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Issue 71 - Welcome to Islay's gentle soul

Whisky Magazine Issue 71
April 2008


This article is 10 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Welcome to Islay's gentle soul

It calls itself the gentle malt of Islay,but Bunnahabhain is much more than just that.Dominic Roskrow braved the last blast of winter to visit it

When it comes to what are technically known as ‘blow me sidewards' moments,entering the still room at Bunnahabhain distillery takes some beating.

In the first place, it catches you by surprise.The entranceway takes you out on to a gantry that is halfway between floor and ceiling, so you're about eight metres above the stillroom floor. It's not what you would have expected, and neither is the room itself.

It's a tight,warm and cluttered room that envelopes you with its intimacy.Black Bottle and Bunnahabhain banners adorn the far wall to provide some personality but overall the room shares the same buzzing feeling of a ship's engine room.

Then there are the stills, four of them.They seem to be lined up with all the discipline of a bunch of sulky schoolboys trying to form a queue.

This is distilling up close and personal, an in your face experience with the nearest copper still just centimetres away.

You can feel the heat of its breath and to pass through this dragon's den you have to all but clamber over the copper monsters in front of you.

Contrast with the cathedral-like still room at Glenrothes, featured in the last issue, and you appreciate what a varied business whisky production is.

But looks can be deceiving. For what might look like some form of ordered chaos from the gantry, unveils itself as a feat of engineering from the still floor. In fact the stills formtwo pairs and are set up to complement each other perfectly.No space is wasted elsewhere, either, with ...

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