Scotland The Brave: Part 3
Like the rest of the trip, the last two days in Scotland were so very different than our experiences elsewhere.
We woke up at 5 am on Friday to leave the garden castle and get on the ONE ferry to Islay.
I have been on one ferry in southern Italy and compared to that, this was surprisingly very pleasant! You drive your cars onto the ship and go sit in a nice big comfy room or get hot breakfast and dine!
We spent the two hours eating, daydreaming about all the whiskey to come, and watching the sea from the top deck.
PORT ELLEN, ISLAY
We arrived to the dock at Port Ellen around 9 AM and explored a bit! It was quiet and cute. The downtown enclosed the bay and the backside of the town was surrounded by lambs and peat fields.
Our first stop that morning was to Ardbeg. We waltzed into the tasting room and right into a flight of whiskey served by the nicest Scottish gal.
Each of the distilleries that we visited on the island have their own branding feel - Ardbeg is very celtic/ tribe feeling.
Here we got to taste:
Ardbeg 10 Year
Ardbeg An Oa
Ardbeg Kelpie Committee (personal favorite)
Ardbeg 21 Year (the lady found an accidentally opened bottle and let us just HAVE some!)
We wandered down the road (1 mile bike path/road connects all three famous distilleries) to Laphroaig.
The leather couches, plaid detail, and mudroom give off a very UK country cottage feeling. The wellies are actually used to go out into the field and find your square foot plot of their peat field. A brilliant marketing campaign to get Scotch fans to travel over :)
I personally like the most peaty/smokiest whiskey that you can serve me. So I have enjoyed the Laphroaigs that we have tried over the years, and tasting it on its home-court was a wonderful experience.
Here we tasted:
Laphroaig 1999 Bourbon Cask
Laphroaig 25 Year (worth the splurge)
DA DA DA DA DAA DAAAAAAAAA!!! We then made it to our destination: Lagavulin.
Their whiskey's are not as smoky as Laphroaig, but we have all fallen in deep love with Lagavulin. Zach and Logan paved the way for myself and Court years ago. I very much look forward to the wonderfully balanced glass of whiskey that is only drank on special occasions in our apartment.
We actually signed up for a tour here! We could not take photos in any of the buildings, but I learned SO MUCH. The history, the production method, the ins and the outs of the Scotch industry.
I learn best by experience- the walking around to each building and process of distilling will be in my mind every time I talk about or drink Scotch! It was clean and beautiful and smelled of yeast.
We came in from the cold and sat down in this homey living room tasting room. The vibes of Lagavulin are timeless, classic sea man's cottage, and tasteful nautical. They are not trying too hard at all and everyone admires the classic every day every bottle taste of their products.
Here we tried:
Lagavulin 12 Year
Lagavulin Distillers Edition
Lagavulin Jazz 2016
Lagavulin Jazz 2017
Heart Eyes for that hat :)
The boys needed their man portraits. I don't know how these are not printed and hung on their dry bars yet....
Somewhere up in the middle of the island, we stopped at the Islay Woollen Mill! Expecting to just pop in and look at socks and blankets and scarves, we were whisked upstairs to the attic by the owner, Gordon, for a tour and a long long conversation :)
It was wonderful!! He told us his start in tailoring/fabrics in one of the big UK cities, and wound up out in Islay. Since then, he has outfitted the big movies that were filmed in Scotland! Biggest= Braveheart. He was v. proud.
We got an entirely different experience on the other side of the island when we stopped quick at Bruichladdich to see what they have got going on.
A quick learning lesson from Logan and a read on their website will tell you that their brand new hipster feeling of marketing is parallel to their entire distilling strategy. They are breaking away from the tradition of the Islay whiskey image. They want to show everyone that while there is age and wisdom in their machinery and buildings, their whiskey is just as tasty without the long long aging process. They also distill the Botanist Gin.
The shop was full of all the things that millennials love :) We walked out untouched though. The beautiful tradition that we had experienced all day left Zach and I disinterested in their swag (abnormal for us).
We landed ourselves in the tiny dark town of Bowmore that night - we found our hotel-the Harbour Inn only by driving right up next to it and squinting at the sign on the door. AHHH the lack of bright lights was so refreshing.
Our room was 1 of 5 crammed into this tall narrow building and it was very reminiscent of my childhood bedroom. You kind of have to crawl into bed so that you don't hit your head on the ceiling. Not from my childhood was this attached beautiful bathroom though.
ALSO - Gordon at the mill made all of the plaid's that were covering all of the everything in the hotel.
We had fresh water oysters from a loch nearby and fish and chips - the restaurant was so good! We finished the night in the little fireplace room playing cards and tasting more of the island's whiskey:
Bowmore 15 Year
Coal Ila Distiller's Edition
Bruichladdich Classic Laddie
Port Charlotte Peat Cognac Cask
In the morning, I opened up our attic window to THIS...
The rest of the day was driving to the port, waving goodbye to Laguvulin, and eating breakfast on the ferry again. When we landed on the main land, we drive a few more hours south east through mountains and national parks to get back to Glasgow.
We got back into the city and wanted to kill some time before the evening. The neighborhood we were in before we left on our great adventure was really cool, so we headed back that away.
We found lunch at Hyndland Fox - this gastro pub healthy eats kind of place.
We did what Europeans do and killed time walking around the city park that includes a river, a beautiful tree lined street, a theater, a park, skatepark, sports fields, museum, and is next to the University of Glasgow.
It was wonderful. I got ice cream because it's never too cold to try another country's ice cream.
We headed to a different area of town for dinner - and found an old church renovated into a weird punk/drag queen/brewery/cool east bar and venue? St. Luke's and the Winged Ox. But! when in the UK, right? :)
We wandered around the city’s beautiful shopping area! And accidentally found ourselves in this weird PACKED bar that only fancy moms and dads were partying in.
ONE THING TO KNOW ABOUT SCOTLAND: they LOVE their American 80s and 90s throwback hits. So many oldies playing whereever we went. And always a local (or a room full) belting out the lyrics.
OKAY OKAY I'LL TELL YOU!!!
We saw Logic!!!! Zach found him at least a year ago. And got us all into him. He is a hip hop artist that is alllll about peace, love, and positivity. His story is WILD and his songs are wonderful. He writes a lot about race, religion, and gender equality. We had a great time alongside the Scottish youth. They had these cheers that everyone just KNEW. I am pretty sure it is what is chanted in the football stadiums. It was VERY euro feeling.
Logic is all about being in the moment and not living your entire life on social media. So he asked people to not take photos the entire time. To respect his wishes, here is one photo that Zach took!
AND WEEEEEEEE woke up the next morning and set off on our long flights home! To London, to Chicago, to Minneapolis, to Des Moines.
If you're going to Scotland ever, EVER, talk to me!! I want to daydream with you. If you need some inspiration to save some pennies and gather your friends and go anywhere together, I hope this has helped.
As amazing as it is being across the world, this warm cozy apartment will always be the best feeling.
Cheers from Pleasant St.