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SINGLE MALT SCOTCH
The Place: Islay, Scotland
The Poison: Islay whiskeys taste of the rich dark earth itself—there's no mistaking the robust, smoky flavor that comes from the peat. Think of it as the radicchio of whiskey: strong and bitter, and an acquired taste.
The Buzz: At the southern end of the Inner Hebrides island chain, Islay is a rocky, windswept isle with more than 130 miles of spectacular Atlantic coastline and a mere 3,000 inhabitants to share the whiskey with. And these people like their whiskey: After all, the whole economy revolves around the production of single malt. Otherwise you'll commune with otters, seals, and lots of marine birds.
Down the Hatch: There are eight distilleries on the island, all of which are open for public tours. The Bowmore Distillery, established in 1779, is the oldest and still malts barley by hand—a laborious process of churning the grain every four hours for a week. The barley is dried by a peat fire: That smoke and the local Laggan River water give Islay whiskey its earthy richness.
Sleep It Off: Doze the buzz off at the intimate, ten-bedroom Port Charlotte Hotel, set in a 160-year-old Victorian. The property displays contemporary art from Scottish artists and serves up a collection of around 120 Islay single malts. Oh, and it's right on the sea.
Drink at Home: For a simple dram, buy the Bowmore 12 (around $40). The single-cask 16-year-old Lagavulin is a strong but complex Islay ($100).
Tel: 44 1496 81 0441
Port Charlotte Hotel
Tel: 44 1496 85 0360
Doubles from $230