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 .
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 !