Category Archives: Uncategorized
Andrew Ferguson of Kensington Wine Market & Ferguson Whisky Tours accepts the ALS Ice Bucket ChallengePosted by Andrew in Uncategorized | August 25, 2014
My 3 week Asian tour begins next Sunday when I head to China to visit one of LVMH’s newest acquisitions in Sichuan province. On my way I have a stop planned in Beijing where I’ll hopelessly try to see all the important sites in a day and a half. From there I head to southwestern China near the border with Tibet, to the city of Chengdu. Moet Hennessey has bought a Chinese white spirits producer there, reputed to produce the world’s finest ‘Bai Jiu’. The Moet brand is named Wen Jun in honour of Zhou Wen Jun, the woman who first produced the spirit some 2000 years ago.
While in China I will also be visiting the pandas at their home base, will be checking out the relics of the long lost Shu culture at the San Xing Dui museum, and paying homage at the Thatched Cottage of the Tang dynasty poet Du Fu. In all my boots will have been on the ground just six days in China. On the 18th of May I head to Tokyo for the start of my first Asian whisky tour. I’ll be crisscrossing Japan and making a side tour to Taiwan, all in the name of whisky tourism. Keep checking my blog for updates and to follow my progress!
There was cloud and wind, but the weather generally good as we started our distillery tours on Islay, especially considering the gale we experienced the day before. After breakfast we made our way from Bowmore through the center of the island heading for the southern Kildalton coast. This is a rugged stretch of ocean front with sheltered bays which played home to the four distilleries which used to operate here. Only three of them still produce whisky, more on that in a coming post, while the forth–Port Ellen–has been silent for close to 30 years. At the town of Port Ellen we turned east and headed down the road past Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg distilleries to see the Kildalton Cross and Chapel.
The ruined Chapel though interesting, and the site of some ancient grave markers, is not nearly as impressive and important as the cross for which the site is famed. Believed to be around 1300 years old the Kildalton Cross is thought to have come from Iona, the spiritual home of Celtic Christianity in the medieval period. Iona is a 3×1 mile island off the coast of Mull and is the burial site of more European monarchs than any other place in the world. The name Kildalton may be translated to mean “Church of the Disciple”, and there is some speculation that a monastery may have once existed in the area. Although Islay’s populations is less the 4,000 people today, at one time it had more than 15,000 people and during the independent reign of the Lord of the Isles it was politically the most important place on the west coast of Scotland. The Kildalton Cross is rife with Biblical motifs such as Cain murdering Abel and the Sacrifice of Issac and is considered one of the finest early Christian crosses in Scotland. Some restoration work on the cross in the late 1800’s found another cross beneath the Kildalton one and beneath that the burial of a man and a woman. The bones of the man suggested he had suffered a particularly violent death. Copies of both crosses were made to preserve them for future generations, with the originals left on display.
The Chapel, or Kildalton Parish church is an interesting building. It is believed that it would have originally had a thatched roof, and dates from the 12th or 13th Century, meaning it to is of an impressive age. The church was part of an important parish from the middle of the 1400’s and was still in use well into the late 1700’s until it was abandoned as populations along this stretch of coast moved west towards Ardbeg.
After a quiet night in Inveraray we had an early start to catch the ferry to Port Askaig on Islay. The weather was not to be with us on this day, and neither was our luck. Though the ocean was only starting to work itself up on our voyage, by the afternoon 50mph winds were sweeping the island with lashing rain. Our distillery visits for the day did not work out on account of the weather, but we decided to see some of the island anyway.
My group and I met in Edinburgh this morning and immediately starting making our way toward the western isles and Islay. Our first stop along the way was the Lowland distillery of Auchentoshan, which produces the only full time triple distilled single malt whisky still made in Scotland. Triple distillation was once common among Lowland distilleries, but was declining long before the early 1980’s when the only other triple distilled Lowland distilleries closed: Rosebank, Littlemill and St. Magdalene(Linlithgow).