Ahh, Bruichladdich! The distillery whose open day really does set the standard for the rest – even the locals will tell you it’s the one not to miss – and had the biggest queue I’ve ever seen in Islay.
It is also, I believe, the only open day with an entry fee – five pounds gets you into the event and a couple of drams of their Laddie Classic or The Peat Project. Despite this, there always seems to be twice as many people there than at any other distillery.
The crowded courtyard was surrounded by food stalls, dram tasting – both the freebies and the premium tent, with all manner of Bruichladdichs past and present available to try – and even a beer tent from Islay Ales. One entire side of the space was devoted to the HGV trailer stage, from which a stream of excellent bands filled the day with music.
The sky was blue and mostly cloudless, at least at the start of the day, and the sun was warm without being too hot. It was, in short, just about perfect and despite my worry that the higher visitor numbers this year would spoil the atmosphere, the Bruichladdich open day remained one of the best parties.
The whisky was as excellent as ever. The Laddie Classic reminds me of my beloved and long-lost Waves – sweet and light and perfect for sipping in the sun. The Peat Project is big, bold and classically Islay – smokey and delicious. The festival bottling is something special too, and to be honest if I could just spend a few days working my way across their premium dram bar I would be a happy (if dangerously drunk) man.
In the shop, Bruichladdich were selling off some of their old Valinch stock – one off bottlings going right back to 2001 when the distillery re-opened; whisky that you couldn’t usually dream of finding on sale.
It wasn’t all perfect, of course. The shop struggled to cope with only one till and one credit card machine, and the queues for food were immense; it took over an hour to get a burger. But it’s hard to feel too grumpy when you’re stood in a queue, if you’re enjoying good music, great whisky and fine friends.