Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
And it doesn't matter, because Glenlivet is rightly regarded as one of the great Spey-
sides, indeed one of the great single malt whiskies. It would be nice if it was produced
in something obviously befitting its intrinsic stature, something of either perfectly natur-
al, almost organic vernacular elegance, or of painstakingly careful design by Lutyens or
Sir Richard Rogers, but that would just be a bonus, and it's better that the attention of all
concerned is on the whisky itself, not the buildings, rather than the other way round.
The Islay distilleries are all pretty spoiled when it comes to setting. The two least fa-
voured are Bruichladdich and Bowmore, the former because it's just a pleasant as-
semblage of buildings by a nice wee village on a stretch of shore which is by turns sandy
and rocky, with a broad, shallow sea loch in front and low, tree-lined hills behind (see,
it's actually in a pretty damn spiffing situation, but we're talking relative values here); the
latter because it's in a roughly similar context on the opposite side of Loch Indaal and
is part of the town of Bowmore. In fact, the distillery's so integrated into the rest of the
town that, when its stills are producing, the excess hot water helps to heat the municipal
swimming pool next door. Again, Bowmore, Islay's effective capital, is a fine, attractive
little town and no disgrace at all to the smart, tidy distillery on its southern perimeter, it's
just that the other Islay distilleries are so much more dramatic in their surroundings.
The three south coasters look out to the long arm of sea that is the … well, to be
honest I'm not sure. Even after scrutinising my dad's old Admiralty charts I can't decide
whether it's a sort of out-pouching of the Irish Sea, part of the Atlantic or the start of the
Sound of Jura. Anyway, it's deepish water, and can be wild in a winter storm. Small is-
lands - more like jagged scatters of rock - pierce the waters offshore and the distilleries
look sort of nestled into the broken folds of the sea-facing land, as if they've squatted
there amongst the boulders, lochans and trees and then sort of wriggled about to get them-
selves hunkered down and comfortable.
They look elegant. They have whitewashed walls, black roofs and black detailing, pa-
godas standing proud, clipped lawns and a general air of discreet pride. Handily, all of
them have their names in VERY LARGE LETTERS painted in black on their tallest sea-
ward walls, so if you take a photo from the right angle you never need to scratch your
head and mutter, Well, I think it looks like Laphroaig, but maybe it's Ardbeg …
Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain sit in even more dramatic scenery, wedged at the bottom
of steep hillsides as though teetering on the brink of falling into the sea, looking respect-
ively across and up the Sound of Jura, with the Paps of Jura rising in an appropriately, if
colossally, mammiform manner across the water. There used to be a quite spectacularly
complete but rusty wreck lying at a steep angle up on the rocks just along the coast from
Bunnahabhain - I remember seeing it from the ferry as we approached from Colonsay,
a dozen years or so ago - but the same stormy seas that drove the ship there in the first
place have pounded it to pieces since and there's little left to see now.
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