Only a few years ago, the idea of travelling to Islay on behalf of K&L was just one of Kyle Kurani's many dreams. Earlier today he stood on the deck of the ferry, gazing towards Jura in the distance, brimming with the anticipation of what was looming before him. One moment he was on a boat powering through the Irish Sea towards Islay...
...the next he's standing in front of Caol Ila overlooking the Straight of Islay.
No more than twenty minutes after leaving Port Askaig, he was turning the barley at the Bowmore floor maltings.
No less than thirty minutes after leaving Bowmore, he was standing with the rest of us at Ardbeg watching Mickey Heads water down the grist. That's pretty good for an hour's work.
In the midst of all the hoopla and hot press, it's easy to forget that Ardbeg is a pretty tiny distillery when compared to most standards. They have only one wash still and one spirit still. That's the same amount of stills as Kilchoman, the only distillery on the island with a smaller output than them.
It's also easy to forget that the Uigeadail once cost more than $100 per bottle, yet now costs less than it ever has. True, they're not dumping any more ancient sherry casks into the marriage, but they're also charging you $50 less per bottle. That stands in stark contrast to many other companies charging you more for less. What's not easy to overlook is the incredible generosity of their staff and their employees. Ardbeg may be owned by one of the world's largest luxury brands, but they manage to generate the feel of a small, family-run operation. We had an epic tasting with Mickey, accompanied by our good friend Lester Lopez from LVMH. It was his first time on the island and he was absolutely stoked.
We laughed, we told stories, we drank.
We really enjoyed that whisky.