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channel between the flats and the road. These days the spirit is taken to be matured in
that big old converted mill by the Teith at Deanston, near Doune. Usually reliable sources
indicate that this has, as you might expect, changed the character of the whisky so that
it's less island-like in flavour, missing some of the seaweedy notes it used to display and
tasting a little more like a Lowland malt.
The water is so naturally heavily peated there's no need to add peat to the malt for a
hint of the flavour to come through in the finished dram, though phenolised malt is used
for the Ledaig expression. Ledaig means 'safe haven' in Gaelic and was the old name for
Tobermory, which - just as Oban is protected from on-shore winds by the island of Ker-
rera - is sheltered by Calve Island. The washbacks, housed in a Velux-windowed building
set hard against a precipitous tree-lined slope, are made of Douglas fir, replacing the more
usual Oregon pine.
The stills each have an odd-looking Lyne arm which looks like a drawn-out S lying
on its side. Incredibly, Tobermory risks setting the entire atmosphere of Earth on fire
and sending the planet spinning into the Sun by letting people take flash photos in the
still house. Obviously these people don't know the primal forces they're meddling with.
However it's not my job to set the poor fools straight so I keep shtum and click and flash
away with me Minolta.
The 15-year-old Ledaig I buy at the distillery is a nicely rounded dram of some peat-
iness and smoke, halfway between a typical Island Whisky and a Lowlander; a peninsu-
lar whisky, perhaps. There's a kind of high, keen edge to it that then fills out into a kind
of spicy chocolate flavour. Tobermory itself, usually bottled at ten years old, is a lighter
whisky which still seems to have that touch of peat and sea about it, and focuses the spi-
ciness of Ledaig down to a sort of nutty pepperiness.
I don't grudge the people in the flats opposite the distillery their homes, but you do
wonder what the expressions of the last couple of decades would have tasted like had they
been matured within sniffing distance of the sea.
The last thing we do before leaving for the ferry is buy some Mull Cheddar, one of
the best, tangiest, most fiercely flavoured cheeses you can buy.
A couple of weeks later on a hot, bright sunny day Ann and I take the wee car through
Glen Devon to Crieff and Gilmerton and back round to the Famous Grouse Experience
at Glenturret. We go via the small, very peaceful little chapel at Tullibardine, an old fam-
ily chapel no longer in use but sitting very prettily in a stand of beautifully shaped Scots
pines, and wonderfully cool inside on such a hot day.
The route has also taken us past Gleneagles, the stupendously grand but surprisingly
welcoming ├╝berhotel where, in the big art deco bar to the right as you enter through the
main doors, there is a very thick brown book detailing lots of whiskies. Lots of old, rare
whiskies. Lots of old, rare, very expensive whiskies. Lots of old, rare whiskies which are
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