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
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 .
I 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
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) .
||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.
Citrus fruit salad with a malt tea jelly and a touch of Mary’s marmalade And Mary’s scrumptious shortbread
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 .
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.
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 .