Whisky Magazine Issue 49
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The Mystery Visitor travels to Islay and puts Lagavulin under the spotlight
They've built a splendid new reception area for the ferry traffic at Port Askaig since I was there last.
The steep hillside has been cut back and the precipitous old road replaced with new tarmac – equally precipitous, but rather less alarming. The twists and bends have given way to a smooth and graceful descent that delivers you nicely to the door of the pub.
But, arriving by night on the MV Hebridean Isles, this is still indisputably Islay. Gusts of wind and squally rain sweep over the deck and, as we pass through the Sound of Jura, hints of peat smoke drift on the wind to tell me we are nearing port.
Despite the new building, and despite the pie and chips cuisine of MacBrayne's ferry, it's still an undeniably romantic landing.
But, the vagaries of scheduling being my master, I now have to drive Islay's length in an increasingly violent gale. Islay, it seems, is determined to shatter my elaborately constructed illusions.
Next morning, however, dawned bright and clear with high clouds tearing over to Glasgow and Islay's principal town, Port Ellen, sharp in the curiously clear island light. So I embarked on my trip to Lagavulin in high spirits.
This, of course, is one of the island's better known distilleries and, having been elected to Diageo's Classic Six, the recipient of substantial largesse. Not that there was very much wrong with this robustly-flavoured single malt in the first place, but well-placed investment never hurt anyone.
And that's evident immediately ...