i did something decidely non-urban this afternoon, the sort of thing that could get a guy the reputation locally of being something of a maverick.
about two miles from washingmachinepost croft, at gartbreck point, there is an empty farmhouse, recently purchased by frenchman jean donnay and designated as the site of islay's ninth malt whisky distillery. in a similar fashion to the so-called farm distillery at kilchoman, this will be a very small affair, with two copper stills sat upon a stone-built platform. unlike the other eight distilleries, these stills will not be electrically heated but by peat fires from beneath as was once the case throughout the island.
monsieur donnay owns a comparably sized distillery in brittany that has been in production for a few years, with condensers that sit on the outside of the still room running their coiled copper piping into water-filled, purpose built barrels. from the photos i have seen of the french setup, it all looks rather funky.
the geographical location of the intended islay distillery at gartbreck is charmingly remote, though during my distinctly non-urban foray to the farm buildings on wednesday afternoon, i can't say my first thought would ever have been to build a distillery in place of the ruined outbuildings. these are witness to a more populated time in islay's relatively recent past, when farms employed a lot more folks than they do now.
however, construction is not due to commence until mid-march 2015 with a view to commencing limited production by early 2016. therefore, once past the council's recycling repository, the road less travelled is little more than a gravel track. in fact, it is a gravel track, with luxuriant grass growth down the centre and several water-filled sizeable potholes on both sides of the newly fitted cattle grid and galvanised gate. however, as i continue with my lengthy digression, you're more than likely wondering to what end purpose was my rough and tumble foray into islay's outback.
in truth, it was not really to take a peek at gartbreck farmhouse before it becomes a distillery, nor indeed was it a means of getting away from it all for a quiet afternoon. the principal reason was to have a drink of water.
i habitually like to compare and contrast the urban melee with the rural idyll, gaining some self-satisfaction from riding bicycles and wearing clothing originally designed for traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and bus lanes rather than farm tracks, cattle grids and a small herd of cows that cast a suspicious eye over my rural presence. but the rather fabulous italian taurus corinto, curator of many a princely ride round the estates is completely devoid of bottle carrying capacity. nowhere about its person are there any bottle cage bolts, and metal brackets clamped to its downtube would be in serious danger of damaging the ornate paintwork.
however, tippy toeing back to italy, it's possible to discover the rather eccentrically and mysteriously named 24 bottles, progenitors of explosively or subtly coloured stainless steel water bottles with screw tops. all well and good, i hear you murmur, but how does that help the intimated predicament when there's still nowhere to place said bottle? the italian answer to that question is porta bottiglia, a form of cotton canvas hammock that grasps the bottle tightly to its bosom before wrapping round any particular available tube on the double diamond frame.
in my case, i opted for the sand coloured bottle in order to closely match the paintwork on the taurus along with a natural-coloured porta bottiglia. the section of porta that nestles closest to a bicycle tube, bears two rubbery patches to hold the entire affair steady while the velcro equipped straps are wrapped to hold everything steady.
and that, to be more precise, was the specific reason for my cross-country jaunt, for as i have advertised on more than one occasion, i have no truck with alcohol, least that of single malt whisky. having filled the orange topped 24 bottle with water, i was intent on poking holes in the contention that nothing would move when seriously troubled by a less than pristine road surface. i cannot promise that this journey was made at breakneck speed; the taurus does not live life on the edge, but that's a situation every bit as true in the city as it is in the country.
and what of that screw top? surely water bottle technology has centred upon easing the means of slurping while in motion? how ever is that going to work if the top has to be unscrewed mid pedal stroke? well, the corinto is really not the sort of velocipede to encourage such behaviour; the taurus velocipedinist is of a more refined nature. it is said that gentlemen do not run, and nor do they take swigs from a plastic bottle while attempting to run a red light or avoid sheep on the road.
hopefully one of the photos above will advertise that i reached my remote destination, and might prove of interest to those who favour the islay malts. though the road was rough enough to make billiard tables seem flat, on my return to thewashingmachinepost croft, that bottle was only mildly askew under the top tube, but still tightly fastened to the bicycle. i consider that to be the desired result and a great boon to my rural inner city travel expeditions, both now and in the future.
i am grateful to pronto gara for providing the taurus corinto. they are also the sole uk distributors of 24 bottles (£16) and the accompanying porta bottiglia. purchased together the cost is £32.
thursday 25 september 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................