Claudio Riva just returned from another trip to Islay. Claudio is working on the website of the 1st Laphroaig Italian Fan Club. It was his first trip in the winter and today he sent me his lovely report and pictures of his memorable trip:
Here I am, just back from a windy week on Islay. I think there are no words in Italian to describe such a bad weather: storms, gales, rain, snow and hail ? all at their best. Many ferries have been cancelled, no flight connection to mainland, lorries and cars overturned on motorways. When it snows in Italy, it is like a Christmas songs, kind and slow. In Islay it seems much more a heavy metal concert. And while I was wearing my winter gloves, I saw in Bowmore Main Street a young Ileach boy wearing just a shirt, short pants, socks and sandals. Astonishing.
My 6th trip to Islay, my first time during the winter: whiteness was all around, plenty of geese, and the usual warm welcome from local people. And winter life on Islay is surprisingly active. I met tourists at every distillery, including a group of friendly Norse guys. Restaurants and pubs were quite crowded. On Saturday night the Lochside restaurant was fully booked. Unfortunately all the museums were closed. I would have stayed another day if I could, the weather was going better. Continue reading....I visited the Laphroaig distillery, John Campbell took me to a great and comprehensive tour of the distillery. I visited the new wonderful FOL club house and the enhanced shop. Like next year, they are going to introduce new special 2008 bottlings and ? despite the shortage they are suffering - the 15yo will be probably replaced in autumn by the new 18yo. As I could find different and confusing information about Laphroaig Quartercask (QC), I made it clear: at the moment it is a main part of 6yo, with some younger whiskies (5yo) and some older ones (of different ages, up to 11yo), double-matured in QC (one-quarter Puncheon = one-half Hogshead = 125 litres) for an extra 6 months. I had the annual rent of my plot? You can read a report of the damages they had last week because of the severe weather in the FOL section on www.laphroaig.com.
Thanks Emma, the Ardbeg tour and restaurant is always one of the best distillery experiences. No official news about the new 10yo is available, only rumours: it will be named ?Renaissance?, probably bottled at cask strength and introduced before the Feis Ile.
At Bruichladdich I could taste and buy the new Italian Collection (13+1yo finished in 6 different Italian wine casks, 6 limited editions of 3000 bottles each), a balanced cocktail of wine and whisky flavours. The rebuilding of the new Port Charlotte distillery has not started yet, nothing has changed since last Feis Ile and the ?inauguration day?. They should define the financial plan by the end of February, the visitor centre building will be probably delayed.
It was not possible to visit Bowmore distillery because of staff training. Because of the weather, the distillery managers had to deal with many power blackouts on Thursday 31 January.
Many thanks to Margaret, Lambeth B&B, to have made me feel instantly at home. And, again, many thanks to you and your website, to have led me ? one more time ? during my trip.
Islay during the winter is a magical place to visit, I?ll be back next year. At least, that wild weather contributes to making particularly good whiskies?
You can see Claudio's pictures in the Image Gallery