It was another early start in a week of early starts, and another ‘Islay breakfast’! Today was going to be a good one. A sampling of some new unknown drams at Laphroaig and then a final Ileach fling, our last distillery visit – Ardbog Day!
We were at Laphroaig for session with some untried drams and to offer our humble opinions on a brand new Laphroaig expression with a mixed group of enthusiasts, and some cyclists who happened to arrive at the distillery at exactly the right time. We had seven whiskies to work through and offer our thoughts on their colour, nose and taste. We chewed and tasted, compared and cogitated, nosed and noted, and our reward was a generous pour of a very special Laphroaig – one made entirely from barley malted at the distillery; it was sublime. We won’t know which expression will make the final cut, or whether our thoughts were helpful, but it was fun to try something that hasn’t left the warehouse, yet will be enjoyed soon enough. We’ll have to get a bottle and try to work out which dram it was!
From Laphroaig we made the short journey down the beautiful winding Islay roads to Ardbeg Distillery. Nestled in by the sea on the south east corner of the island. After being spoilt by Dougie the day before on our Ardbeg bog walk, we decided we wanted to just enjoy the distillery and the celebration of Ardbog Day that seems to have gone global!
Despite the promise of clouds and showers, the sun shone on Ardbeg that day. The skies were blue, the sea a brilliant turquoise and from our lunchtime vantage point, perched on the rocks next to the distillery, we could see the coasts of Arran and Northern Ireland.
And then it happened…
Now I’m (Mike) not usually a lucky chap, apart from marrying way above my league… and being able to culture a decent full beard, but on this day, Ardbeg day, our last full day on Islay, I had a bit of a win… and so did the Mrs.
As we explored the games on offer, we spied the Welly Wanging and was tempted, but Jon wanted a go at the Ardbog dig.
So after catching some Arbroath smokies, (which were yummy!) we headed over to the bog. The ‘bog’, had been roped into lots of sections, each with a numbered barrel stop resting on top. For what turned out to be a very reasonable price you could buy a bung and dig up whatever was in your section of the bog. I hadn’t really taken a look at the prizes but had just seen a lady walk away with a bottle of Blasda and a barefooted Dutchman digging frantically with both hands and run off to claim his prize, so we thought, why not? Could be a bit of fun… maybe there’s some Ardbog down there! Well who knew!
So, when we got to the front of the line we eagerly thrust our hands into the bag of barrel bungs and drew out our sections. The die was cast. Ardbeg had kindly laid on some ‘equisite’ gardening tools with which to dig and I quickly found my token. Sarah, my good lady wife, was struggling with her bright blue plastic spade but eventually found her token too! So after a quick photo, we skipped over to the Ardbeg van to collect our prizes.
So, as I’ve stated, I’m not generally known for being lucky. I’ve never won the lottery, I don’t play it. But today was my day! Out of the thousand or so people there, who should win a gallon of Ardbog? Yes, Me!! *grins*
When the Ardbeg chap read the number on my bung, just unearthed, all he could say was “Congratulations”. “Why?” I asked, not really taking in what he was saying to me. “Well, you’ve won the big one!” he said as he handed me a ridiculous bottle of whisky, 4.5 litres of Ardbog, unbelievable!
Sarah didn’t do badly either, she won a miniature Ardbeg Day! Rarer than rare!
It was all a bit of a blur, still in shock we took some pictures of the big one and carefully stowed the Ardbog safely in the car before we went back to enjoy the party!
So the afternoon went… Ardbog, Corryvreckan, ceilidh with some Dutch people, Uigeadail, bruises, Shortie, Strip the Willow, Ardbog, welly wanging, The Andrew Jackson (legend), Ardbog, home.