Today was all about whisky and an afternoon walk to the American Monument on the Mull of Oa. A quick in and out visit to Laphroaig and Lagavulin was made to check out the visitor center, buy my tasting glass (I have been collecting them all along the journey) and get a general look at the set up. No tastings here. The highlight of the day was the visit to Ardbeg and my afternoon spent with Jackie Thompson who graciously chatted with me about the industry and then gave me a personal tour and offered me several tastings, explaining each one. Jackie has been at Ardbeg since 1997 and clearly loves her work and the distillery. Ardbeg is a bit more inventive and fun in its approach to marketing and presenting its brand and it was refreshing! There will be more to come about my visit to Ardbeg.
The American monument was erected by the American Red Cross in 1920 to commemorate the lives lost in two separate marine disasters in 1918. It sits atop a cliff on the tip of Oa and can be seen for miles around. It offers a breathtaking view of the sweeping Oa landscape and is well worth the walk to reach it. On 5 February 1918 the American troopship Tuscania was en route to the UK, carrying over 2,000 US soldiers, when it was hit by a German torpedo fired by U-boat UB77, 7 miles off the Islay coast. The loss of life was horrific; 200 American soldiers were lost, with 60 British crew either drowned or dashed to death on the jagged rocks. Later that same year, on 6 October, just 5 weeks before the Armistice that would end hostilities, the HMS Otranto sank near Kilchiaran in Machir Bay after a collision with the troopship HMS Kashmir in appalling weather. The Otranto sank within sight of shore, and a further 351 American servicemen died, with 80 British crew. The American and British dead were buried in a military cemetery atop the cliffs at Kilchoman. The Americans were later repatriated, but the British dead remain, many of their gravestones marked simply with ‘Known unto God’.