|What a great sight even on a rainy day|
We’re onto the home stretch with my Islay Distillery tours and one of the highlights was visiting Laphroaig. Nicely placed between Ardbeg and Lagavulin, the distillery itself is hidden behind a dense forest from the main road. Even approach this woodland you get a sense of what is ahead with the peat bogs on both sides and a series of small flags where the Friends of Laphroaig have donned the wellies and ventured out to their own patch of Islay.
|The rugged Islay terrain and Laphroaig|
Conveniently situated by the coast, a small natural bay would have been ideal for the loading and unloading of barrels. There is a sense of tradition and calm as you park the car and make your way through the outbuildings towards the visitor centre. Due to time constrains and tours booked elsewhere we could only take the standard distillery tour which costs just £4.80 and lasts an hour, although Laphroaig offer a quick visit open or more indepth tours.
|Yes the birds are on the right further up|
Working maltings are few and far between so this was a huge treat for us; actually seeing a working malting in operation for the first time despite countless distillery visits over the years. Our tour guide was (I think, sorry lost my notes) Andy, who had worked at the distillery for many years and was full of stories and that warm Islay nature that crossed nationalities. When on the island you realise the friendly rivalry all the distilleries have and they help out one another. This laid back attitude is a polar opposite to mainland Scotland and is very welcome.
|Ready for the next load|
Health and safety has a more common sense approach so you can take photographs on the tour and we were encouraged to explore the various areas. Even when a small group of birds landed on the recently laid out maltings, one visitor was slightly alarmed by this contact, but the next stages of the process would remove any concerns. The above photo is the where the barley is laid out when the peat is burned, this kilning process is very traditional at Laphroaig as they still use hand cut peat, Bowmore in comparison use machine cut. Both give the same effect and all the distilleries on Islay take great care in using this natural resource wisely.
|Part of the magic|
|Grab a spade and get to work!|
The next stage was to see the metallic washbacks and also a short description of Laphroaig’s connection with Prince Charles who has visited the distillery twice including an infamous visit via the local airport. We then moved onto the still rooms which were again very welcoming.