After a Mighty Breakfast of Fried Pig, I head out to explore Bowmore. It's a beautiful crisp morning with barely a cloud in the sky. The village is bathed in oblique, orange-tinged sunlight. There's just a gentle breeze in the frigid air, to encourage me to reduce the amount of flesh I expose to the elements.

I walk down the main street which is all of 200m long and leads from the Round Church to the village's small harbour. There's a small beach next to the harbour which is dominated by the white painted distillery and the smell of saltwater and seaweed.

Distillery tours are off, as it's closed for cleaning, so I'm offered a mince pie and a dram of their Craftman's Choice with the promise that it "tastes of Christmas pudding". It's a lovely rich spicy sherried number without the caramelly sweetness which normally put me off sherried whiskies, and it is indeed a lot like Christmas pudding. All in all, a good choice for a 9am whisky. It's also challengingly priced at £150 a bottle.

As I leave the distillery, at about ten, the sun's still low enough that most of the village is in shadow. I had planned to take an hour or so to explore Bowmore to walk off the whisky, but it turns out not to take that long. My next destination is the one I've most been looking forward to.

The Bruichladdich distillery tour is fairly familiar, but very intimate with only two people taking part. We get to watch a mashtun being repaired, breathe in washback fumes and intercept a sample of a rum-finished whisky which is in the process of being re-barrelled in the warehouse. It's stunningly good.

I let slip that I have a cask of my own somewhere in the warehouses. Normally cask visits are Fridays only, but given how busy they're not, they offer to do me a special. But first tasting.

It's still before lunch, but I'm sure the sun's over the yardarm somewhere in the Empire, so I duly embrace it to the extent applicable to my designated driver status. There are four drams on offer. The first is the bog standard bottling - pleasant but nothing out of the ordinary. Next is a valinch, a single cask available only in the distillery. This one was sherried, and my notes tell me that the flavours sat a bit uneasily together for my taste.

Third is their straightforwardly-named 'Peat'. It's quite strong, but tasty with it with a good rounded flavour. Finally, the last one is the latest Octomore release, their ridiculously strongly peated line. It's too single-minded for me, if I want that taste, I'll go chew some soil.

Bang on time, the warehouseman turns up, having located my cask. I'm shown to one of the bonded warehouses behind the distillery, with barrels piled to the roof in great long rows. With the guidance of his list, we get a row number, but the depth will need further research.

He lets me know that for Health and Safety reasons I'm officially not allowed to climb up the racks and sidle down between the barrels, so I make sure I do it in a particularly unofficial manner. It's not far in, and it's quite pleasing to see this thing I bought while 3000 miles away in the flesh.

And that's the end of the entertainment at Bruichladdich. I take advantage of a nearby coffee shop to treat my alcohol stream with coffee.

Next stop, in about an hour, is Kilchoman. As I've got time to spare, I take the scenic route around Loch Gorm and end up at Machir Bay, a wide sandy beach on the west coast of the island. I don't have long enough to enjoy the scenery before Kilchoman calls, and I head back down the road.

The distillery appears to be a farm. It's a small establishment, and I'm the only person on the visit. The whole place feels like it was built on the whim of a farmer who wanted a distillery in his barn. It has a small output compared with the other distilleries on Islay, and has a traditional way of working. It's one of only six distilleries in Scotland which does its own malting, and the only one which grows its own barley.

I'm told I just missed a malting (my guide grouses that she wasn't warned about the grind of turning the malt when she started work), so I'm forced to watch it drying over the peat instead. Everything here is on a smaller, less polished scale than Bruichladdich. In the next building, which houses the stills, I notice the spirit safe is unlocked. Tut.

The distillery has only been going since 2005, so there's no selection of aged whisky to try. They have only had two releases of three year old whisky. And it's remarkably good. It has the familiar Islay peat with some fruity hints and much more maturity than you'd expect from a whisky so young. It's also way too expensive, so I won't be investing.

The sun's getting low as I leave Kilchoman and drive over the hills back to the lochside. As I drive around the shore of Loch Indaal, the orange sunlight gives way to stunning firey reds and yellows as the sun sets over the loch.

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