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 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)
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 .
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 .
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 ).
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 !
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 .
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 .
Thursday 29th May
Ardbeg Day !
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 !
TO BE CONTINUED ……. SOON