Islay's always had this mystical, storied sheen to it - the sort of place only people who know talk about, a sort of misty, rolling hills place of dreams. Last October, I was privileged to spend 3 days on this magical island on a tasting trip with classmates, all of whom were whisky enthusiasts. As the only one who had a background in wine & spirits, I wanted to firstly learn about the whisky category as a whole, before understanding the specificities of Islay whisky. And as someone who rarely drinks whisky, what started out as an intellectual interest quickly turned into something much, much deeper ...
That cool cat in the red is my buddy Hiro. Hiro-San is a finance guru from Tokyo who also is an extremely experienced whisky drinker. We met during Intensive Spanish classes, before school even began. Our first conversation, during one of the first BoW (Bar of the Week) events, went something like so:
Hi, I'm Hiro, from Japan. My dream is to go to Scotland, and taste whisky.
Oh really? What do you like? I've actually always wanted to visit this little island called Islay.
I love Islay. That is my dream too. Let's plan a trip.
And so, nearly 13 months later, we found ourselves boarding a Ryanair flight to Glasgow. During the summer, as I was planning the trip, we recruited 2 more classmates to join - we would be the IESE contingent on the whisky trail, spreading our good name and hopefully making some connections for the Wine & Spirits Club. After a dinner and quick nap in a Glasgow hostel, we set out at 3am for the ferry dock, a good 3 hour drive away. We had a full day of classes the day before, and by the time we boarded the ferry, I was wrecked. Passed out on the sofas on the upper deck the entire ride. It was nearly 10am by the time we caught glimpse of Ardbeg, saw the smokestacks of the Port Ellen malting factory.
We were finally on Islay - mystical, storied, magical Islay.