'BANKSIE, THIS TRUE you're writing a book about whisky?'
'Yeah, they're going to get me to drive—'
'You'll be needing a hand. Count me in.'
Mr Jarrold and I, slightly hungover, spend a quiet, pleasant, sunny Saturday going round
lots of closed distilleries so I can take photographs of the distillery names in VERY BIG
LETTERS painted on their whitewashed walls. At first I'm a bit mystified that the dis-
tilleries are closed on a Saturday - I'd kind of been hoping to get off to a flier here and
be able to tell Oliver the Editor how determined I've been to start doing my research -
but then these are basically light industrial units with a five-day week which happen to
have guided tours and Visitor Centres as well; they're not - certainly before Easter and
the start of the season - full-time tourist haunts, and that is part of their charm.
We have lunch with a view of Loch Indaal and the harbour in the Harbour Inn. This
was only supposed to be a snack, but somehow it turned into a full three-courser when we
started reading the menu. I stare at my pudding and consider the merits of not bothering
to eat it but just strapping it directly to my waist, for which it is surely destined, but then
eat it anyway. Then we wander/waddle round to the Bowmore whisky shop and stock up
on a case full of whisky; basically one each from all seven of the working distilleries on
the island, plus an old Port Ellen. Port Ellen distillery, forming the western limit of Port
Ellen the town, no longer produces its own whisky but instead provides the malted barley
for five of the other distilleries on Islay, and so still plays a significant part in the island's
economy and the overall quality of the Islay whiskies.
The Bowmore whisky shop is very well stocked indeed and I get a bit carried away,
spending an eye-wateringly large amount of money effectively buying the oldest version
of each of the whiskies on offer (actually, distillers don't call them versions, they call
them expressions, which I suppose does sound slightly classier. Also, buying the oldest
was a bit stupid without doing more research; age isn't everything).
All I can say is it seemed like a good idea at the time.
We drive around a bit afterwards, taking more photos and getting very good at spot-
ting the distinctive pagoda-shaped ventilators - relics of the old drying floors where each
distillery used to malt its own barley - that tend to denote the presence of a distillery.
'That'll be another of those distinctive pagodas there, then.'