The Best of the Year

On the Old Spirit of Islay Site at the end of the year i used to do a sort of yearly awards so i thought why not do it here ! So here are the things that we thoroughly enjoyed this year and we thought deserved some recognition in the 2011 Islay Visits Awards……..

Islay Distillery Bottling of the Year – Not a lot of new releases this year , a few specials and a few relaunches . My favourite has been the Lagavulin Jazz festival Bottling . A 1993 ex-bodega Sherry cask selected by Iain MacArthur . A stunning Lagavulin that shows off the distillery characteristics to a tee !
Lagavulin 1993
Islay Independent Bottling There were quite a few candidates in this one , including ones from the SMWS , Whiskybrokers 20yo Islays and the Queen of the Moorlands 10yo Bruichladdich , all worthy winners ! But it was one that sneaked in at the last moment that stole it . We went to The Whisky Lounges Islay Blind Fury 2 Tasting recently , sitting in glass No.4 was a beaut , dark colour compared to the rest and then when we tried it we both said Old Sherried Bunnahabhain ! So our Fav in this section is Berrys own 1979 Bunnahabhain Cask #1795 at 54.7% . The perfect Christmas day dram ! We managed to track down a bottle of this and if you can find one i would say grab it with both hands !!! Doug , Rob and the gang at BBR have managed to find a classic , Sherry aged , Bunnahabhain that is getting up to the standard of The famous Auld Acquaintance .

Berrys Own Bunnahabhains

The 1979 with a brace of the current 1990

Non-Islay Distillery Bottling of the YearNot had a great deal of these but there is one distillery that had 3 i had a great deal of difficulty choosing between . It was a choice between their Distillers Choice (a stunning 4yo ) , A 10yo from a 2001 single sherry butt and a 1992 18yo from a sherry butt . In the end i went for the 10yo , simply because its a stunner filled with the New owners spirit . Raymond has been putting out some fantastic bottlings of the spirit he’s distilled since he bought Bladnoch and this is probably the best !
Non-Islay Independent BottlingOnly one winner here ! from the SMWS 7.67 ‘Breakfast Dram’ , a killer 7yo Longmorn at 61.4% (all the best drams are bottled at 61.4%….) , This is so good i bought 4 ! Very drinkable at 7yo and at that strength .
Best Meal on IslayThis year we’ve had some very disappointing meals on Islay (some verging on inedible ) which is strange as the food is usually to a very high standard on the Isle . Luckily the Bridgend Hotel came to our rescue , In September we took some of our friends out for a meal here to celebrate my 50th birthday , They’d just took a new chef on , Kevin , and he has set up a superb menu . We had a fantastic meal (see the September visit report) . It was so good we went back later in the Holiday and bumped into others who had been with us doing the same ! And we’ll be back on future visits…….
Tasting of the Year Only one winner here , The Johnstons Choice at Laphroaig Distillery , The host David was great , the Whisky Superb and Mel found some Laphroaigs she liked !
Event of the Year (outside a normal tour) My 50th Birthday ! Fantastic Company , Great malts , great tours on Islay and the remains of a hurricane ! A fun filled two weeks for sure !
Islay Distillery of the year Has to be Bunnahabhain . The owners finally got their arses in gear and turned the standard bottlings 46.3% , NCF and uncoloured . Took the 18yo up another notch and made the 25 worth spending so much money on ! It’s not the prettiest looking of distilleries but it has 3 important things……. Really nice people working there , A great view and most importantly , Stunning Whisky ! A vastly under-rated Distillery , not just on Islay , that has produced some of the all time greats , The 65 and 66 Feis ile  , The Auld Acquaintance , the 1990 Feis Ile , not forgetting a lot of independently bottled stuff .

Bunnahabhain Bay