I’m a planner. Can’t help it. It’s good to be on top of things when other people’s hopes and plans and money are on the line. If it’s just me flying solo, I couldn’t really give two shits about being organized; when things go off the rails, that’s just another opportunity to make adventure. The best stories come from those sorts of goings-on. But organizing doesn’t always go as planned. Especially with a lot of moving parts. Let me explain…
Early talk of this trip began in 2018. A high-level tentative ‘budget’ was pulled together and quoted to the lads. All seemed on the up and up, and then…well…the calendar year ticked over, and a whole lot of prices went up. Not ideal when you’re trying to honor your word as to costs, right? I wiggled and wrangled and tweaked and adjusted and managed to keep it very much in the ballpark. The ongoing debacle in the UK sorta helped in regards to the pound-to-dollar conversion rates. Thank God. In the end, it all worked out, but I may have added a few more grey hairs to the lid along the way. Such is.
Moral of the story? Book early. But not too early.
Where do we find ourselves now? Three weeks ’til the big show. Dave and Kent are heading out in separate solo jaunts, extending their time over and knocking off some personal agenda stuff (and yes…I imagine there will be a distillery or two visited as well). Dev and Doug take off on the 26th, squaring away some auction stuff before heading for Leith. These four cats will be hooking up at SMWS HQ in order to make a run at drinking the vaults dry. I’m just hoping one of ’em scoops up a bottle of some sexy Islay malt to mule across to the Island of Dreams and share with the rest of us.
On Friday, Sept 27th, Scotty and I will hop the big silver bird and light out for Glasgow, via Amsterdam. We’ll set down at about 10:00 am, hook up our rental car and make tracks for Arran. We’ll be late arrivals to the distillery (nearly 4 pm!), but hope to suck in as much as we can. Take that how you will. We’ll overnight it on the island, then catch an early morning ferry back to the mainland. Once we make landfall in Androssan we’ll be booting it back to Glasgow to hook up with all the other chaps so we can be at Auchentoshan for 2:30 pm. Apres ca…le Bon Accord! Or the Pot Still. Or some other place to eat, drink and be merry.
The following morning will be an early one. Our flight to Islay is scheduled to lift off at 8:00 am, setting us down on a little slice of heaven at 8:45. I have a driver booked for the entire duration of our Islay stay. Hughie Currie is a beautiful soul who always brings a smile to my face. I can’t imagine a trip over without him being involved. The next five days will be a slow, but very deliberate, marinating period for our livers. Nothing like gallons of peated malt to season a man up right, aye? We’ll lay waste to all nine distilleries on the island throughout the day times, then spend our eves carousing in the atmosphere of some of my favorite pubs and whisky bars in the world. Of course, staying at the Ardbeg Seaview Cottages for a portion of the trip means some late nights spent out behind the distillery, sitting on the craggy coastline and watching the waves roll in.
When we finally bid (a temporary) farewell to Islay, we’ll be heading for Campbeltown, via the Port Ellen ferry across to Kennacraig, then hopping a bus down to the tip of the peninsula. Two nights and three days in Campbeltown will be plenty of time to see Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank distilleries. We’ll wrap it up with a sick tasting in the Cadenhead warehouses before scooting off to the airport to catch a 5:30 pm flight back to Glasgow. One last pub night in the big city, then we’ll have to be up at the crack of…who am I kidding? We may as well not even sleep. I think we have to be up at 3:00 am or something for the return flight to Calgary.
And I can’t lie: I’m exhausted just thinking about those first couple days back home. Our livers will be petrified little prunes and our pores will be nothing more than wee off-gassing vents to dispel some of the bog reek we’ll be emanating. But I live for this shit. And I’ve said it before: these journeys feel like going home.
I could fill you in on the exact details of all these distillery bookings, but I think I’d rather save that for recapping what actually goes down, as opposed to what is planned. There will be much more to come. Stay tunes, friends…