The plan is to go to Ardbeg for lunch (always a good idea) but before you get there, right next to the road and clearly visible is Lagavulin. Even if we did not have time for a tour, it still seemed a good idea to stop and have a look.
And rather splendid it is as well. It completely occupies its site and there is absolutely no room for it to expand and so you can understand how the plant has to be run at full capacity to meet the demand and there is no chance of any more. Round the back are some warehouses and you can sit on the wall and breathe in the clear air mixed with the heady aroma of the spirit. This is why you need to visit distilleries – the magical smells (though in marketing speak it is always aromas) – and you don’t even have to go inside.
Nevertheless we do pop-in to see what the visitor centre and find it is dressed like a stage set of a 1930s office, complete with a door with a frosted glass and gold lettering. The air of theatricality gives the sense of the rooms being more “designed” than Laphroaig, in the way that some restaurants are more themed than others. The tasting room was behind the reception desk and had the feel of a sitting room, or library, in a hunting lodge (not that I have ever been in a hunting lodge, you understand, but I have seen the period films). We were asked if we would like a tasting and after the dram was poured left alone, sitting in leather chairs, sipping our whisky, chatting about this and that (but mostly about the morning and how friendly and welcoming everybody had been). It was wonderfully relaxing. The illusion of the room was so strong we could almost imagine ourselves as part of the landed gentry relaxing before lunch. Oh the snares and delusions and the way these companies reel you in!
It may sound quite flippant but it is actually an important point. Much of the pleasure of drinking whisky is association. Tasting notes highlighting various foods, plants or minerals are associations, memories of a particular occasion or location, are associations, a mental image of the distillery and its atmosphere is an association. So from now on, when I drink Lagavulin at home, I will imagine myself a rather tweedy prix viagra suisse. comfortable and at ease with myself. Although the sea is close I will not imagine as I do with Laphroaig, instead I will think of the shelter of a comfortable drawing room and I will contemplate the drink.