When we arrived back in the town of Bowmore from Lagavulin, we decided to stop by the Bowmore Distillery for a quick look around their tasting room. The distillery is just down the street from where we were staying. When we first started planning our trip, we wanted to stay at one of the distillery’s cottages it offers for vacation rentals, but we were too late. They were all booked up. Next time!
John says Bowmore is a good introductory Scotch whisky, particularly for Islay whiskys, which tend to be smokier, a side effect of all that peat. A bottle isn’t too pricey, but it’s tasty and smoother than Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Port Charlotte. If you are around my husband and you show an interest in learning to drink Scotch whisky, he will sit you down in our living room with a glass of one of this distillery’s whiskys.
Bowmore Distillery’s tasting room and gift shop are beautiful. The tasting room is right on the water looking out over the loch. There is even a patio. Even though by this point in the day it was windy, John enjoyed a taste of Bowmore whisky out there.
While many of the distilleries’ websites say they will give you a sample of one or two of the standard whiskys they sell, we never came across such stinginess at any of the distilleries. Every bartender said “Try whatever you like.” As long as she had it behind the bar, it was fair game.
Our second day on Islay, we headed to Bruichladdich, a large distillery that produces several brands, John’s favorite being the Port Charlotte. The distillery sits just outside the town of Port Charlotte, exact opposite of the loch from Bowmore. To get there, we took a bus. Yes, the island has a bus system of (I think) three buses. Two of them look like airport shuttles, but the bus we needed, of course, doubled as the mail carrier. We hopped into a red van with the words “Royal Post” painted on the side. It was much cheaper than the taxi, and I think how we would prefer to get around despite how great Lamont was as a taxi driver and host. On our way back to Bowmore, we took the same bus, and sure enough, he made several extra stops to collect mail for the giant sack in the front seat.
Bruichladdich Distillery is old, but one of those that closed up shop and just re-opened in the past 10 years maybe. The distillery tour was unavailable due to expansion construction, so they showed us their warehouse and then let us sample their whisky in the gift shop. Until a few years ago, Bruichladdich offered barrels for sale to the public. Our tour guide showed us one of the remaining privately owned barrels with a note written on it, reading, “Just in case you develop a taste for malt, some of this is for you. Love always, Dad.”
In the bottling room, the guide pointed out this mural painted on the wall. She said it was painted by one of the employees to remember the day the distillery re-opened. Apparently, on that day, the water was bright teal and dolphins were playing in the loch, which has not happened again since, according to the story. The mural commemorates that day. If nothing else, it is very pretty and cheerful.
We also learned that Bruichladdich now makes gin called The Botanist. They were kind enough to make me a gin and tonic, and it was the best gin and tonic I’ve ever had. Seriously, The Botanist is available stateside. If you like gin, go buy it. It tastes so clean.