Today I'm heading to the other end of the island to focus on the Southern distilleries. Of the three, however, Lagavullin is closed and Ardbeg has stopped doing tours. (This doesn't come as a surprise to me - I knew before I came out that this wasn't the best time of year to find open distilleries). I schedule a visit to Laphroaig after lunch and a walk on the cliffs before lunch.

The Mull of Oa is a rocky promontory on the southwest of Islay, and an RSPB bird reserve. The sign in the car park promises a circular walk through the reserve, which seems just the right thing to work up an appetite for lunch. After a brief wonder through a farm, it opens out onto the spectacular clifftops. There's a lazy wind howling over the cliffs doing its best to go through me rather than around. (It feels quite unreal recalling the sharp cold as I write this back in Saudi Arabia.)

The only break from the wind up here is the straightforwardly-named American Monument, erected to commemorate the loss of two ships in the seas off Islay, in 1918.

After a swift lunchtime snack in Port Ellen, I head to Laphroaig. It's still winding down for the winter break. I've missed the last malting again, however I do get to see the malt drying in a kiln. The stills have also shut down for the winter, so no more action there.

The 18 year old is the star of the tasting session. It has that rich Laphroaig smoke in a kinder, gentler package than the quarter cask. I also take the opportunity to become a Friend of Laphroaig, which entitles me to a free dram a year.

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