Back to Islay.
At 7:30 am, we were, as we do every morning, quietly drinking coffee in the bow window of the scarabus farm, recalling the tastings of the previous day. In the distance we could guess the Loch Skerrols which was beginning to emerge, like us, from the mist. Halfway there was the table where we had tasted some wonderful drinks the day before before we had to go home attacked by midges clouds.
Our eyes were drawn to the presence of a bottle! We had all returned the day before! You had to go and see. What a surprise, once there, to discover a pretty dark but...empty bottle! On the latter was written PEATREEKERS DOUBLE STANDARD ! A newcomer that we had not yet had the chance to know.
Who could have put it there?
Stuck under the bottle is a word written in Gaelic: "Còmhlan Renegade, ma tha thu airson am botal seo a lìonadh agus blas blas an uisge-bheatha thid thu dìreach gu tuath gu 9 mìle! (Renegade band, if you want to fill this bottle and taste the origins of whisky going straight north at 9 miles!)
The desire for discovery was too strong. Also, once everyone has emerged from the peaty mists of the previous day, we are off on an adventure.
We first walked around the loch, left two swans splashing around in the mist, passed the standing stone of Scarrabus, before climbing a few hills towards the north of the island following the Droslay River. Once we pass the log of the same name, we go back into the forest.
After an hour's walk in this forest, first strewn with violets, then more and more dense, we arrived at a fence with a sign that read "Don't pass, No excuse for excise ! "followed by a skull and crossbones. Mystery?! Not very engaging! However, as the panel seemed to be centuries old, we continued on our way.
A little later, as the forest became more and more dense, it changed its appearance. The trees, until then brown-green, took on a more black colour, as if they had been charred. In addition, an increasingly strong smell of peat was felt.
We finally arrived in front of a barn that also looked centuries old. However, it was still active because thick grey smoke came out of its chimney. The smell of peat was now omnipresent.
Just in front of the building, our eyes were drawn to a tomb. On the planted cross was inscribed "Daniel Campbell - Bàs le chisean" (Death with his taxes in Gaelic - editor's note). Our eyes were then drawn to clothes hung on clotheslines (a little surprising in the middle of the forest)! There really had to be a life.
We then, feverishly knocking on the door, almost with fear in our bellies that a walking dead living death would appear.
We were reassured when a man opened the door and said to us: "Halo, tha mo ainm mar Leslie agus bha mi a'feitheamh ort" (hello, I am Leslie and I was waiting for you in Gaelic - editor's note -). He led us into what turned out to be a distillery but which, like the building that housed it, seemed to date back several centuries.
As we passed by the man we realized that he had a very strong smell of peat, as if she was hanging on to him! We were in the presence of a real peatreeker (very rare nowadays since whisky distillation has become legal again in Scotland since the 18th century - editor's note). In the middle of the room stood a blackened still, certainly by the thousands of heaters, but which nevertheless seemed to still work. Here, peat was omnipresent, and so was smoke. It was used as fuel as in the past and it was it that gave these places their characteristic smell. 5 small minutes in this barn and we already seemed to be peatreekers too, so much the smoke aromas had permeated our clothes.
Without saying anything more, the mysterious Leslie took us to the bottom of the building in front of what was supposed to be its storage and maturation space. To the smell of smoke is now added the smell of mould linked to the evaporation of the angels' share! What a place!
After hitting the barrel frantically with his debondoir mallet, he dipped his wine taste into it to release a deep yellow liquid slightly cloudy. From where we were located, we could already feel the peaty aromas that heralded a marked typicality.
The whisky first filled our bottle, which we held out like a grail, and then ended up in glasses placed nearby.
After having given the bung to prevent the angels from gorging themselves too quickly with this beautiful liquid, he invited us to gather around a fireplace or burned... a fire of peat to taste what seemed to announce itself as a beautiful blend of peated whisky.
To our great surprise, the first aromas that attacked our nose were not at all the peaty notes we had imagined, but very woody and even fresh notes. But it didn't last long, as soon as his nose came out of the glass to get some "fresh" air (quite relative considering the place), he was invaded by peat, the real one, not the funny one. We were playing the truth now, we could measure the chance we had to feel what Scots people had felt centuries before us. Powerful peat, hot tar, which sticks to clothes and now to the nose. The happiness of any amateur.
Before embarking on our tasting, Leslie told us about the history of Scotch whiskies, which were once banned by state decrees. Renegades who illegally distilled in the forests, corrupt excisers, clothes hung like banners....
We had now gone back in time and found ourselves in an illegal bothy looking for the slightest noise.
The time was right to finally taste our drink. In the mouth, it had the sweetness of a vanilla boudoir but cooked in a peat oven! Peat with very pleasant sweet scents! As on the clothes, the peat clung to the throat. It leaves a slight bitterness. It was now omnipresent: the place, the clothes, the throat....the head.
What a beautiful journey through time and senses with this blend that reflects the origins of this brandy!
The morning continued around the peat fire, tasting this beautiful whisky and listening to stories of thugs distilling illegally.
As we were about to embark on new adventures, a noise came from the outside and Leslie stopped talking and told us to do the same. Anguish and fear may overwhelm us (and probably) a little exacerbated by the few glasses drinked. Did we have the right to be here? We were renegades from then on and we smelled like peat in our faces. He took us out through a small side door and told us to sneak through the bushes to avoid being caught........