Day 2 and 3. Islay / by jean-francois dubeau

Had haggis this morning. Didn't know breakfast haggis was a thing. Then again, breakfast sausage is and haggis is sausage's emotionally insensitive cousin anyways... It wasn't really good haggis though. Not bad, but too mushy. 

The waffles though we're amazing. I'm on a two-thousand calorie a day diet (1800 actually) and I already exceeded that by far.

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Dietary tragedies aside, today we're on the bus and on the ferry. We're heading to Islay for our first distillery visit. We're starting with Lagavulin because fuck easing into things. I'm a moderate scotch drinker so I kind of know what we're in for but those of us new to the experience are in for a rough start. So far the scenery is beautiful and the breakfast was plentiful, which is important if we're going to be drinking any.

  

 

Normaly, when I'm not doing something, I get nervous. If I'm not painting or writing or even walking, I get gripped with anxiety and I have to get off my metaphorical ass and get shit done. On the boat to Islay however, for the first time in years, I was comfortable just hanging out on deck near the prow and doing absolutely nothing. Not that I didn't have options. There were plenty of places I could have cocooned up and done some writing or sketches, but I was content for an hour or so doing nothing. That's how chill this crossing is.

 On the horizon: Islay. 

On the horizon: Islay. 

Had a tasting at the Lagavulin distillery. I'm not a gargantuan Lagavulin fan. It tastes to me what other scotches taste to people who don't drink scotch. The tasting though was particularly interesting. We got to sample two drams, each paired with a piece of chocolate. The was a double fermented single malt paired with a cinnamon-milk chocolate and the second was was a triple fermented single malt paired with a ginger spice dark chocolate. I don't want to brag that I got two portions of the triple fermentation, but I did.

 Lagavulin tasting room. 

Lagavulin tasting room. 

 Lagavulin tasting. 

Lagavulin tasting. 

We stayed the night at the White Hart, a small inn on Islay. Old, creaky and noisy, it was a very authentic place to lay our head.the food for diner was however fantastic. Finally had my first taste of a decent haggis in the stuffing of my chicken. The hotel allowed us to play games in the dining hall but halfway through a Cards Against Hunanity game I was already nodding off so I climbed up to bed.

 The White Hart. 

The White Hart. 

 Gunsords Japan? Please... Scotland's had pistolshatchet for a while apparently. 

Gunsords Japan? Please... Scotland's had pistolshatchet for a while apparently. 

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Day 3

I woke up just before the fire alarm. 

Oh there was no fire of course and we didn't to have evacuate the building. In fact the ear-splitting noise only lasted for a few seconds. Just long enough for me to start swearing that this was bullshit.

Today we visited the Laphroaig distillery. That's the one I was looking forward to most and it did not disappoint. Our tour guide Stevie was delightful and entertaining. The tour itself was fairly fast paced and interactive. Obviously we had to follow Stevie around and we were warned to touch potentially hot surfaces, but otherwise everything else was pretty much fair game, up to and including eating barley off the ground. We got to taste peat smoked malted barley and the beer-like swill that exists in that quantum state between malted barley and scotch. It sweet on the lips and terrible everywhere else. I like to think that life is about the journey, but I'll make an exception for whiskey.

The tasting was more than I could have expected. We got to sample a marriage of 12 year old single malts in a sample glass we got to keep. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to sample other scotches. I went through most, maybe all, of the available options and settled on a 10 year cask that has some bite to it, a smooth presence in mouth and a lingering finish and is apparently unavailable in Canada. 

 Gateway to awesome. 

Gateway to awesome. 

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 The 'beer swill'. 

The 'beer swill'. 

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 Beautiful Laphroaig distillery. 

Beautiful Laphroaig distillery. 

Caol Ila is our destination for the afternoon. I'm not familiar with this distillery, which is exciting as I'm here to learn. We're only doing a tasting, but after visiting Laphroaig, they would have to give an impressive performance to compare.

And they freakin did!

While we couldn't do a proper tour, we did. Have a guide to help us through the tasting and she did an incredible job. First off, she had what I'd call 'Ashley Wells Eyes'. A few of you will understand exactly what I mean, for the rest, they were stunning. Second, unlike Lagavulin which, while classy, wasn't exactly involved, this tasting was an experience. We tried not two, but five scotches, and some kind of proto-scotch called 'white spirit'. We had a nip of eight year old harsh motherfucking scotch straight from the cask, followed by a twelve year old I believe and then a mystery scotch that turned out to be 25 years of age and was delicious. The fourth was a special distillation for last year's annual Islay Whiskey Festival. Finally, I got to pull a 26 year old freak scotch from a cask that tasted like liquid wood. The experience was interactive, educational and fascinating. I'd like to thank my traveling companions whom don't drink scotch for allowing me their share.

 Coal Ila wants you drunk.  

Coal Ila wants you drunk.  

We took the ferry back to the main island after this. Bigger boat, fancier food. We did the traditional Geek Nation Tour dice roll off for the Warhoud Titan from Forge World and of all people my dad won. The only person there who doesn't game and had to have it explained to him what exactly he'd won. At first, even I thought it was a bit of a bitchslap that he'd be allowed to win it at all, but I had to remind myself that he paid the same goddamn price for this trip as all of us and has the same rights we all do.

 Our ferry off of Islay...

Our ferry off of Islay...

Besides, my brother and I will probably get a cut of that pie.

JF