I think part of the reason I adore Scotland is because it reminds me a lot of Kentucky, both in the scenery and the people. There's something a bit more magical about Scotland, however, as if you truly might see a unicorn or dragon or monster. There's also the accent. The brogue counts for a lot.
What reminds me most of Kentucky, however, is the hospitality. On many levels, it's hospitality squared. Everyone I met on Islay, and specifically everyone at Laphroaig, went out of their way to make sure I was taken care of. Festivals are often like that to the performers, but on Islay, that had nothing to do with the locals' attitudes towards me. They are just genuine please-and-thank-you folks, who treat others as they would like to be treated.
Laphroaig saw hundreds of visitors, perhaps more, in and out of the distillery yesterday, and Butch and I sang all day long. Our sound man, Dougal, kept us laughing, and we played for a bit, breaked for a bit, received our Friends of Laphroaig certificate and official dram, played for a bit, had a dram of Cask Strength Laphroaig, played some more, picnicked on the bay, played some more, climbed through the heather on the rocks by the beach, played some more, explored the distillery, played some more, and talked to loads of people from all over the world. The fabulous Simon (from Laphroaig) took us to a marvelous dinner. I had the vegetarian option: macaroni and cheese with a side of chips (perfectly delicious steak fries). Not the healthiest, but, hey, a day on Islay feels like a week of vacation.
I also partook in a Master Tasting of various Laphroaigs later in evening, as well as enjoyed a private tour of the distillery. I'll write more about the deliciousness of the whiskys in another blog, but let's just say it was wonderful. The variety was impressive, even among the single brand, and the 30-year-old smelled like port wine but tasted like spice. Here's a trick: let a piece of dark chocolate melt in your mouth, then take a sip of good Scotch. The flavor combination is mindblowing.
I was not the only woman in the room, but I was definitely the youngest -- barely older than the Scotch I was drinking. I've decided that I should make it my new mission to introduce the young folks to good Scotch. Maybe I'll hold a Master Tasting at my house. I think there are a lot of bourbon drinkers who would also enjoy Scotch if they actually had a chance to taste the good stuff.
Anyway, if you like Laphroaig, consider becoming a Friend of Laphroaig. It's similar to the Maker's Mark Ambassador program, and they give you a lifetime lease on a single square foot of land in Islay. I signed up immediately after my last gig in Glasgow, when Matt and Peter from BluesBunny.com introduced me to the magic of Islay whisky. When you visit the distillery -- and I'm pushing for a big group of Kentuckians to come over with me for next year's festival -- you can visit your land and collect your rent in the form of a dram of Laphroaig 10-year-old. Who's in?
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