It was the morning after the night before.
The antics of the previous night, fuelled by red wine and Lagavulin are best left untold. Needless to say that good booze combined with the effects of a roaring fire and all that fresh air and freedom can lead to a kind of madness.
We were due at the distillery at 11am where members of the local press, television crews, local dignitaries and of course distiller Marko and his crew would be gathering. After what seemed like only a few hours sleep I woke around 9am, fumbled the wireless onto the dulcet sounds of a Gaelic radio station and pulled back the curtains. The rest of our motley crew slowly did likewise, and stood staring blinkingly into the winter morning. It was a spectacular view, supremely surreal in its beauty, miles of sea and sand, hills, frost, frozen water, blue skies, tigh geals, peat and moss.
But we had no time to savour the new day.
A fried breakfast of Charley Barley’s black pudding, eggs and bacon was swiftly rustled up while hurried showers and shaves were taken. One member of the party had still not stirred and had to be dragged, still fully clothed from his bed. Stomachs lined with the compulsory full Scottish and fuelled by strong coffee, the rest of us loitered outside gulping hangover-eradicating fresh air and watching birds of prey grab their own breakfast in pairs over the sands of Uig bay.
The clock ticked on to 11am and the straggler finally emerged from the house just as a car sped along our lonely road. Pulling up outside Judy from the distillery looked pleased to see we were alive and on the island but gave us a kick up the arse to get moving as everyone was waiting. Move our arses we did and as we arrived, just a little late, to the still shed of the distillery, the garrulous Marko, who seemed pleased to have some real drinkers roll in, began to take the mick out of our tardiness.
The German contingent collecting the second cask to be released were bright eyed and bushytailed and true to stereotype had been there for hours, efficient and reliable as ever. The Glasgow contingent on the other hand were late, hungover and looking for a hair of the dog. With a dog. As we took in our surroundings the distillery looked at once rough and ready but bold and beautiful at the same time. Two great wooden worm tubs fed by angular Hebridean style copper stills, large oak spirit recievers stood proudly alongside Douglas Fir washbacks and steel mash tubs and a boiler more modernly made up the process.
A lot of handshaking of our shaky hands ensued and much meeting and greeting was done as Marko procured some hefty nips of his special spirit from bottles arranged on a Harris Tweed clad table beside the great washbacks.
They tasted glorious that bright, cold morning, all honeyed fire and peat reek in a glass. The nips were devoured and more was forthcoming as we gave interviews to reporters, posed in front of the stills and barrels, spoke to TV reporters and generally enjoyed the moment. A formal presentation of our cask purchase was made and Marko said a few words as the Germans, a local bottler and a local community representative also took deliverance of their goods.
Ours was to be Cask 08, a beautiful 30 liter cask of new spirit bound in olroso staves, straining at its belted hoops. Its white heads bore the black stencilled name of the distillery and the year of its filling and had a round bung fixed in its midriff. It look a beautiful wee thing, full of promise and heavy in possibility. Two of us carried it from its home to the boot of our awaiting car and once safely ensconced within we loitered some more, chatting and relishing the day’s events.
We left the distillery in a convoy heading for some lunch nearby where stories of our disparate lives were swapped. While we were all very different in our own ways, we shared the common appreciation of a good dram and by extension an attitude to life.
Eventually we drifted off with firm handshakes and goodbyes, promises to meet up in our big city and to return again in turn with family in tow.
With our cargo safely stowed in the back we drove off again heading north to see some sights.