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)
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…..
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 ……
“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 !
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………
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
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 !!!!