Whisky galore!


Whisky galore!

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Going on a birdwatching and rambling trip to Islay brought out some long passion for Whisky.
There are eight distilleries on Islay and one on Jura next door which I have to say is one of the best for my taste. Each distillery has its own flavour and characteristic even though they use very similar water and peat resources.
Nowdays the malt is brought in from the mainland. Some of the more traditional distilleries have a proper malting floor where the malt is left to germinate – the insoluble starch turns into soluble sugars and then the maltings are smoked to arrest the germination. Cutting a long story short the malt is milled into grist and then mixed with water to form a mash. After fermentation the wash is transferred to the distillery stills for the distillation process. The shape of the stills is unique to each distillery and they are a joy to see. Large copper canisters with huge funnels.
The whisky is then transferred to oak barrels from America that have been used for bourbon or in some cases to sherry barrels. This is the maturation process where the whisky has a long rest and is then sold commonly as 10 year or 15 year old whisky. It takes on some of the characteristics of the wood in the barrel which also imparts a colour to the otherwise clear liquid.
The taste is peaty as one would expect. Peat is used in the malt smoking and drying process and also tints the water. Sometimes adding water brings out the flavours although many whisky geeks would sneer at the idea of adding water.
Touring around the distilleries is very interesting. They are unique buildings in prime locations and even if you don’t do the tours it is worth checking out the scenery.
My favourite is the Jura whisky which has a mild peaty flavour with a fine finish.

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The Harbour restaurant, Bowmore – Isle of Islay, Scotland


Port Ellen rainbow

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

The restaurant is just off the quay and very tempting on a wild windy night on the Island. The view of open fires and congenial atmosphere beckons through the windows and the blue sign hanging above the door wafts too and fro in the night air. Once inside we sprawl over a comfy settee in the lounge and turn our backs on the harbour lights to see what’s going on inside. Two large family groups were making friends and chatting and with a couple of stellas in our hands we looked through the menu. I went for the mussels from Loch Etive steamed in white wine with saffron, garlic and cream(£6.95) whist Mrs Rambler went for the smoked salmon and cream fraiche with herb sauce(£7.50). I decided to stick with the fish theme and opted for the grilled Sea bass with olive oil, onion garlic tarragon and roasted peppars(£18.50). Mrs RR went for the scallops on a vegetable basket of celeriac puree on lemon and buerre blanc (£19.95). A half bottle of Muscadet sevre and maine 2005, Chateau de la penission(9.85) seemed the appropriate accompaniment.
Whilst we waited we looked at the Birds of Islay book nestling under the coffee table and admired the brilliant pictures within that I hoped to aspire to with my camera. The family group wished one of their number a Happy Birthday and as it was Mrs Rambler’s birthday as well we almost joined in.
After we finished our drinks we were taken into the compact dining room and I really enjoyed my starter. The mussels were tasty and although small there were plenty to satisfy as a starter. The sauce wasn’t too creamy either so a total success. The smoked salmon was strange as it came unusually as a slab and was a little disappointing.
My main course of sea bass was a hearty meal. There were generous tasty fillets that went well with the peppars and sauce. There were plenty of boiled potatoes served in a separate dish to accompany the fish. The scallops were also good and looked good on the basket of vegetables and the celeraic puree was delightful. I mashed some of the potatoes into the sauce at the end of the meal to make an excellent finish.
We were both rather full so although I was tempted by hot chocolate and ginger souffle garnished with strawberries and basil ice cream and other delights including a large cheese board we resisted. As we were next to the Bowmore whisky distillery there was also a range of coffee and whisky delights on offer but the problem of driving home meant that this too had to be shelved.

5 stars to the Harbour Inn although a little pricey.