Happy New Year !

New YearHere’s Wishing all our Readers and Subscribers a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year From Melanie and Myself ! We hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are , exciting times ahead !!!!!

This year has been the busiest on the Blog and we had visitors from 75 different Countries , we may not be the busiest blog on the internet but to me that is some going ! Many Thanks and please do return in 2014 !

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Christmas 2013 Visit Part 3

Sunday 29th December

Woke up to a bit of non-windy non-rainy weather ! Still a bit chilly though……

Went back to the Bridgend Hotel for lunch and had a wee natter to Lorna , Melanie went for the Poached smoke Haddock with Mustard Mash and I went for the Venison Casserole with Sautee Potatoes , very nice it was too ! The afternoon was spent driving around the Rhinns  trying to get the hang of my new Camera , there was plenty of wildlife around today (probably due to the lack of wind) , loads of Buzzards and Geese , the wind did pick up later and the temperature seemed to drop considerably .

We returned to the Cottage to pack up our stuff and settled down for a night in with a few drinks .

Think we might do this again next year , we’ve both really enjoyed it , the islands pretty quiet , an extra night would be most agreeable !

The Photographs….

Christmas 2013 Visit Part 2

Saturday 28th December

A Nice lie in this morning (that’s what holidays are for !) , seeing it was raining when we decided to go for a wander we took a drive down to the South Side of the Island . We went along as far as Kildalton , stopping at a favourite haunt of ours for a wee while (Seal Bay) , you could tell it’s been rough of late , seaweed on any roads close to the shore and the fence has collapsed into the bay just along from Dower House . Not much in the way of wild life , just ducks and geese in seal bay . On the way back we bumped into Mickey (Heads) at Ardbeg Road ends , had a good wee natter with him , the distillery is in silent season and the stillhouse is in bits , repair work going on to the actual stills .

We then stopped off at Laphroaig (only them , Kilchoman and Bruichladdich are open full time) , James kindly let me try the 2013 25yo , absolutely stunning ! While we were in there was a wedding going on , looked like Phil (Gray) was doing the photography , Joanne ( ex-Ardbeg now Bruichladdich) was one of the guests and we managed to catch up with her when she wandered by . When we got back to Bowmore we headed over to Roys for a Coffee/Tea and Cakes . It was so good we had second helpings ! The Lemon Drizzle cake was superb , lovely and moist , luckily we did as Duncan and his wife came in and it was nice to catch up with them !

In the Evening Melanie treated me to a meal out at The Bridgend Hotel , we love eating out here and we weren’t going to be disappointed . We decided to leave the car at home and got a taxi there and back , meant I could have a drink or two……..

For Starters Melanie had the Islay Crab Salad and I went for the Chicken Liver Parfait , for the mains we both went for the same , Pan fried fillet of Sea bass with Smoked Scallops . Absolutely wonderful ! We were both so stuffed that we skipped the desserts and retired to the lounge for Coffee and more drinks . Then it was back to the cottage to loosen the belts and chill out……..

Part Three of the Visit
The Photographs….

Christmas 2013

In the Bleak Mid-Winter…..

Friday 27th December

So we set off for an extra Islay visit this year – we won’t be having our usual Spring trip and won’t be back till summer 2014 , there’s a very good reason which we can’t go into right now…… so we decided to squeeze an extra visit in when we’re both on holiday – staying in the Excellent Bowmore Cottages , this time the Stillmans . Once again it was a 4.30am start , this time in atrocious weather , the forecast wasn’t too good and after the recent spate of ferry cancellations we didn’t hold much hope of getting onto the isle . Fortunately on the way up we got as text saying after the cancellation of the 7am ferry the rest would run to timetable……..

Some say we are creatures of habit , we say we just have traditions on trips to Islay we stick to…… So it was Breakfast in Balloch and Coffee and cakes in Tarbert ! It did get sunny on the way up at one point but we soon got over that when the rain started again . Our ferry would be the aging ‘Isle of Arran’ and it seemed to be having some difficulty with the weather , it’s ramps wouldn’t lie at the right angle in the very high sea (combination of a large swell and the westerly wind I would guess) , they had a go with the rear one , then turned around and had a go with the front one . They eventually decided to put some extra ballast in the nose (they said) and bingo ! We were on !

Assuming our usual positions in the bar , we settled down to a nice smooth crossing ( Melanie  wishes…..) , we also got to say hello to Jim McEwan who is on the ferry , hope the cold gets better soon !

I was going to have a ‘Malt of the Month’  but it was Bowmore 12 , Sooooo went for a Laddie 10 instead .

We eventually got on to the Isle at 4.30pm and headed for our place of residency , the Stillmans Cottage Bowmore Distillery , very nice it is too , probably the best of the 3 Distillery Cottages we’ve stayed in . After sorting out our stuff , getting a few supplies , having a Chinese Takeaway from across the road  and giving the Spa Bath a try , we hit the Lochside Hotel for a few drinks to end the night . Tonights Delights were Caol Ila 12 , Bunnahabhain 18 , Bowmore 15yo Darkest and ‘The Devils cask’ , I was very surprised about the last one as I was expecting to hate it after the recent hype .

We returned to the Cottage to have some well deserved rest after a long day……..

Part Two of the Visit
The Photographs….

That was the Year that was……. A Review !

So once again another year draws to a close , Just where do they go to ?

It’s been a traumatic last half of the year for me personally after loosing my job when the company i’d worked for for over 35 years shut down but i did manage to get another one straight away ! So lets look at things that have happened Islay and Whisky Wise !

Islay Visits

We’ve had 3 great visits this year….. so far ! Back in February / March we had our flying / quiet visit to Bowmore staying in the excellent Distillery Cottages . The weather was perfect , as was the company !

The Japanese Garden

The View down the garden (our cottage is the one with the patio doors)

We returned in early May for our spring visit and stayed in Port Ellen this time in a lovely little cottage on Frederick Crescent .

Port Ellen StitchAs well as a great encounter with an Otter we managed to fit in another tour with Iain at Lagavulin amongst other things !

For the Summer trip we once again returned to Maol Buidhe where we managed to do most of the usual things…… Relaxing , Walking , Eating and Drinking ! A good time was had by all on every trip !

Islay Distillery Bottling of the Year

So down to the nitty gritty , i haven’t tried as many as i’d hoped but the one’s i have i have to say have been excellent . This years runner up is a worthy winner any other time , the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 005 , these batches just keep getting better and better IMHO . The winner is a special which came out in September and is an absolute stunner of a bottling , even though i don’t think it’s a perfect example of what a Lagavulin should be but it is perfect in pretty much every way and it’s dangerously drinkable ! So my Distillery bottling of the year is the Lagavulin Jazz Festival Bottling !

Non-Islay Distillery Bottling of the Year

I think the one that has stood out this year (even though it isn’t in the shops yet !) Is the Amrut Peated Port Single Cask ! Superb stuff !!!! This distillery has kept up it’s very high standard of bottlings , this is , from memory , the peatiest Amrut i can remember .

Islay Independent Bottling of the Year

This one goes to an independent bottler who has produced some very good bottlings , this one was a 20 year old from my Favourite Islay distillery , Ardbeg ! Whiskybroker has released two Begs this year , the last been a 21yo but the 20yo edges it m a bit more oompth than it’s elder brother . And it was very reasonably priced as well !

Non-Islay Independent Bottling of the Year

This one goes to another Whiskybroker bottling , i first tased this at the Newcastle Whisky Lounge Fest and knew straight away i had to get a bottle . The 29yo Tormore had something different about it , nice and refreshing ! Just can’t figure out why it didn’t fly off the shelf !

Best Meal on Islay

This goes to the Islay Hotel for the one we had there in August , they had been a bit up and down with their quality since we’ve been eating there  but this one was superb ! Just please keep it up !!!!

Tasting / Tour of the Year

A close run thing this year between two tours we took at Ardbeg this summer , The deconstruction one was great , if you don’t know how Begs standard bottlings are made up this is the one for you but the Decades tour did it for me ! The surprised was the absolutely stunning 1989 that was on it , it even beat the 1974 in my eyes !

On the whole it hasn’t been too bad of a year , the alarming rise in the cost of some bottlings has been very disturbing , it’ll not be long before us drinkers won’t be able to afford the stuff ! That’s if we can get our hands on it…… it seems to be flying straight off the shelf and on to a rapidly rising number of Online Auctions that seem to be appearing everyday . Not good for us drinkers at all !!!! That is until the bubble bursts….. and it will…….

So what does 2014 hold ? We’ll have to wait and see , watch this space !

Three Special Lagavulins

It is not often you get to taste 3 special Lagavulins side by side , unless your name is Serge (Just kidding!) or you write a blog that get’s invited to lots of “Launches” ! Seeing i’m neither i had to buy these bottles in order to taste them , 2 are releases for the Islay Jazz Festival and one is for the craziness that is the Feis Ile .

3-Lagas2011 Islay Jazz Festival

The only single cask release of the 3 , from a Bodega Sherry cask (#355) this was filled on the 8th February 1993 and bottled in 2011 at 55.4% . We just happened to be on Islay celebrating my 50th Birthday when the Jazz festival was on , so we managed to get a couple of bottles . It’s a lovely amber colour in the glass ( A Lagavulin Glen Cairn of course…..) , The first thing that hits the nose is a gorgeous sherry smokiness , then it becomes very coastal , seashore and seaweed , There’s also cigar tobacco . Moving onto the palate there’s a real peatiness , intermixing with orange , dried fruits , sherry , tobacco and peat smoke , the sherriness is quite dry especially in the finish , which is long , dry , and very smoky .

An incredible dram , a lovely dryness to it and a fantastic Lagavulin .

2013 Feis Ile

This one was a 3000 bottle release i believe , from European Oak Sherry Butts filled on the 8th May 1995 and bottled at 51% in 2013 . We actually picked this one up on our summer jaunt in August , there were quite a lot left in the distillery so we foafed 2 (there were also Caol ila Feis Ile’s available ) . Not as dark , Orange Marmalade i’d say , Again a powerful smoky sherriness to it , with the sherry just edging ahead . This one is definitely the proverbial “Christmas cake ” Dram , dried fruits , glace cherries , cake dough , but the nose is more relaxed than the first , then smoked ham appears and seashore . Again the palate is more relaxed but just as tasty , again all things Christmas cakey , Humbug sweets , not as dry but with a nice sweetness  , the finish is long with a minty smoked sweetness , also quite chewy !

Again another cracking Lagavulin , sherry and Laga spirit really do go well together !

2013 Jazz Festival

There were a few mumblings of discontent on the internet that this wasn’t a single cask offering but why worry about the speculators…… I think this release was 1500 bottles , from Sherry butts filled again in 1995 but this time on the 19th January , this one was bottled at 51.9% and kindly picked up for me by that well known Whisky Aficionado  Robert Banford . Back to a nice shade of Amber , The nose is less Christmas Cake and more coastal (seaweed/seashore) with orange , tobacco and a huge waft of smoke . On the palate we are hit again with tobacco , orange and peat smoke along with a nice sweetness and spices , The finish is really long with a hell of a hit of Blood Oranges !

This is a seriously dangerous Lagavulin ! It seems a lot easier to dram than the other two but to me isn’t as Lagavuliny (made up word !) as the other two or what i think as Lagavulin.

Conclusion….

What we have here are 3 absolutely stunning examples of the Lagavulin Spirit , Pinkies done a great job on selecting them (as one would expect ) , i’m glad i bought all three but to decide which is best , well……. they all have different things to recommend , i still love the 2011 Jazz (it was my 50th birthday ! ) and it is a single cask . The 2013 Feis Ile is pretty much the perfect example of a sherried Laga but the 2013 Jazz does have something “Different” about it !

Other Lagavulin tasting notes…….

Lagavulin 16yo
Lagavulin Distillers Edition (1984)
Lagavulin Distillery Only
Lagavulin 12yo Limited Edition