Whisky Magazine Issue 26
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Mystery visitor goes to Islay
There are all kinds of ghosts on Islay. The land is scattered with abandoned crofts and deserted farms; ruined chapels and burial grounds are littered apparently at random, the settlements which gave birth to them long gone; there are earthworks, standing stones, duns, cairns, ancient crosses, forts and stone circles at every turn. MacDonald, Lord of the Isles held court at Loch Finlaggan and, even today, you can row out across the dark water and inspect the site of his original castle and the chapel where his clansmen worshipped. The very place names hint at ancient battles and blood feuds and the Gaelic songs tell of clans and ancestral lands now lost in all but myth and legend.
So the Mystery Visitor came like a wraith by sea, slipping quietly onto this enchanted island and, like a phantom, through its distillery centres. But this was no restless spirit or mischievous poltergeist, but rather a benign and friendly apparition seeking as it were the angel's share of the tourist experience – that spectral two per cent lost to the atmosphere, yet essential to the finished product. Distilling ghosts, too, are abroad, with both Ardbeg and Bruichladdich back from the dead in recent years. So, in alphabetical order, I haunted the still houses of Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.
I had the highest expectations of Ardbeg. Even other distillers speak highly of this new centre, and so much has been written that is positive that I put on my Mr Gr...