The air is soft and misty – a gentle grey subduing and merging the colours, making them pastel and low key. From across the bay, looking towards Port Ellen, smoke from the maltings smudges the sky. There is always smoke from the maltings: seven days a week, twenty four hours a day – working flat out. That is all you need to know about the current state of the Islay whisky: is it fashionable? is it widely desired? Yes of course and everything is working at capacity just to keep up. At the moment whisky is booming, not only as something that is just drunk but as something you take an interest in; a hobby if you will. I am one of those people who have found their imagination invaded by, who want to see, sense, smell and know more, who wants to make some personal connection and that is why I am here, with my family.
Visiting distilleries, though, is not everything. Being on a remote northerly island, with a population of 3,000 but many more birds is an attraction in itself; being able to breath clear straight off the Atlantic and not feel the pressure of crowds and traffic; being able to step back, if only for a short time – feels just as important.
So here we are in March, staying in a cottage on the Oa (pronounced Oh) Peninsular, looking over the water and thinking that even if the weather is not ideal there is beauty and we are content. A short distance along the coast, within three miles of each other, are the heavy hitters of Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg.
Let the adventure begin!