01 October 2008

Alas, Islay

My September whisky calendar featured Auchentoshan, a sublime "Lowland" malt from Glasgow. We had the good fortune to visit that upbeat but relaxed city. One of the highlights was a trip to the distillery. Northeast of the city centre, in Clydebank, we had to ride a bus to the end of the line, then walk a bit along the Great Western Road. On the other side of that highway--now the A82--are remnants of the Antonine Wall. We were lucky to be led on the tour by a master distiller from Bowmore. (The Morrison Bowmore group owns Auchentoshan as well.) This whisky is unlike the big, peaty malts Islay is famous for. It is a mellower, more subtle spirit, but surprisingly rich and full-bodied. They have several versions of Auchentoshan--my favorite is the Three Wood. October's calendar features Ardbeg, one of the peatiest of the peaty ones. That's quite a leap: from a soft, smooth, triple-distilled drink to a massively smoky beast. It got me thinking that we never made it to Islay on our trip to Scotland. Ah, some day, perhaps. Funny thing, not all the distilleries on the island make a peaty whisky. Bruichladdich and Bunnahabain, for example, don't fit the "Islay whisky" profile, being less peated. All the more reason to go and do some serious studying!

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