Whisky Magazine Issue 41
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The smells of Islay reflect on some of its wonderful whiskies. Martine Nouet takes you on a sensory journey across the island and introduces its flora and fauna
Westering home and a song in the air”, says the song about Islay. It could as well be: “Westering home and whisky in the air”.
Not only because the ‘island of whisky' shelters seven distilleries (and maybe eight in the near future). But also because all the fragrances carried by summer breeze or winter gales are the same descriptors used in tasting notes by so many whisky writers or aficionados.
The invitation could be: ‘breathe in Islay and you'll nose it's whiskies'. Or: ‘let the single malt you are nosing take you for an Islay walk'.
If you allow me to lead you by the nose, I'll share with you my best nosing spots on the island. Then imagine we taste Islay malts on our way back, trying to pick up the aromas we nosed all the way through.
That's the way I best enjoy sensory evaluation. Just follow me and let our noses serve as our compass...
Travelling to Islay by air may be quicker but reaching the coast by boat has a magical touch, especially if you land at Port Ellen by the evening ferry on a warm summer day.
Peat smoke is the first smell the visitor experiences as CalMac Ferries' captain manoeuvres to berth the ship.
You can see the grey outlines of Port Ellen Maltings puffing out white smoke. Peat is burning for hours in the huge kilns of the plant, when Ardbeg, Laphroaig or Lagavulin's supply is being malted.
Quite an unusual olfactory shock for first timers as they experience a scent of pungent smoke with some earthy notes of wet root. This is a si...