For the Seventh Time in a Row we hit Islay For Festival Week !
Saturday 24th May
Once again it was an Early start to get the 1pm ferry from Kennacraig , met up with Martin and his Family on board and also one of Chris’s (adogranonthepitch) friends . The journey over was fantastic , smooth as a babies bottom and nice and sunny . Once on the Isle we dropped our stuff off at Tigh Cargaman and dashed off to Ardbeg where we were greeted by Jackie and Mickey ! After a pot of tea , some lovely puddings and a natter with the main man himself we headed back to PE .
The Weekend supplies……
After a visit to get the non-essential supplies (you’ve gotta have something to soak the whisky up !) , we hit the Nippy chippy , which was rather conveniently parked opposite The Ramsey Hall , we soaked up some of the rays while eating our Fish and chips then returned to the cottage to enjoy a drink or two…..
The Evening Sun of Port Ellen
Dram of the Day ! – The Renaissance , WOW ! Yummy…..
Sunday 25th May
Once again we hit Laddie day with Beautiful weather , The sun is shining , the Skies are blue . There was a good turnout as usual with a mixture of both Visitors and Locals . There wasn’t much time between opening and Jims Masterclass but we did manage to grab a burger from the World Famous James Brown .
So to Jims Masterclass in Warehouse 12 , once again it was sold out ages ago , We met up with Martin( Hughes from the SOI chat and forum) when we got to the venue .As well as Jim we had Music from amongst others Robin Laing . So to the whisky……. we had 6 drams , all never tasted before , they were……
- Waves 2nd Edition 46% A youngster containing 2001 Bruichladdich , 2001 Port Charlotte and 2002 Octomore , from a mixture of ex-bourbon , sherry and wine casks . Had a red hue to it , Ozone ,dark fruits and smoke on the nose . Oaky , coastal and peaty on the palate with fudge . A long peaty finish with Dark fruits . Not one of my Favourites .
- PC 7 Unity 61.7% The next step ! Bright Gold in colour , a more balanced PC , heading the right way !
- Laddie 16yo 46% A 1991 Laddie finished for a year in Margot Casks , Bright Rose in Colour , Laddie Cream fudge on the nose with Red fruits on the Palate . Mel really liked this one .
- Laddie 1988 50.7 A “traditional” Laddie (yeehaa !) from ex-bourbon , Pale Straw in Colour , Laddie Fudge , green Fruits and Digestive Biscuits on the nose . Malty and green fruits on the palate . Basically everything on a long finish . This would have been my Favourite of the day but for this…….
- Laddie 18yo 55% From Jims Secret stash (his words) From one of 4 casks left over from a previous acing , so it’s 15 years in Bourbon and 3 years in chateau Yquem , now i didn’t like last years 18yo O.b. that had been aced but this was absolutely stunning !!!! Both Martin and Mel agreed with me on the fact that this was the best of the day .
- ? Didn’t get to know what this was as time was running out and it was used for the Highland toast and it got slung back in one !
After the Masterclass we headed back to the courtyard , for a bite more to eat , Catch up with old friends , buy a couple of X4 Valinches and met Bobby from the WM forum . It was an absolutely wonderful day , good company , good Whisky and good weather !
Monday 26th May
Once again we rise to bright sunshine ! Todays events are just a short walk from the Cottage , the first is Literally down the drive and along the road for a few hundred metres . Once again i’m doing the Monday Morning Tour of the Maltings , it’s just a shame that last year some plonker ruined it for everyone and they aren’t doing the usual food and a dram at the end . It was another interesting tour which i think any Malt fan should do to see how the Barley is malted on an industrial scale . It was nice to meet up with Patrick again , i even got to look at his newly purchased Limited Edition Port Ellen !
After picking up Mel , we headed along to The Old Kiln for lunch , as usual it was busy and while waiting for a table i relucantly had a dram of the 2008 Beist (need to find out if this is acually a 18yo now…..) . Once again the food was superb ( pan fried chicken in a creamy sauce with boiled rice) . At some point i had a 1975 from sherry cask 1375 thrust into my hand ( it’s magical where these drams keep coming from…….) , which was very , very good . Iwould go a bottle of this but for the price ! On par with the 76’s i think . It was nice putting another face to a name when Lee ( Newbie from the WM forum) introduced himself .
Every now and then i like to take a bottle “home” and try it at it’s birth place , this year i took a Sigbeg 1967 30yo Cask 1140 , the 1967’s are exceptional casks and this one is no different . I poured a dram on the pier (my favourite place for having one at the distillery ) and it was fantastic ! Picked up one thing here that i’ve never gotten at home and that was Dark Chocolate , after a while we moved to catch the Rays at the Barrel Chairs and by this time the dram was well down and it was incredibly smoky . Always been one to share drams with friends i gave Angus , Charles and June and of course the main man Mickey a try . No complaints from any of them…..infact Angus was still going on about it at the Nosing Ceilidh ! Charles and June were anazed and i think Mickey was shocked…….
In the Evening i left Mel in the Cottage and headed along to the Nosing Ceilidh , Had a beer with Ian Gray before entering in to battle to once again fail Miserably ! The usual candidate won , Anders , but it’s a good chance to have a natter with the distillery people and catch up with old friends . Actually got to meet Willie (from the WM forum) at last who was at the festival with his brother in Law Malcolm .
Dram of the Day – A close thing today but the Sigbeg 67 just edged it from the 1975
Tuesday 27th May
Today was a quiet day for us , sort of , nothing was booked so it was Mels choice what we did……
The morning was spent driving along to the Kildalton Cross , not much sign of wildlife though , must be sunning themselves up on the mountains…….. We then drove over to Bruichladdich to pick up a “Some Utter Fake” Valinch , after trying a wee sample and Mels eyes lighting up ( a good or bad sign depending which way you look at it……) we purchased another one , a really nice Aced Laddie ! We had a good natter to Mary , she even signed our copy of “The Whisky Dream” book . We also had a wee natter to Ella and The Main Man himself Jim !
Departing from Laddie we went for a drive down to Portnahaven stopping at the pub for a wee bite to eat , then after a drive back up the Atlantic coast of the Rhinns we went to the Port Charlotte Hotel for a bar meal . The food as usual was wonderful , lovely piece of local Lamb. We also had our first bit of rain today since we arrived , bummer !
It’s back to the Cottage now for a few drams of Ardbeg…..
4 Ardbegs , Head to Head , The Still Young , The Almost There , The Renaissance and The Mor . It’s interesting to see the development of the whisky thru the first 3 , it’s a bit unfair to compare them as they’ve all got their own little quirks . Comparing the Ren and Mor was a better idea……
Nose wise the AR is more prickly (a fresher bottle?) , seems fruitier as well , the Mor is a smoother peat nose . On the palate the Mor is really creamy whereas the AR seems more of a traditional peated whisky . The finishes are superbly long . Conclusion the Mor is better balanced at the moment but i’ll do another comparison after a few weeks of being open . God i’m spoilt at the moment all this Stunning Ardbeg ! Just Remember Homer’s Hypothesis……
Wednesday 28th May
Two Warehouses , Two different ends of the Isle , Two different styles…..
First off was an early Visit of the Lagavulin Warehouses with Manager Graham Logie and the wonderful Iain McArthur. This was the first time i’d been in any of their warehouses and the tasting was a something little different from the Norm . The whiskies we had were……
- 2000 8yo
- 1993 15yo
- 1966 42yo
- New Make
For the 8 and 15yo they actually took the ABV in front of us , didn’t make a note of them so can’t tell you what they were but i can tell you the 8yo was stunning with a drop of water in it but a bit harsh without . The 15yo was a very good example from a sherry cask and the 1966 was a grand dram , i didn’t think it was too woody though others did , the New Make was pretty good stuff as well . After the Visit Willie JJ kindly gave me a try of some 1951 Glen Grant which was pretty good too !
After a bite of lunch at the chateau , Mel and myself headed off for what in past couple of years has been the highlight of the Festival , Johns Warehouse and Maturation Tour at Bunnahabhain and this years didn’t disappoint ! Once again he cracked some exceedingly excellent casks …
- 2002 6yo Fresh Oloroso Butt ( the full dried fruits , Christmas cake sherry cask…..Superb !)
- 1977 31yo Refill Sherry Butt (Again Liquid Christmas cake with Edinburgh Rock /confectioners sugar)
- 1971 37yo Bourbon Hogshead ( Lime citric , full Bunnie taste……Wow!)
- 26/8/1997 Refill Sherry Hogshead Heavily peated Bunnie! ( good god this stuff could give a few of the other Islays sleepless nights , Beautiful !)
Another thoroughly wonderful afternoon , John is the perfect host , great wit , great knowledge !
For our Evening meal we tried somewhere different , we had a wonderful meal at The Bridgend Hotel , We can recommend the Loin of Islay Roe Deer and the Caramelised Duck Breast . Then it was back to The Cottage for a few Drams ……
Gordons’ Dram of the Day – 1971 37yo Bunnahabhain
Mels’ Dram of he Day – 2002 6yo Bunnahabhain
Thursday 29th May
An un-official Ardbeg Day…..Sort of…..
Seeing that we usually miss most of Ardbeg Day having to get the 3.30pm ferry to drive home (note to Feis Ile Committee ……Rotate distillery days , Laddies ok on the Sunday and Bunnie on the friday but it would be nice to have Ardbeg during the week so i can attend the day of my favourite Distillery !!!!!!) , ok rant over , where was i….. Oh yes this was our sort of un-official Ardbeg Distillery Day but Jackie and Mickey didn’t know……
So we headed off on the bus to Ardbeg on a glorious sunny day , for the first bit of the morning we sat on top of the hillock and in the Barrel chairs watching the good lads of Ardbeg filling 1st fill Oloroso Butts , Mickey did say which region they came from but i didn’t write it down . After baking for an hour we went into the Old Kiln for lunch and a bottle of Islay Ale , Boyd came in and asked me if the whisky was off……..
So at 2.30pm we gathered for Mickeys Managers Tour , slightly faster than usual through the production areas but longer in the warehouses…..My kind of tour ! We went in to warehouse Ten to start with , looking at the racking system and then went to Warehouse Three , letting us have a wander at first to see what we could find , i found the cask of 2002 i filled at that years festival , unfortunately it wasn’t in a good place to try……..
Instead we went for the Following……
- 2006 Madeira Cask (SFTC)
- The Renaissance
- 10yo Oloroso (cask sample)
- 1990 4th Refill Cask (SFTC)
- 1975 bottling (from cask 1378 , sister bottling to the 1375 i had on Monday)
- 2002 6yo (cask sample)
The 2006 Madeira was a little immature but had a nice colour and the fruitiness was there , the 10yo Oloroso was amazing , lovely colour , dryness and taste to it, the Sherry and peatiness intermixing nicely. The 1990 was different due to the cask , strange finish , like tunes sweets , the 1975 was very nice but not as nice as the 1375 i had on Monday . Again the 2002 was slightly immature but had a nice lemon and Melon nose . A good line up and a good way to look at how different Ardbeg can be through different ages and casks .
Gordons’ Dram of the Day - The 10yo Oloroso
Mels’ Dram of the Day – 1975 Cask 1378
Friday 30th May
Nearly the end of the week and it’s Bunnahabhain Day , once again it’s a scorcher and Bunnahabhain Bay looked as good as ever ! The only event i was doing was Kirstie McCallum’s Blending Class , this was the first one i’d attended since John Ramsey done one may moons ago in the same place . We were given 5 malts ( Bunnahabhain , Other Islay Vatting , Speyside Glenlivet Vatting , Speyside other Vatting and Highland Vatting ) and a Vatting of Grains , then asked to make a blend of 70% Grain/30% Malt . The winner got a Bottle of XVIII , unfortunately it wasn’t me but congrats to the Swiss guy with the lovely cheese ! Kirstie gave a very informative class but was fun with it . We got to keep the 200ml of blend we made .
After the class i had a chat and a dram with Robert van Hal from the Whisky Society Skane , nice to meet you ! Actually had a chat with a few people that day……Willie and Malcolm , Charles and June , Ian Gray and managed to get to chat with Alison from BSD Marketing . Also managed to get a try of the Festival bunnie bottling , Very good , not as nice as the 1990 but definitely not worth £200+ . After a wonderful tub of Scallops pan fried in Bunnahabhain Whisky i headed back to the Cottage…….
In the evening we went to The Midges , Music and Malt night at Bunnahabhain . We had a few drams at Charles and Junes beforehand including a Jura “Earth” , not bad for a Jura (i’m not a big fan of this malt) from a Sherry cask , it done what it said on the Bottle .
After previous years when this was the managers night (none tonight except the host) , this was a bit of a disappointment , Johns hostings was as good as ever and the Isle of Islay Pipe band were great , they had everyone stamping and clapping but the night seemed to get off to a bad start with Norma Monro and her friend . There seemed to be a lot of extremely bored people sitting around us . Don’t get me wrong Normas music is good in the right place but really to get the crowd going there should have been some foot stomping stuff to kick off with . The usual excellent Clootie Dumplings (cooked by Lillians Mother) was also missing , they served a tasty Cullen Skink in it’s place . We left when the Dancing started as we had an early start in the morning to vacate the cottage .
Saturday 31st May
It’s Ardbeg Day and again it’s hot , hot , hot ! After Vacating the Chateau Spiritofislay for another year , we went for a drive along to The Kildalton Cross before returning to the Distillery . As on every other Ardbeg Day there was lots going on , most of which we couldn’t take part in due to us getting the afternoon Ferry off the Isle .
A quiz , 2 managers tastings , lots of staff members tasting , Walks to the water source , a band and of course the famous Old Kiln food . We managed half the quiz and a meal (Fishtastic seafood Salad for me and a stunning Cheesey, Cheesey Macaroni for Mel ) . We managed to pick up a few of the special T-shirts before bidding farewell to another festival .
I think weather wise this has been one of the best , all of the special events we’ve been to have been great . Thanks to all concerned and we’ll see you again next year !