Islay Whisky Classics No.6 – Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 1966

The Second of Bunnahabhains Feis Ile offerings , this one was distilled on  the 16th May 1966 , matured in sherry butt no.4379 for 35 years and then bottled on the 19th March 2002 producing an outturn of 401 bottles .

Bunnahabhain 1966 Feis Ile

A beautiful deep Mahogany colour in the glass , the nose just oozes sherry class , you could say liquid Christmas cake in the glass , dried fruits ( currants , sultanas ) , glace cherries , lemon peel , cake dough and a nice dry sherry . The palate pretty much carries the themes of the nose on , very dry oloroso sherry , dried fruits etc etc , so nice across the tongue , a slight sweetness (them cola cube sweets….) that leads into a wonderful long finish of dry sherry , christmas cake and marzipan .

Mmmmmmm…… Old Sherried Bunnahabhain……. at it’s best , they certainly seem to know what they were doing back in the 60′s , not one bit of nastiness from the sherry cask so selection was good , i’d put up these Bunnas against any other old sherried drams !

Islay Whisky Classics No.5 – Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 1965

Way back in 2001 when bottle chasers were unknown and nobody had heard of E-bay , Bunnahabhain released their very first Feis Ile bottling , a 35yo From Sherry butt no.7159 . Distilled on the 1st November 1965 and bottled on the 4th April 2001 at an abv of 53.9% , i picked this bottle up at Fenwicks department store in Newcastle for the princely sum of £95 !

Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 1965

Only one of 594 bottles , it is a glorious mahogany colour , The nose is exactly what you’d expect , Surprisingly not over-powering sherry , it’s there but the spiciness and christmas cake keeps it in check . A gentle giant on the nose . The palate is sherried but with vanilla , dried fruits ,   Cola Cubes sweets ,and a touch of peat , glorious ! The finish is where the sherry hits home a bit more along with a tad a spiciness and a touch pepper . 

An absolute stunner of a Bunnahabhain , a bottling which totally changed my opinion of this remote distillery and which led to me delving deeper into the output of this much underrated Islay .

Feis Ile 2009

For the Eighth Year we’re back at Festival time !

We’ve decided to make this he last visit to the Festival for a while as we seem to have been gradually attending less and less events over the years . Given the extra cost involved in accommodation we will be moving our Spring Holiday to another week . So to what we got up to……….

Saturday 23rd May

Due to the 1pm being full by the time we got around to booking up , it was the 7am one for us which meant an overnight journey . A fairly uneventful journey apart from an accident on the M74 , the M8 being shut , getting pulled over by the police on the M8 Diversion ( apparently they were worried about the amount of breaking i was doing , wondered if something was wrong …..Yeah i didn’t have an Ffing clue where i was !) , 2 Stags , 1 Barn Owl and a Fox !

The Weather turned just before the ferry Left and it was a bit choppy and foggy by the time we got to Port Ellen . Once on the Isle it was straight to Ardbeg where the Festival bottles were flying off the shelves ……

Two 1998 Ardbegs

(Click on Photos to see full size version)

After a Supernova (first dram on the Isle of this visit…) , purchasing 2 of each , Tea and Scones and a chat with Mickey and Jackie we headed off to Lagavulin for a Tour with Marjory . As usual it was a pleasure doing a tour with Marjory , at the end we got a dram of a 1993 , 16yo at Cask Strength . Very nice it was too ! Eventually after a plate of Scallops , a trip to the Co-op , chat with old friends we went to Our place of residence for this Holiday ,The Garden Cottage at Tigh Cargaman . We started the Evening with a Fish Supper from the Legendary “Nippy Chippy” , Superb as usual ! Then it was Time to try todays Purchases…..

Sunday 24th May

This Morning i had the great pleasure of Accompanying Mickey Heads up to Loch Uigeadail . As many of you know the wall holding the water in has been leaking for over a year and they started doing repairs on it a few weeks ago , he had to go up and have a look at the building work and kindly agreed to let me tag along . Having never been up to Uigeadail i didn’t realise what i’d let my self in for ! The first bit isn’t too bad up to Loch Iarnan (the Closest of the two water sources to the distillery ) , this loch will also be getting some attention in the near future .

Loch IarnanThe next stage included Peat Bogs , climbing a deer fence , spotting deer and following the line of the water course , the climb up to Loch Uigeadail was very hard on the legs but worth it to get the views from the top . You could see clear across to the Mull of Kintyre and Northern Ireland .

View from the top of UigeadailThe water in the Loch was fairly low , mainly due to the problem with the leaking wall and the repair work going on…..

UigeadailSo after a break we headed back down to the distillery , avoiding herds of deer amongst other things!

Herd of DeerWe decided to hit the bright lights of Bowmore for our meal this evening , having a curry at the Taj Mahal . It was excellent ! We even managed to have a drink in the Lochside beforehand , tried the Bunnahabhain Moine (festival Bottling ) , wasn’t the best peated Bunnahabhain i’ve had so will probably give it a miss.

Monday 25th May

Mickeys Tastings (Part 1)

An Early start at Ardbeg this morning for the First of todays two tastings , this one was the Committee and Special botllings one . Mickey gave us a quick tour first as there were a few who hadn’t been at the distillery before . The tasing took place in the gallery on the top floor of the Old Kiln , the Malts tasted were ……

Ardbeg tasting

  • Corryvreckan (Committee Bottling)
  • Supernova
  • 1992 Cask 772
  • 1998 Toasted Cask 1189
  • 1998 Toasted Cask 1190

Not a bad line up ! Tasting notes for the 772 are as follows….

1992 16yo Cask 772

Year1992 Age16yo ABV55.7%
ColourBright Gold .
NoseCreamy Fudge , Slight Smoke , Lemon , pine nuts , the lemon is the most dominant one of the lot and when water is added seems to increase .
TasteMenthol and Strong Coffee .
FinishLong and Menthol .
CommentsDist 30th April 1992 , Bottled 10th December 2008 , 184 bottles from a 1st Fill Ex Bourbon Cask . not a bad Ardbeg but not what i would say was one of my favourite and certainly , imo , not worth £192 a bottle…..

On tasting the two Festival together for the first time i would say the 1190 is my favourite .

Mickey hosting the morning TastingLunch was had at the Old Kiln , in the company of the LWS and also managed to say hello to Christine Logan and Gallus . Also Bobby appeared for the Afternoon “Birth to Bottle” tasting in Warehouse 3 . An interesting tasting Not at least because the tasting menu was handed out wrapped around a Babies Bottle……
3 years were chosen ( 2000 – 9yo , 2003 – 6yo , 2006 – 3yo ) and then we were given the chance to try 3 samples from each one , one from a Bourbon 1st fill , one from a Bourbon Refill and one from a sherry cask . The full details are….. (in order Tasted)

Mickey Hosting the Afternoon Tasting
  • 2006 Refill Bourbon Cask 2185 61.8%
  • 2006 1st Fill Bourbon Cask 1721 61.4%
  • 2003 Refill Bourbon Cask 897 60.6%
  • 2003 1st Fill Bourbon Cask 1312 60.3%
  • 2000 Refill Bourbon Cask 2771 57.1%
  • 2000 1st Fill Bourbon Cask 368 58.4%
  • 2006 Refill Sherry Cask 3354 61.4%
  • 2003 Refill Sherry Cask 2815 2815 58.1%
  • 2000 1st Fill Sherry Cask 3090 58.7%

It was great seeing the difference between fresh and refilled Casks and it was very noticable , needless to say the spirit also improved with age , the 9yo 1st fill was cracking stuff , very Renaissance like . The older sherry one was also the best of the sherried ones .

As it was Monday it was Nosing Competition night and once again we managed to fail Gloriously ! Met up with Willie for the first time this week as well and bumped into Tim from the Whisky Exchange and the Caskstrength .net boys .

Tuesday 26th May

Who says Ardbegs are too Deer ?

A bit of a quiet day today for us , had to go down and pick up the car just before lunch , it’s nice to go down to Ardbeg by bus , gives me a chance to view the Scenery for once . When we got off the bus at the top of the road we spotted something going on down at the distilley , a small group of deer (what constitutes a Herd ?) wandering around…..

They must have “herd” how good the Whisky is…..

After the excitement we managed to “Stag”ger into the Old Kiln for a pot of tea and some Scones , now there are Scones and there are Old Kiln Scones , the lightest i’ve ever had , in fact they nearly blew away when someone opened the door ! We also managed to catch up with some old friends , Charles and June , Charles some of you may know as he ‘s a regular at the festival and makes some fantastic walking sticks . After a few purchases we headed off for a nice drive along the South Shore .
Deer at the Old Kiln
....Around the warehouses
....And away !

In the evening we headed over to Bruichladdich for a meal at An Taigh Osda . What can i say about this place ? If you haven’t read about our visit last August and our stay at Easter then all i can say is Joan and Paul have the best place to eat on Islay , full stop ! We had another fantastic meal , as usual the hardest part was choosing what to have ! Mel went for the Lochindaal Crab and Lobster Fish cake for starters followed by the Gressingham Duck , i went for Crispy Haggis dumpling with a truly outstanding Bruichladdich Whisky Sauce followed by a melt in the mouth Aberdeen Angus Sirloin Steak ! No doubt about the fact we’ll be back there on our next visit…..

Wednesday 27th May

Quiet Day….

Another quiet day on Islay for us , a bitof a lie in before hitting the bright lights of Bowmore for a bit shopping . Mel got a few things from Ailsa’s Spirited Soap shop then we kept bumping into people from various forums ( Ruby , Longroad , and Willie amongst others ) . We then went for a drive down to Portnahaven stopping for a bite to eat at An Tigh Seinnse . We came back via the west route from Portnahaven and a little bit of taking in the scenery eventually ended up at The Port Charlotte Hotel for Tea .

The evening was spent back at the Cottage enjoying a few drams on the weekly SOI Chat .

Thursday 28th May

Mickeys Tastings (Part 2)

Arrived at Ardbeg this morning for todays tastings to find strange going ons…..

Strange Going ons.....
All will be revealed in the not too distant future…..

Once again both tastings were superb again, met Anthony Louis at the morning one , the afternoon one had a few different casks in it , a 10yo 1st fill Bourbon and a 10yo refill Sherry which was better than the original 9yo one , not a hint of sulphur ! The Evening was spent relaxing in the cottage again.

Friday 29th May

Last Full day…..

The Last full day on Islay , A bit of a bit’s and pieces day , first off it was a trip to Ardbeg on the bus to pick up our car . While there we run into Christine (Logan , The Lady of the Isles ) and we sat down to have a catch up over a cup of tea and some Scones (can’t leave them Ardbeg Scones alone…..) , it’s always nice to see the lovely people of Islay that we’ve befriended over the years and it’s always a joy to see Christine ! Over the conversation we found she’s to be on a Scottish TV programme shortly ( The teatime show at 5pm ) discussing her favourite places on Islay . We were talking about places and she told us to visit a couple around Port Ellen we’d never been to , Swans Pool and the Standing Stone . So we paid them a Visit before returning to Ardbeg for Lunch……


View of Swan Pool , just behind The Ard .

Swan Pool

View of Swan Pool

Swan Pool

View of Swan Pool

The Swan

Swan Painting originally by Sean O’Leary , which has been touched up over the years by the locals . He also done paintings in the Islay Hotel , The Bowmore Hotel , The Jura Hotel amongst others….

Laphroaig Distillery

Laphroaig Distillery From Swan Pool

Calmac Ferry

The Calmac Ferry entering Port Ellen , Viewed from atop of The Ard

We returned to the Cottage to wrap up our stuff as we were heading out for the night . We headed over to Port Charlotte to have a meal at the hotel then went to Bowmore to meet up with Willie , Malcolm and a few fellow whisky forumers at the Lochside . After a few drinks My self , Mel , Willie and Malcolm moved up to the Bowmore Hotel to see North Sea Gas . We managed to last until the Witching Hour when we departed back to Port Ellen . The Bowmore Hotel had a bottle of one of the “Scottish Wildlife” Whiskies , the Mortlach 10yo , which i have to say was a lot better than the Port Ellen one i’ve got and it was only £3.85 a dram !

Port Ellen Standing stone

Standing Stone just outside of Port Ellen

Saturday 30th May

Ardbeg Day and Home….

Woke up to Glorious Sunshine this morning ! After Loading up the car we headed along to Ardbeg for their festivities , It seemed even sunnier when we got down there ! We weren’t taking part in any of the tastings but reports were very good about them ! After soaking up some rays at the Pier and on the hillock we retired to the Old Kiln for Lunch , as usual an amazing menu ! I had the Stovie and Mel had the Homemade Ardbeg Beefburger , we both finished off with the Raspberry and Drambuie Tart . I even managed a 1975 Ardbeg from cask 1375 !

An Ardbeg Fan Admires the viewAn Ardbeg Fan contemplates the View…..

Ardbeg Pier Mel on the Pier
Gordon on Ardbeg Day The Homers on Ardbeg day

After catching up with more Friends and bidding our farewells, it was time to leave Ardbeg for the Ferry .
Mel at Ardbeg
Mel enjoying the Day !

We may not have done as much this year but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and it’s been great to finally meet a load of people off the old SOI Forum and look forward to seeing them again on Islay ! Only 9 weeks till we once again set foot on The Queen of The Hebrides !

Feis Ile 2008

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……

Ardbeg RenaissanceAfter 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…..

Port Ellen

Port EllenThe 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 !

Jims MasterclassAfter 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 !

View from LaddieMonday 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 !

Feis Ile 2007

Once more to the Islay Whisky festival….

Our 6th year in a row …..who said they weren’t coming back after the first year ????

Saturday 26th May

Another early , 4.10am , but we made good time up to the ferry , nice quiet roads just a shame about the odd showers we kept on hitting . Met up with Martin from the wednesday chat at the ferry terminal and Robin Laing on board . We had something a bit different on the journey over , a band playing in the bar !

The trouble is Calmac have set a precedent now….

Celtic Spirit Band

Celtic Spirit ( a rock-n-roll bag pipe band….) treat us to a short set including We Will Rock You and Yellow Submarine ! Highly entertaining ! They will be preforming at Laddie Tomorrow ( Sorry about the poor quality photo only had Camera phone at hand .

Got Settled down in the Stable Cottage and went for something to eat at The White Hart where we bumped into some old Festival Friends . A good start to the festival , now onto Laddie Day……..

Sunday 27th May

Bruichladdich Day ….

Well it’s Bruichladdich day and Surprise , Surprise it was glorious sunshine ! Spots of rain in the morning , bit breezy but glorious Sunshine !!!! Didn’t get to cutting ceremony at Port Charlotte , we always get a taxi to Laddie and it would have been a bit awkward getting back to Bruichladdich . Things kicked off at 1pm due to the festivities up the road, first up was the Festival Valinch , a Port Charlotte (Cask 007, Distilled 28/05/01 , 61.5% ) . Then it was off to The highlight of the afternoon , Jims Masterclass , another highly entertaining afternoon with a superb selection of whiskies. For the first time it was a McEwan Double act that hosted the Masterclass , Jim was joined by daughter Lynn . We also had a BBC camera crew present and a wee musically breaks provided by amongst others Robin Laing . It was also the opening of the new vatting facility (the Vatican as Jim called it ) , the first cask was ceremonially emptied into the system by the chairman of Bruichladdich .

(Click on the photos to see full size version)

Jims Masterclass Lynne Doing the Masterclass Robin Laing at the Masterclass
  • Malt No.1 – Bruichladdich 6yo
  • Malt No.2 – 15yo 2nd Edition
  • Malt No.3 – X4 10.5 month Old
  • Malt No.4 – Legacy 6
  • Malt No.5 – Redder Still
  • Malt No.6 – Octomore 2003
opening of the Vatican opening of the Vatican Laddie Warehouse

The 6yo Laddie was the first produced by the company in 2001 , slightly peated, sea air , green fruits , extremely fruity when water was added , a long finish with peat smoke . The 15yo was Mels Favourite , this one reminded me a bit of a Bunnahabhain , Edinburgh rock with dark fruits .

To say that No.3 was a show stopper was an understatement , from a bloodtub at 78.4% , sherry , vanilla and so , so , smooth . Bloody Hell it was good ! No.4 is the last ever Legacy , made up from a 1965 Bourbon , a 1970 Bourbon and a 1972 Sherry Cask , it was my favourite (i love old Laddie ) , Classic Laddie !

Next up was the follow up to The Blacker Still , The Redder Still ! Made up of 1984 Laddie finished in another wine cask , Can’t remember which , it was a very good whisky . Last up was some 2003 Octomore (the really heavily peated stuff) , all i can say is a smooth PEATY dram , lovely stuff . At the end of the masterclass we were shown the new style warehouse 12 , for a racked system we were pretty impressed , they are certainly putting their money where their mouths is . Outside lots of mingling with friends , the usual abuse from Richard Joynson and more music from various artists including Robin again . A good day was had by all !

Laddie Warehouse Robin Laing at Laddie Laddie warehouse

Monday 28th May

A Day in Port Ellen….

Today was a fairly easy day as everything we were attending was in walking distance of our base for the festival . First off was the Port Ellen Maltings Masterclass . We were given a brief tour of the Maltings to begin with , right from the steeps to the kiln , we then moved on to the engineering department (part of the original Distillery) to get talked through the history of the maltings , the finer points of malting , what exactly happens and how a Bag of Chocolate Eclairs and Marsh Mallows can explain what happens to a grain of Barley in the process ! After Peter Campbell had given us a 6th edition Port Ellen (which i must say is probably the best of the annual editions i’ve had ) , we headed back to the main buiding for more drams and a bite to eat . Here i met up with 3 participants of the sites forum , Rene , Michael and Matt , Eventually we ended up back at Tigh Cargaman for a few drams and a natter .

After the guys left and we had something to eat we headed along to Ramsey Hall for the Nosing Competition , this was the second year we’d attended this and we certainly hoped we’d do better than the “failed Miserably” of last year . A fairly sucessful score of 3 out of 10 on the night (unless you’ve done it don’t laugh , it’s bloody hard!) , at least i identified the Ardbeg , the Lagavulin and the Jura (smell give it away…….) .

Tuesday 29th May

A Warehouse tour with John ….

So onto Tuesday , after a quick trip to Bruichladdich to pick up a couple of Valinches i couldn’t get on Sunday it was off to the event we’d been looking forward to since last years , John (Mac lellans) Warehouse and Maturation Tour !

Once again John did not disappoint ! Great patter , fantastic stories and outstanding drams …..

John in the Warehouse

  • 4yo from a 2003 from a Sherry cask
  • 1977
  • 1971 (sister cask to the 125th anniversary bottling casks)
  • 10yo 1997 Moine

The 4yo was really mature for it’s age , very balanced between the sherry and the Bunnahabhain taste (Mels Favourite of the tour ) . The 1977 was an exceptional dram , Edinburgh Rock , maritime air . The 71 was amazing , everything you want from a Bunny and more , so smooth again maritimey and one of them drams where you could just have stood for an age in the warehouse smelling it , savouring every taste . Last up we revisited the Moine , boy is this getting better with age ! smooth and peaty and an amazing Chocolate taste , Delicious ! The 71 was my favourite ( release more at a slightly cheaper price please !) , another wonderful afternoon with John , looking forward to the next one already !!!!

After such a delight of malts we headed off to The Port Charlotte Hotel for a bite to eat ( Wouldn’t have done the day justice to have eaten anywhere else …..) .

Wednesday 30th May

Well we’ve set something of a record this trip , it’s took us till Wednesday to get to the Old Kiln cafe to see Jackie and the girls ! We had lunch and even managed to force down a dram of Ardbeg Mor that was forced into our hands ! After Lunch , avoiding the BBC camera crew , We then went off on the Ardbeg Managers tour , this was the first chance we had to meet Mickey (Heads) the new manager . He’s a really nice guy , great sense of humour , very knowledgable about his job and we thoroughly enjoyed his tour , a great way to spend a lovely sunny Islay afternoon . We even got to try a few drams an Almost There , another Mor , an Uigeadail and an 8yo from a toasted cask . We also managed to pick up a wee dram as well………

Mickey Heads Big ! Big and Littler....

Oh ah a little bit Mor......

Thursday 31st May

A Quiet day….

This was our only quiet day of the festival so we headed off for a nice drive down the Rhinns on a lovely sunny day!

We stopped for lunch at the “An Tigh Seinnse” in Portnahaven , We had a gorgeous bowl of Homemade Portnahaven Crab Soup with Garlic Bread . I also got to try The Bunnahabhain Festival bottling while there and it turned out to be another stunning Bunny Bottling , after lunch we headed back up the coastal road back to Port Charlotte . We then went for a drive over the Mulindry Road and eventually headed back to Port Ellen for a quiet night in packing our stuff up ready for the Morning Ferry .

Friday 1st June

Homeward Bound ….

So we bid farewell to The Feis Ile on the 9.45am ferry from Port Ellen . Another glorious week with superb weather but we shall once again return to the Feis Ile (next year !) .

On the way back we stopped off at Inveraray for lunch at The George and paid Richard a quick visit at LFW before heading off home …….

Feis Ile 2006

Another Day….Another Islay Whisky Festival….

Well here we are again at the 7th Annual Whisky Festival , our 5th in a row !

Saturday 27th May

This year we are residing in the “Deep South” , Port Ellen , In a cottage in the grounds of the Former distillery managers house , just a stone throw away from The Maltings (Smell that Peat !!!!) . After an early start (4.30am) and the disappointment of not getting on the meal again (how about a fairer way of assigning the tickets Ardbeg ? E-mail lottery ? Just so people not already on the island on the Saturday morning have an equal chance .) we settled down , had a lovely indian takeaway from the local restaurant ,a bit rest then hit Ardbeg for the midnight tour !

(Click on the photos to see the full size version)

Jackie onthe midnight tour

As usual Jackie had put a new twist on the tour , a murder mystery in the Malt Barn ! Best way to describe it is “Cluedo on Ardbeg ” , Loads of fun , lots of stories and seeing bits of the distillery you never get to see ( Trivia question – do you know where the Barley steeps are in the Old kiln Building ? ) . Had a try of a great 1975 Fino Beg (cask 4715) , there were only 6 1975′s left , 3 are no good for single cask bottlings , 1 has been done for this years festival (4717 ) so if you’ve paid the £299 for it you’ve got one of the last ones…..

Malt Barn The Hanging Ardbeg Still

Stuart was on fine form as usual on the tour. So now onto 2 competitions i shall be running this week , even though i think we’ve got a winner in one (or both depending how you look at it !) …….

Unbelievable Question of the day ! Winner …Heard on the 1pm ferry asked by a German ” so where will i find some accommodation on islay during the festival ?”…… Runner up …..On the midnight tour “Stuart the door below the Old Ardbeg sign , when we first came in 1998 it was Red , the last time we were here it was green , now it’s not there , where’s it gone ?” . (My apologies to the people involved it’s just a bit of fun…..).

Malt of the day ! The 1975 Cask 4715 Ardbeg

Sunday 28th May

Bruichladdich Day !
It’s Sunday , It’s Sunny ( how does he do it !) so it must be Laddie Day !

Time to meet up with old friends , drink a few whiskies and buy a few Valinches . There were 3 on sale today , they were :-

  • <”Cotes Du Rhinns” 1989 Laddie finished in a Guigal Hermitage Syrah Cask 53%.
  • “The Mayor of Islay” 1988 sherry casked Laddie 58.5% .
  • “The Drambusters” 1990 Bourbon Casked Laddie 56.9%.

After the official presentation to the Mayor of Islay (Peru) , we were treated to a flying display by the “Drambusters” (you couldn’t make this up…..) ,then after a delicious venison burger , a few drams , a brief look at Ian Grays culinary skills we headed off to Jims Masterclass . As usual we were treated to great patter , beautiful music and 5 great Drams……

  • Malt No.1 – The “X4″ ….86% of pure fun….Sooo smooth !
  • Malt No.2 – 1989 Rosebank finished in a wine cask 56.2%
  • Malt No.3 – Laddie 1989 finished in a guigal syrah cask 52.4%
  • Malt No.4 – One of the last 1970 Laddies soon to be finished in a wine cask (Why?) 43.1%
  • Malt No.5 – “Duncans Dram” , a special vatting of 125 years of Bruichladdich specially for Duncan the manager , not going to be available 1 bottle only! 46.8%

The 1970 was a dream but why are they going to finish it in wine ? so after that we mingled a bit , talked to old friends then headed back to Port Ellen for a tasty Indian and a quiet night ……

My PC on Display PC on display

“Dram of the Day” - The 1970 Laddie !

Monday 29th May

A Quiet sort of day…..

Seeing we’ve done both Caol Ila and the Maltings in the past we decided to skip these this year and had a leisurely day . So we got the bus down to Ardbeg and had our lunch in The Old Kiln Cafe , a gorgeous Islay Steak and Ale Pie , it also gave me the chance not to worry about my drinks consumption while driving (especially with a strong police presence on the Isle during the festival) . Got to try the festival Bottling as well , which is a very good Ardbeg but not worth £300 IMHO !

The Laddie Crew !At the night time we went along to the whisky tasting ceilidh , our first one after 5 visits , we took part in the Tasting competition and failed miserably ! It’s very hard to do , seeing you can’t see what colour they are due to the blue glasses , basically there are 10 glasses , 8 of which you have to name the malts then 2 new makes you have to identify . We didn’t stay for the dancing as we got talked into going to the White Hart by Stuart and Ian Gray (easily lead…..) , but we thoroughly enjoyed the night .

Malt of the day – Toss up between the Oogling and the 1975 cask 4717 (on price the Oogling…….)

Tuesday 30th May

Bunnahabhain Warehouse Tour

After Lunch at The Port Charlotte Hotel , which was superb as usual , we headed down to Bunnahabhain for what has turned out to be the highlight of the festival (so far….) , a tour of No.4 warehouse with John the manager . Those of you who know John will have some idea of the humourous content of his tour , needless to say it got around to his specialised subject Jim McEwan (or his Grandad as he refers to him…..) , all good hearted stuff !!!!

The tour wasn’t what we expected , basically he showed us the difference in maturation between various casks and we got to try some stunning Bunnahabhains . I’ve always had a high regard for old Bunnies (the 65/66 festivals bottlings and the Auld Acquaintance) and found the younger ones to be very hit and miss but he showed us four exceptional casks . First off was the best of the four a 1976 refill sherry butt , if he’d offered me the chance of this one i would have bought it , absolutely stunning ! Next up was a 1977 RS to show us what difference there can be between similar casks with one year less maturation , again superb but not quite upto the first one . For the Third one we moved up stairs to try a 1969 Bourbon hogshead , absolutely fantastic , somebody thought it was a bit soapy but i found nothing at all wrong with it . Lastly was a bit of surprise to some of the group , the old 1997 peated Bunny (Moine as it was bottled a few festivals ago ) , this was is coming along really well , still spirity but boy it goes down really well!!!! A really good hour and a half was had by all , but can i please ask everyone if they go on a special event like this , please don’t spoil it by starting to talk to your friend in your native tongue as we want to hear the man who has taken time out to do this ! You know who you are …..after all we’re not going to talk through your world cup………

Bunnahabhain Warehouse Tour with John Bunnahabhain Warehouse Tour with John
Bunnahabhain Warehouse Tour with John Bunnahabhain Warehouse Tour with John

After the tour we headed back to the distillery shop and picked up our Bunnahabhain festival bottling , a 14yo Pedro Ximenez finish , which i might just have to crack tonight to see if it’s worth picking up another one as the tasting notes on the back have got my mouth salivating ……

We hope they will get around to bottling some of the ones we tried , according to John there’s plenty of old stock , the clock is ticking on the 1969 we tried as it’s heading down to the lower 40′s percent wise . There’s a 1971 due out later in the year for their 125th anniversary bottling but it’s going to be limited to 700 and odd bottles worldwide .

Malt of the day - 1976/ 1969/1997 Bunnahabhains !

Wednesday 31st May

A trip to Kilchoman

Another Glorious day on Islay ! Today we headed off to Kilchoman to have a look around Islays newest distillery and it didn’t disappoint ! We’d missed the 11am tour but they kindly agreed to give us a look at the place before the 3pm tour, Paula the visitors centre Manageress took us around , she’ll be a familiar face to a lot of people as she used to work at Ardbeg . The Kiln is currently out of bounds as they recently had a fire , the rest is very compact and nicely put together , the stillhouse is stunning with possibly the cutest stills in the whole of Scotland ! We got to try 6 month old 63.5% new make and boy is it stunning , Fruity ,Smoky and so smooth , not trace of feints at all ! The Visitors centre is very smart and well stocked complete with a lovely cafe with good light lunches and a canny view over Loch Griunart. We also got to talk to Distillery manager Malcolm Rennie (another familiar face , former Ardbeg stillman and Son of John Rennie the recently retired ace warehouseman at Bruichladdich !) , the future sounds very promising with this Crew !

Well worth the trip over !

Thursday 1st June

A Lazy Day….

Seeing this is a bit more of a holiday for us ( attending less events ), we had a bit of a lazy day . After Lunch at the Croft Kitchen , the homemade Mushroom soup is well recommended , we dropped in on Bruichladdich Distillery to say hello to Mary and Ella , As it happens we got to speak to Jim as well . The panics over about the 1970 there is more than the stuff going into the wine casks , plenty more to go around after that , Jim says everybody was saying “Why ?” But there is other stock….Phew! After we bid fair well we headed down the Rhinns for a nice drive , so tonight it’s off to Bowmore for the finest Fish and Chips from the legendary “Nippy Chippy” then a (not so) quiet night in ….. in Duffies bar with Ian (Gray) and Stephanie playing darts , drinking (well not me , i was driving ) and then we got our own little flying display on the way home from one of the local owls on the low road .

Friday 2nd June

Old Kiln and Condensers…..

After another lunch at the Old Kiln it was home to pack up ready for our departure from the Old Cottage , a lovely place to stay , nice views over Kilnaughton Bay and the smell from the Maltings is wonderful ! In the evening we made our way to Bunnahabhain Distillery for the traditional last night Condensor Ball . Once again John Mac lellan was the perfect host , taking the mickey out of everyone including the absent Jim McEwan (get well soon !) and us Englishmen ! Lots of good stories , Great music from locals and guest band Blazin’ Fiddles . Always a good way to spend the Friday night of Festival week . We left at 11pm as we had an early start to get out of our accomodation .

Saturday 3rd June

Ardbeg Day

Our last day on the Isle and what a better way to spend it than in the Parish of Kildalton ! After leaving Port Ellen we drove along to Kildalton church and spent a little while watching the local wildlife ,including a few deer . Then it was off to Ardbegs’ Day , once again Jackie had come up with a cracking theme ….Sheep ! There were sheep in pens , a sheep (lucky) dip , staff dressed as shepherds , Shepherds pie , Baaa….noffi Pie (groan!) , a sheepish quiz and the long over due return of Clann an Drumma ! A Cracking day only cut short by us having to catch the 3.30pm ferry from Port Askaig ….we bid farewell to all our friends at Ardbeg day and another superb festival ….Till the next one !!!!

Feis Ile 2005

Westering Home ……..

Saturday 28th May

Travelling through the night in wind and rain we arrived at Kennacraig at about 3.15 am , it wasn’t until about 6am that we first met up with fellow dramsters Keith , Ali , Livvy , Tim , Mercer and Dave . After a slightly rough journey over and the disappointment of not getting on the legendary Candelit dinner, our first port of call was Ardbeg (Naturally !) . The festival bottlings on offer this year are a pair of 1975′s distilled on Boxing Day , one Fino cask , one Oloroso cask , at £180 a bottle each (EEK!) , neither was purchased by yours truly…… After meeting up with old friends Stuart , Jackie , Ian Gray,Martine Nouet , Salvatori and finally getting to meet Jay , Scott and Peter , we headed to The Port Charlotte Hotel for lunch . Calling at The Laddie to see Mary and pick up some outstanding bottles , we had a very nice Islay Steak and then headed off to The Inns to take up our festival residency in Bowmore . After a flying visit to Claggan to see the Plowed mob , A quiet night was on the cards after a hectic 40 or so hours with very little sleep , especially with Bruichladdich Day on the Horizon……….

Sunday 29th May

Once again the devil looks after his own and we wake up to beautiful sunshine , another hot and busy day at Bruichladdich ! Plenty to do and see as usual , there had been a road race and cycle trial in the morning , pipe band , dancing and the handing over of the Queens Award flag in the afternoon . There were 6 valinches available on the day (i left with 3 ) , they were :-

  • “Purest” 1990 15yo Refill Bourbon Cask 710 55.5%
  • “Queens Award” 1989 16yo Refill Sherry Cask 944 55.7%
  • “Murray McDavid Bloodtub Valinch” Ardbeg 1991 14yo Cask 643 57.4%
  • “Murray McDavid Bloodtub Valinch” Caol Ila 1993 12yo Cask 1 55.1%
  • “Murray McDavid Bloodtub Valinch” Laphroaig 1988 16yo Cask 9204 54.9%
  • “Murray McDavid Bloodtub Valinch” Cooley Irish 1993 11yo Cask 35 58.5%

After a pint and a burger we headed of to the main event , Jim’s Masterclass , another thoroughly entertaining event , a good selection of whisky and a good crowd……

  • “Bruichladdich Rocks “
  • “Bruichladdich 15 2nd Edition “
  • “Moine Mhor (the Big Peat) 50% “
  • “Murray McDavid Bunnahabhain 1968″
  • “Bruichladdich 20yo Flirtation “
  • “Bruichladdich 1968 Legacy “

It was a toss up between the Bunny 68 and the Laddie 68 which was the best for me , Mel’s favourite was the Laddie Rocks (which contains 2001 Laddie ) . They had a malt bar on selling old and new Laddie from the New Moine mhor at £3 a dram to the Laddie 40yo at £45 a dram . After a long day we headed back to The Inns for a quiet night .

Monday 30th May

Morning – Caol Ila Tasting and Tour

An Early start Caol Ila for Billy Stitchells Tasting Class , this was the first year i’d managed to get on this and the wait was worth it . Billy , as with the othe Islay Distillery managers , has a great line in patter and many a story to tell . There was a good selection in the tasting and a Couple of a surprises .

  • “Caol Ila New Make” *
  • “Caol ila 4yo “
  • “Caol ila 4yo Unpeated “
  • “Caol ila 12yo”
  • “Caol Ila 18yo”
  • “Caol Ila Caskstrength”

The first surprise was that ever other person got unpeated new make , we were able to swap and see the difference , it showed how peaty and smoky the ordinary CI was . The second surprise was the cask strength at the end , it wasn’t the usual CS , it was the 25yo and boy what a dram it was ! The most medicinal (Germolene) O.B. i have had , very near to the 21yo SMWS bottling . Then it was off to the Tour with Marjory from Lagavulin , a nice tour it was too !
Afternoon – Port Ellen Maltings
So a dash across the Island , first to meet up with Mel , second to hit The White Hart for Lunch and lastly to tour the Maltings ! Again the usual tour (or as about as usual as it can be with the Malt Maniacs going along , these guys get everywhere !) , but where were the Venison burgers ? Afterwards we gave the use of our flat to Livvy for a bit of quiet revision for an exam she was taking at the Islay High School the next day . We headed over to The Port Charlotte Hotel for dinner then headed down the Rhinns for a circular drive to Portnahaven in beautiful spring sunshine.

Tuesday 31st May

Morning – Port Charlotte Cask Tasting

So once again we headed off to Bruichladdich Distillery but this time to visit our casks at the Port Charlotte warehouse . We actually opened 4 bloodtubs , the Spirit of Islays Cask , Karls “Octo barrel” and got to try some 2002 Octomore . We found out the Bloodtubs had been transfered to fresh bloodtubs after a few had developed problems (staves had cracked) , they are coming along very well and i’m getting ready to bottle mine shortly ( within the next 6 to 9 months definitely ) . The SOI cask is coming along nicely , only another 10 or so years to go …..

Afternoon – Ardbeg Lunch and Tasting

20 people-6 Bottles -Can they tell what it is yet ?

So to Ardbeg ….. Meeting up with those who hadn’t been to the cask tasting we enjoyed a tasty lunch at the old Kiln enjoying the first dram with it . then we moved upstairs to sample the other 5 drams . I gave them all the drams Blind with just the tasting notes provided .

  • Bottle No.1 – OMC Sept 1974 / 26yo Ardbeg (Bottled Feb 2001)
  • Bottle No.2 – SMWS 10.56 Apr 1997 / 6yo Bunnahabhain (Bottled Oct 2003)
  • Bottle No.3 – SMWS 33.54 May 1994 / 10yo Ardbeg (Bottled Oct 2004)
  • Bottle No.4 – SMWS 29.24 Oct 1991 / 10yo Laphroaig (Bottled Jan 2002)
  • Bottle No.5 – SMWS 53.50 Oct 1993 / 7yo Caol Ila (Bottled Oct 2000)
  • Bottle No.6 – Very Young Ardbeg 1997 / 6yo (Bottled 2003)

They seemed to enjoy it (they certainly enjoyed the cheese we handed out to soak up the malt during the tasting , all local to us , Coquetdale , Wensleydale and Swaledale with Old Peculier ,for anyone thats interested . At the end Tom (Borschel) kindly handed out a Signatory 1967 Ardbeg and Alan (Robinson ) Presented me with a bottle of the Park ave Liquor store 12yo Rum finished Ardbeg , thanks Alan i hope you enjoyed the tasting as much as i’ll enjoy that Ardbeg . After much dramming a quiet night was had back at The Inns .

At the SOI Tasting

Wednesday 1st June

Bit of a lie in this morning , we’d booked into the 12pm tour . Managed to catch a bit of a natter with Christine before we headed off with Heather for the tour . Had a taste of the wash at the wash backs , new make in the ware house and a 12yo at the end . Also got to see the 1964 film of the new distillery boiler arriving on Islay, Classic !!!

So to Percys Blas Class , we were Piped in by Chris and settled down to a table of 6 drams :-

  • New Make
  • 5yo from a Bourbon Cask
  • 10yo from a Bourbon Cask
  • 5yo from a Sherry Cask
  • 10yo from a Sherry Cask
  • Bowmore Enigma (for duty free) 40%

There was a bit of a competition to identify the 4 cask samples . All of them were excellent and didn’t manage to get the age right on any of them . Pity they don’t bottle them like that…… Percy was excellent , very entertaining , shame he doesn’t do more during the festival . After all the good drams it was back to the flat for a bit relaxation .

Thursday 2nd June

Free Day !

A quiet day for us , another lie in then off to Ardbeg for lunch . While down in that area we went for a drive to some of our favourite parts of the Isle , Claggain Bay , The Kildalton Church and Seal Bay , Then we popped into Islay Square for their day . For Tea we hit the Nippy Chippy on it’s weekly visit to Bowmore , we weren’t the only ones , most of the Claggan mob decided on Fish and Chips for tea ! We spent the night with them at Claggan Farm enjoying a few drams in good company , Lots of Spirit of Islers , Plowsters , Malt Maniacs and a few others to boot . Good night guys and girls thanks .

Friday 3rd June

Bunnahabhain Tour .

Having decided to skip the Kilchoman opening , we headed over to do a Bunny to do a tour with John , going the scenic route via the Mulindry road (worth the drive for the wildlife alone ) . Bunnahabhain was busy , Johns tour was as entertaining as ever , another great Islay character , afterwards we got two drams , the standard 12yo and the 12yo Port wood finished festival dram . An excellent whisky , one of the best port wood finished whiskies i’ve had . We decided to skip the managers ball this year , not a good idea when you’ve got a dawn tour at Ardbeg !

Saturday 4th June

A long Day at Ardbeg ….

Dawn tour , Sandcastles , Salsa and Revolution !

Where do you begin ? How about getting out of bed at 4.15am for a tour of Ardbeg ? Luckily we weren’t the only ones , some guy had cycled over from Bruichladdich to do it ! Stuart was in fine form , lots of stories , lots of fine drams and Jackie cooking Bacon butties in the stillroom , Every tour should have Bacon butties on it , has to be smoky bacon of course !!! Heading back briefly to the flat to pack the car and say goodbye to Faye , We went back to the madness that is Ardbeg ……Who else could get several hundred people wearing berets on a small hebridean isle in June ???? What a day , great food (the Tapas were fantastic , as was the Cranachan and Marys Clootie dumpling !) , great entertainment (the salsa Classes went down really well ) , Ians Hilarious tours looking like Groucho Marks (the German one he and Angus gave us later in the day was a scream , for us anyway ….) and of course the great whisky that was flowing all day . What can we say , Stuart , Jackie , Hamish and all the staff , keep it up , heard nothing but great reports after the Workers Party . It was an extremely long , tiring but thoroughly enjoyable day .

Sunday 5th June

After a good nights sleep courtesy of the Thomsons , we bid our farewells and head off for the ferry at Port Ellen . After a hearty breakfast and a fairly pleasant trip back to Kennacraig , we headed back to the toon in record time . Another festival over , more new friends made , sadness at departing , thanks to everyone for making it a fantastic week , the visitors , The distilleries and the people of Islay , till the next time .

Slainté Mhath !

Feis Ile 2004

Saturday 29th May

Aah it’s the annual trip to islay for the whisky festival , it’s hard to believe it’s the third one in a row we’ve been to , especially after the first one we said we wouldn’t do it again ! It’s more like a gathering of old friends now , the group of friends seems to be getting bigger every year !
We got back to getting up at the more reasonable hour of 4am this year ! Nothing unusual happened on the way to the ferry either , no fighting wildlife ,nothing . We tried to book the candlelight dinner on the way but couldn’t get through , luckily Tamara once again came up trumps and got us on .
It was just before 3.30pm when we got to the accommodation for this year , We decided to go self catering and managed to get booked up in The Inns By in Bowmore . We were so impressed by the place when we got there we promptly booked the place for the 2005 festival !

View from the front of the Flat View from the Kitchen of the Flat

Once we’d unloaded all our stuff we headed of down to Ardbeg to grab a couple of festival bottlings and catch up with old friends .It was also our first look at the newly refurbished Old Kiln , having got there at a little after 4pm and bumping into Ian Gray (well known Scottish Distillery and landscape artist !) , We spent a couple of hours catching up on news and gossip over coffees and beers . We spent the rest of the evening having a curry in the Taj Mahal Bowmore (it didn’t seem as good as last year ) and found out that there’s a rival restaurant and take-away now in Port Ellen , Has Islay gone Curry Mad ???

Sunday 30th May

They say the sun shines on the righteous , well once again it shone on the Sainted James McEwan ! Another glorious day , two valinches to fill (the 1990 Flora McBabe and the 1989 Wee George ) , tours to do , Masterclasses to attend and a ceilidh in the courtyard!
The details of the tasting were as follows :-
A wee drop of a 32yo Grain to start with ( Details to follow but it was 47.2% !)
A 3yo Port Charlotte from a bourbon cask (68.2% ,very feinty to me but with a good whiff of peat and smoke).
Bruichladdich Links 2nd release 14yo (46% ,from refill sherry , slight sherry taste with lots of soft fruit ).
27yo 1976 Strathisla from the Mission series (46% very good Speysider ,vanilla , Mels Favourite of the tasting ) .
Bruichladdich 1973 (40.2% , 65% Bourbon casks/35% refill sherry ,very good Laddie , but not up to the 1970 !) .
Bruichladdich 1968 (One of the next releases , from Refill Bourbon casks , a stunner !) . 

Another Brilliant day at The Laddie !

Jims Masterclass
Dancing at the Distillery
View from the Distillery
Mel at Laddie
View from Bruichladdich

Monday 31st May

Ardbeg Distillery Old Kiln Cafe Old Kiln Cafe
Once again we woke up to brilliant sunshine ! A fairly quiet day started of with a drive down to Bunnahabhain to pick up the Móine bottling , a 7yo peated malt done as an experiment in 1997 , it’s very good and i look forward to the regular peated stuff they’ve started doing . Then it was down to ardbeg for lunch and a superb lunch it was , the seafood salad is a dream and Marys clootie dumpling……Mmmm Clootie Dumpling !
After another outstanding meal we headed of along the road to Claggain Bay . If you get the chance go along to this bit of the South shore its absolutely outstanding . We also stopped at Kildalton Church and Ardilistry Bay to see our old friends the seals.
The evening was finished of in grand style by one of the most beautiful sunsets over Loch Indaal we’ve ever seen .
A cross at Kildalton
Claggain Bay
Mel and a sunset at Bowmore Sunse t Loch Indaal Claggain Bay

Tuesday 1st June

Another quiet day of sorts , a drive over to Port charlotte for a bite of lunch and a quick drop into Bruichladdich to pick up a valinch we couldn’t pick up on sunday . Then onto the Ardbeg Candlelight dinner for an Evening of fine food and whisky .
We were 2 of the Lucky people to get onto this meal along with Tamara and her husband Richard ….

The Menu
Feel the spirit of Ardbeg…..

Ardbeg very young and its tapas…
Oyster on a bed of chopped beetroot and avocado puree with herb jelly . Red PepperTortilla . Brochette of Chicken marinated in whisky and a Spicy sauce with mint , Cherry Tomato and Cheddar .

Glen Moray 12 years old
Shellfish and Salmon in a saffron and whisky nage .

Glenmorangie Tain L’Hermitage
Pan fried Islay Lamb chops with a spicy honeyed sauce , served with raisin and hazelnut polenta , parsnip chips and boiled potatoes .

Ardbeg Fino cask 1975
Dark chocolate Tart with Cappucino Sauce.

Coffee with a surprise.

Ardbeg Meal Ardbeg Meal

The meal was as wonderful as ever , Mel and myself loved the combination of the chocolate tart and the Ardbeg 1975 , i know Richard enjoyed the Oysters , seeing he got Tamara’s and Mel’s ! Mel also enjoyed the Tain L’hermitage , I’ve never seen her savour a whisky so much and for so long !

Wednesday 2nd June

Bowmore Flkoor Maltings
Bowmore Spirit Safe
Robin tells a few Legends
If it’s Wednesday, It’s Bowmore day ! An early start for us , the 9am Craftsman tour , a tour with a slight difference , as well as the guide telling us about the process , at every stage of it the “craftsman” involved gave us a bit of a lecture about his bit in making the whisky .
At 11.30 am we hit the No.1 vault for a rather interesting hour and a half in the company of Robin laing telling us of the Bowmore Legends of the Vaults . Basically he was telling us of the legends and fables to do with the Isle of Islay , This guy is a story teller supreme , one of the highlights of this years festival .
In the afternoon Mel went off on her own as i went to the Bowmore masterclass , fairly standard stuff , we started with New Make (68.8%) then went through the range .The 12yo , Dusk , Dawn , Darkest , 17yo and the 25yo .
after the tasting the day took an interesting turn , i bumped into Ian on his way out of the distillery , he asked if Mel and i wanted to have a trip down to Port ellen to cop a look at the “Pirate” boat (knowing that this was the Glengoyle mob trying to get their un-peated stuff on to the great whisky Isle , i thought he meant to throw empty Ardbeg bottles at them or something like that !:-P ;-) ) . So off we went , on arriving there we boarded the ship (called Taora i think ) , it was full of liggers and general hanger-on’ers (also known as whisky journalists ,whisky merchants and distillery workers !!!! After getting a load of abuse off Richard Joynson ( Just remember Richard it’s us “Punters” who keep you in the lifestyle to which you are accustomed ! ). We then ate their food and drank their alcohol and left , HA !  

Joking aside it was a good evening and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the other half live ! Thanks for letting us aboard .

Thursday 3rd June

A quiet day after the all day drinking of Bowmore day ! We went for a meal to the Croft Kitchen in Port Charlotte , Damn fine place , great food (we both had lovely Islay steaks) . Also tried the new Islay Ales , the draught “Blackrock” was ordinary but the Bottled “Finlaggan” was a joy , very fruity and a joy to drink . 

After a slight rest we headed off to Ardbeg for the Midnight tour with the Main Man , Stuart .

Another great night (Morning ? ) in the company of “The Laird of Kildalton” , there’s always something weird about coming out of a tour with the sun rising over the hills !

Stuart on the midnight tour
Ardbeg Midnight tour
Stuart Thomson
Message Board In the Ardbeg Warehouse The Old Kiln Illuminated

Friday 4th June
Our last full day on the Isle spent quietly pottering about before we headed of down Bunnahabhain way for the condensers Ball , we didn’t stop the full night but we enjoyed the entertainment laid on , John Maclelland was in fine form as was Jim McEwan .

Jim at the Condensers Ball Stuart at the Condensers Ball Rogues Gallery !

The stories of the night (and festival) were Stuarts about His son Harry’s adventure in the West country and Jims about the Excisemans Dog , great stuff !

We headed of to pack our stuff for the morning departure out of our accommodation .

Condensers Choir

Saturday 3rd June

Ardbeg Day ! We would only see part of the day as we were booked on to the Afternoon ferry . The Ardbeg Brunch was superb , first time we’d had stovies , up to the usual Old Kiln Standard .We had a wander round , a look at the Auction lots , we went along to the warehouse to see how Stuarts surgery was going , then we bid our goodbyes to everyone and headed to Port Askaig for our journey back to the mainland .

Ardbeg Auction Stuart in the "Office"

Another year over , Next year to look forward to , thanks to everyone on Islay for making it a great week and we look forward to returning ….at least we’ve got the spoils of war to remind us of it ….

The Spoils of War

Feis Ile 2003

Once again it’s the end of May
So it must be the Islay Whisky Festival !

Saturday 24th May

This year our little adventure started on the friday evening , leaving Newcastle at 8.40pm we had to travel over night in order to get to Kennacraig for the 7.15am ferry . The one thing you do get to see travelling overnight is a wide range of wildlife that only appears in the small hours , The Otter at the ferry landing ,the deer at Arrochar and the wonderful fighting women at Inveraray ! we weren’t the first to Arrive at the terminal at 2.30 am , i can tell you it was a very long restless night (apart from the Otter ! ) till the ferry departed .
When we eventually got to the Isle (at 9.30am) we headed straight for ardbeg distillery to say hello to everyone and pass a bit of time till we could get into our hotel room for a bit of proper sleep. We also managed to get booked onto the Ardbeg Candlelit dinner (thanks to Tamara ) , we gave Lagavulin a miss but we did hear it was a very good day .
So onto the candlelit dinner , 40 lucky people , lots of great food and some fantastic whisky ! Once again Martine (Nouet) was in charge of getting the old taste buds going with Stuart (Thomson) matching up whisky from the Glenmorangie stable .

The Menu

The spirit is coming….

(A dram of Ardbeg 10 years old to welcome us in)

Scottish Sushi served with (chilled) Baille Nicol Jarvie on the Ardbeg Pier

Pan-fried Local Scallops on Parsnip Rings , laced in a Whisky and Ginger Sauce.
Ardbeg 10 years old

Brochette of duck marinated in whisky and Spices with an Orangey Sauce and wild rice .
Ardbeg 1975 (from a fino cask)

Apricot Blancmange laced with Whisky and a light Macaroon Crumble.
Glen Moray 16 years old

Coffee with Dark Chocolate Ice cream Balls
A mystery Ardbeg straight from the cask…
(A 1976 sherry casked Ardbeg , cask No.2398.)

The Scottish Sushi was the most unusual course (Barley used instead of rice) , but i think most people were raving over the Duck (we certainly were !) . Once again The meal was one of the highlights of the festival , A great way to start off the week , Again all the stops were pulled out by Martine ,Jackie and her staff. the two 1970′s Ardbegs were outstanding and a great choice to go with the meal .

Sunday 25th May

Once again sunday is Bruichladdich day , a pretty hectic one as well . there were two valinches on offer , a 1984 to commemorate the opening of the bottling hall and a 1988 to mark the visit of the Bruichladdich Babes .Various bits of entertainment were provided including a barrel rolling competition , the Islay pipe band and Robin Laing launched his new CD . The new bottling hall was formally opened and Jim held another of his Masterclasses in Warehouse No.5 . The whiskies tasted were mainly from the Murray McDavid Mission range , they were a Bunnahabhain 1966 , a Glenlivet 1968 , a Lagavulin 1979 , a Macallan 1968 and the standard bottling of the 1970 Bruichladdich . It was done in the form of a competition , you had the 5 whiskies , the 5 names and you had to identify which was which , the only thing was the Macallan was from a bourbon cask , a bit of a ringer ! I only got one right . the revealing of the casks was a sight in its self , a bit quiz showy (John, reveal the cask !) .I also had the pleasure of sitting next to Ruaridh McLeod (the 79yo ex- still man ) what a character , he left me with the quote of the festival at the end . Giving me his Laddie 1970 he said ” here son have this , I made it me self !” ,priceless! By the way the warehouse the tasting was in was the one where M.McD stores their stuff ,some different casks in there including a load of Springers !
Another good day at the “Old Lady by the shore” . Then back to the Lochside for a bite to eat and a few drinks .
(Click on photos to see larger versions)

Bruichladdich Babes ! Babe Valinch
Jims Masterclass John.....Reveal the cask !
Laddie Day Mel and the Distillery Cat

Monday 26th May

A day of two halves , first a morning spent at the top of the isle at Caol Ila , a tour i hadn’t done for a while , it’s nice to see the less popular distilleries but i have to say this was the worst one of the week (in my opinion ) , i think Caol Ila should have a sit down before next year because there were just too many people around and organisation was a bit lacking . it totally spoilt the tour .

Caol Ila Mash Tun Caol Ila Wash Backs
Paps from Caol Ila Stillhouse Caol Ila Stills

After a bite to eat at The Old Kiln Cafe , a late afternoon tour of Port Ellen maltings was on the cards , it’s a great place to do , you get to see a bit of the process you don’t get to see normally and you get a peat smoked Venison burger thrown in to boot ! There seemed to be quite a bit of the second Port Ellen release floating about as well .

Port Ellen Maltings Steeps Port Ellen Maltings Steeps Port Ellen Maltings Kiln Fire
Port Ellen Maltings Control Panel Original Tub From Port Ellen Distillery The remains of Port Ellen Distillery

The evening was finished in the usual style , a night in the Lochside , Tamara and Richard joined us for a drop or two of the good stuff .

Tuesday 27th May

We didn’t attend jura Day , we had a day of rest , so to speak , in the morning we went back to bruichladdich to visit the casks i’ve got shares in and to draw a sample out of my own .At 2yo its coming along very nicely , should definetly be ready at about 6yo . We also got to try someone elses 2yo PC out of a Re-fill sherry hogshead , it hadn’t changed a great deal , on talking to John the warehouseman about it , his opinion was that it might take well into its teens to mature , so it could be a long wait for some ! We also managed to sample a bit of Octomore (very fruity and peaty) and had a try of some 10yo Jura (not one of my Favourites ).

My Bloodtub Spirit of Islay Cask In the Laddie Warehouse.....

In the afternoon we went to the Old Kiln Cafe (again ! Emma wanted to know if we were after part-time Jobs there !) for a bite to eat , then had a drive along the south shore to Kildalton . After watching the seals for a while we stumbled across a herd of deer just beside the cross .
In the evening we hit the new Indian restaurant in Bowmore , very good it is too , then at 11pm went off for one of the highlights of the festival , the Midnight tour of Ardbeg . What a great idea ! It was a different way of seeing the distillery , only lit by candles and hurricane lamps . needless to say we got to try a few malts including the 1975 fino again and an outstanding 1990 bourbon cask , it was after 2.30am by the time we left !

Kildalton Deer More Kildalton Deer

Wednesday 28th May

Bowmore day ! The easiest in the fact that its only a few hundred metres from the Hotel ! Met up with Christine (the visitors centre manageress ) for the first time this year then went off on a tour . It was a great tour , collecting little bags of stuff as we went around and visiting the N0.1 warehouse where we tried a 1995 Sherry cask and a 1989 bourbon cask .

Bowmore Floor Maltings Bowmores Smoking Kiln Bowmores Kiln Fire
Bowmores Mash Tun Bowmores Wash Backs Bowmore Stills

In the afternoon we were lucky enough to get tickets for the tasting with Percy the distillery manager . It was a treat and a half , we tried New make , a 5yo from a bourbon cask , a 18yo (bourbon) and the new 1964 release (bourbon) . all were great , the 1964 was outstanding but i still think its not worth £995 a bottle .
By this time the week was starting to tell on us and instead of the Bowmore Celidh we chilled out in our hotel and had a visit from Aussie Craig Daniels .

Bowmore Warehouse Bowmore Warehouse

Thursday 29th May

Ardbeg Day !

Clann an Drumma at Ardbeg Ardbeg Boat Trip
Yes it was that time of the festival , this year i decided to leave the car at the hotel and Craig gave us a lift down . The morning got off to a quiet start , but not for long ! the arrival of Clann an Drumma got things going , they are a group from Glasgow comprising of 4 drummers and a bag piper (as brian from The Ileach said “i like the odds !) , they are great and have just signed a years deal with Ardbeg to promote the whisky . They appeared several times during the day and had everyone bopping around. 

This was perhaps the best day at a festival that Mel and my self have had , everything just fit into place , the weather was fantastic , red hot all day (lots of lobsters spotted the next day ! ) . The company was great , its the most relaxed i’ve seen a large group of people ever . The Boat trip we eventually took along the south shore was unbelievable , a great way to see the 3 distilleries , we even had a dolphin for company ! The one thing i really enjoyed was sitting on the pier , a dram in hand , the sun shining down , watching the world go about its business !

Without a doubt Jackie , Stuart and the staff made this a day to remember . Just for good measure we went for another Indian meal (can’t recommend this place enough ) and returned to the hotel for a dram or two .

Ardbeg Distillery
Ardbeg Distillery
Clann an Drumma
Swan at Ardbeg
Ardbeg Distillery from the sea Lagavulin from the Sea Laphroaig from the Sea

Friday 30th May

After all the excitement of yesterday again we opted for a quiet day , in the morning we went down to bid good-bye to all at Ardbeg , then headed over to the walled garden at Forelands , a lovely place which we’ll be revisiting in the summer . Then we had a drive down to Portnahaven to see the seals and returned via the coastal road , a beautiful drive in the afternoon sun .

The final evening was spent in the hotel in the company of Ann and Alistair , a bit of a sad night as this was the final night we would be spending under their ownership and boy did we have a party ! I spent some of the night serving behind the bar (an honour for me , all them whiskies ) drunk quite a bit and i think we went to bed at about 3.30am , there was also people dancing on the bar at one point……..

i gather there was a good night at the managers ball as well .

Saturday 31st May

So off homeward , luckily we were on an afternoon ferry (see above ) , another day another Islay whisky festival , will we be back ? i hope so . At this point i would like to thank Stuart for introducing Mel to the delights of 1976 sherried Ardbegs , cheers Mate , i’ll have to hide the bottles now !


Feis Ile 2002

Saturday 25th May

The Time – May 2002
The Place - Islay
The Event - The Islay Whisky Festival
What i can remember about it through the whisky haze! Mel (My Wife ) assures me it did happen!
Though this was Lagavulin day ,We spent most of today travelling to the Island , A 4am start getting to Kennacraig at 10am .Had first encounter with the “plowed” brigade at the terminal.Got over to the Island at just after 3pm ,checked into the hotel and then went for a wander round Bowmore . Managed to last till 11.30pm drammin’ with Alistair (owner of the Lochside), by all accounts it had been a good day at Lagavulin ,they got to try the new 12yo and 25yo expressions .

Sunday 26th May

Laddie day! Our first full day at the festival , got there about 10am , first priority pick up the bottles i’d ordered through Chrissy (A 1986 Country Life and the 1972 Valinch ). Then went and got the new valinch for the festival ,the 8.26 1983 which you filled yourself.We then had a tour of the Distillery with the Managing Director Mark Reynier ,very good it was too , another thoroughly nice person at Bruichladdich . After much drammin’ , a bite to eat and lots of home grown entertainment (strange seeing Brian from the Ileach in a kilt in the Islay Pipe Band,does this mans talents know no bounds!), we headed off to Bruichladdich Hall for Jim McEwans Tasting . Here the great man himself guided us through a tasting which included New spirit Port Charlotte , A 1970 Laddie and a 1986 Sherry Laddie . It went very well even with the removal of a rather drunken participant . We returned to the hotel after this for a bit of food and a few more drams.

(Click on Photos to see full size versions)

Laddie Mash Tun
Laddie Wash Backs
Laddie Casks
Laddie Warehouse
Isle of Islay Pipe Band
Jims Masterclass

Monday 27th May

Even though the mornings events were at Caol Ila (including the launch of the new 12yo , 18yo and Caskstrength bottlings ) ,we decided to give this one a miss and instead headed over to Ardbeg to pick up our Festival bottling , have a bite to eat and say hello to Jackie (Thomson ).In the Afternoon we headed to Port Ellen Maltings for a tour with the Maltings manager ,John Thompson .

Drying Kiln at the MaltingsI would recommend a tour of this place to anyone who goes to Islay ,its an interesting insight into something a lot of people don’t get to see .The No.1 bottle of the 25th anniversary bottling in Johns’ office had Alan (port-alan) Robinson drooling at the lips Mmm…Port Ellen!!. During the tour we were also treated to a Venison burger done over a peat Bar-b-que , great stuff. At the end they had a table where you could compare supply water , new spirit and the finished product from all the Islay Distilleries (and Jura ,look but no tastes).

Tuesday 28th May

Iain Henderson
Smokin' Laphroaig
Laphroaig Pagoda
Laphroaig Stills
Today we went to Laphroaig Distillery for a tour with the soon to retire manager ,Iain Henderson. This guy will be missed a hell of a lot ,he’s one of the great characters ,he does some tour! This was a great time to tour Laphroaig as it was the first time i’d been in a distillery where every single bit of the process was on the go including the floor maltings and Kiln (the smokiest hell hole i’ve ever seen ). While on this tour i got to meet the boys from The Whisky Shop (the two Davids,Darren and Scott),who were over for a few days. We met up later that night at The Plowedsters residence at Claggan Farm for some great food and lots of Drams.The only Difference was that 3 of them were in full highland dress ,very nice lads the women were impressed.

Wednesday 29th May

This was supposed to be Bowmore day ,but i ended up back at Bruichladdich when i got asked if i would like to take part in a cask tasting with the plowed and TWS mob , Who wouldn’t! They were trying to find the next bottling for their Ardeggeddon meeting . We tried 25-30 casks in 2 different warehouses , some were very good ,the oldest was 1984 and the youngest was 1990 (i think).While in the Port Charlotte Warehouse we also got to see our casks (and a few other peoples!),Alan and Mike (Wade)got samples out of theirs and boy it isn’t half maturing in those bloodtubs! Jim (McEwan)reckons it’ll be ready in 4 years time (5yo),but it was extremely drinkable now (Very Malty with a lot of Smoke and a lovely red/amber colour) .

Cask Tasting
Thursday 30th May

Ardbeg Warehouse
Filling A Cask
Rolling the cask
Ardbeg Meal
Ardbeg Meal
Its Ardbeg time ! This was going to be a long day , We got there about 10.30am and things were in the flow already , some people had been there since the crack of dawn! We went on the 11o’clock tour with Stuart Thomson at the helm , even though this was our 3rd tour of the distillery it was nice getting it from the managers view . We ended up in the warehouse having a rather nice dram from a 1976 fino cask (very dry but nice all the same). After the tour we headed for the filling store where i got to fill a
cask (to the neck!) of new spirit ,its also signed so if you ever end up looking at 2002 casks watch out for the Spirit of Islay one! After a slight bite to eat in the Old Kiln Cafe ,we headed back to the Hotel to freshen up for the evening meal.We were two of the lucky 36 able to get onto the Candlelight Dinner ,what a feast it turned out to be! The menu was created by Martine Nouet,who talked us through each course , the whisky selection was chosen by and commented upon Stuart Thomson.If you’ve had a meal in the Old Kiln Cafe during the day , you’ll know what a special place it is , it was even more special in the Evening . The full menu was:- 

Magic in the air….

A dram of Ardbeg 10 years old in the filling store.

Sweet potatoeVeloute with a cloud of lime perfumed Cream ,Islay scallops marinated in Glenmorangie.
An Ardbeg grist roll.
Glenmorangie 10 years old
Beef a la Kildalton – An Islay beef casserole with a whisky sauce,served With glazed sesame carrots and a mushroom and oatcake flan.
Ardbeg 17 years old

Citrus fruit salad with a malt tea jelly and a touch of Mary’s marmalade And Mary’s scrumptious shortbread
Lord of the Isles 25 year old
Coffee and a wee tumbler of cardamon and whisky chocolate cream
A mystery Ardbeg straight from the cask…
(it turned out to be from a 1975 Oloroso Cask.)

The meal was one of the highlights of the week , especially for Mel , full marks to Martine ,Jackie and her staff .


Friday 31st May

The last day of the whisky festival , Bunnahabhain , the only distillery i hadn’t toured previously .We were taken around by the manager John MacLellan , another of the great Islay Characters , after the tour there was a tasting hosted by the Master blender John Ramsay , we tried 3 Grains and 2 malts that go into Highland Distillers Blends. We also picked up this years festival offering from The Bunny ,the 1965 .

Bunnahabhain Still
Bunnahabhain Distillery
Bunnahabhain Pier
For the final night it was the Condenser Club Party (The Managers Ball),an evening of Music , Mirth and Merriment .Some great stories and a nice little tribute to Iain Henderson , Jim san (McEwan) got most of the stick ,Joke of the night went to John Ramsay about Jim McEwan ,Iain Henderson and a certain German super-model. A fair bit of money was raised by a cask-end auction for next years festival. A bit of whisky was put away by all concerned and The Clottie Dumpling on offer was outstanding.

Condenser BallSaturday 1st June

With the whisky bit of the festival over with ,it was time to relax and boy did we need it , the week was starting to catch up with us. But at night we carried on with the drammin’ in the Lochside.

Sunday 2nd June

Time to head off home ,the morning ferry over to the mainland and that was it over for this year. I would like to thank everyone on Islay for a wonderful week ,especially Jim,Ella and Chrissie at the Laddie .
Stuart,Jackie,Emma and all at Ardbeg . And finally Alistair and Ann at the Lochside for the food , drink and merriment. Everyone should experience the festival once in their lifetime .