I get notoriously bad jet lag when I travel over more than a few time zones. I don't necessarily tire out or feel sluggish, as much as I just don't sleep for the first few nights. I'm usually up at around 4 AM during the initial mornings before settling into a more normal schedule towards the end of the stay. For that reason, when I learned that two of us would have to share a room at the Ardbeg house, I panicked. Not because I mind sharing a room, mind you, but because I knew that I would be up stomping around at ungodly hours, disturbing the poor soul with the misfortune of bunking with me. All of us were having trouble sleeping, and I didn't think a lack of privacy was going to help things, so I took one for the team and decided to get a room down the road at the Old Excise House – a bed and breakfast run by golf pro Ron Goudie, who accommodate guests along with his wife Emma.
Up until the 1960s, all of the distilleries on the island had an excise officer – a government employee living nearby who would ensure that all proper duties were being paid by each producer. It was up to each distillery to provide lodging for these officials, so in 1906 Laphroaig built a house along what is now the road (A846) running between Ardbeg and Port Ellen. The house stands less than a hundred yards from the sea and is surrounded by picturesque views.
I got up around 5 AM (happy to not be disturbing a roommate), answered some emails, did some stretching and then went for a run up the hill behind the house where the small loch that feeds Laphroaig its water is located. It was a beautiful moment – staring at the pond, with the dark, brooding sky above me and the fierce wind whipping through my hair. There were geese, plenty of sheep, and old stone walls along the way. I couldn't help but wish I had my camera with me, but not every moment in life needs to be preserved, does it? Some things are better left to memory. I eventually headed back down the hill and into Port Ellen where I trotted through the malting site and along the warehouses before making my way back home.
After showering and getting dressed, I walked out to the dining room and found a beautiful array of breakfast foods awaiting me. Emma bakes homemade scones and bread, topped with her award-winning orange marmalade made with Laphroaig Quarter Cask. If you're considering a trip to Islay, this is definitely the place to stay if you want an authentic experience. Bowmore is more central to bars and restaurants, but there's something magical about staying on the southern coast. It's more mysterious.
I'm ready to hit the road in a bit. We're off to Kilchoman to see Anthony Willis.