacular scenery. The trip wasn't all whisky related as we took in some of the local historical sites including Finlaggan Castle, the Kildalton Cross and the picturesque villages of Bowmore and Port Ellen (pictured, below).
For those of you who follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you may have seen some photos that we took as we went around. Many more will appear over the next couple of weeks, along with plenty of blog posts and videos. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our hosts, all the people that we met and gave their time to be with us and the old and new friends in the group who all made our first trip to Islay a memorable one. We hope it is not too long before we return - Karen & Matt