The 2015 Feis Ile Bottlings Tasting……

On Friday i attended a tasting of some of the 2015 Feis Ile bottlings hosted by Eddie Ludlow , I must admit i went in with a bit of trepidation having already tasted the “Ardbeg Day” Perpetuum and after having visited it several times growing to dislike it by every tasting…….

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So what did we have ? Here it is Dram by Dram……. 

First up was the Caol Ila , from 1998 this one has been triple matured , first in American Hoggies then in Moscatel wine Casks and finally in Puncheon Casks , 1500 bottles at 57.3% . On the nose i got the Caol Ila Medicinal along with toffee and boat loads of wine . The palate was pretty much the same very sweet wine , the finish was quite long , sweet and malty . Have to say it isn’t one of my favourite Caol Ilas as wine casked malts are not exactly my thing , i much preferred last years offering , as i said in my tasting notes HERE “I prefer it when distilleries do this rather than mess about with fancy casks , back to basics ! ”  

Next was the Ardbeg Perpetuum “Distillery Only” version , this one was bottled at a higher strength , 49.2% , than the Ardbeg Day one . Now according to the Bumf this is supposed to represent the Past , Present and Future of Ardbeg…….. The initial nose was very closed to start with but when something did appear it wasn’t very Ardbeggie , not very peaty but had creamy coffee . The palate was very young , quite feinty with dry peat , all i can say about the finish is it’s long…… Again for something that is supposed to celebrate the 200th Birthday it is very disappointing , i think Ardbeg need to go back to the basics none of these poncy named versions made up of specially selected casks , how about a 10yo CS like the stunning Renaissance ? Could they not have hung on a little while to do a special 1998 resurrection of the 17yo ? With the last 4 releases by LVMH i’m starting to loose confidence in the distillery……. BTW as i write this i’m dramming the 47.4% version , it’s still not any better !

Salvation , sort of , came with the 3rd dram , Another 200th Anniversary one , the Laphroaig Cairdeas comes in at 51.2% , this one was made with malt entirely done on their own floor malting , distilled on only the small stills and laid to rest in the oldest warehouse ! The nose is a subtle iodine mixed in with farm yard and a touch of lemon . it is actually better with a drop of water , the palate has a nice peaty / iodine / maltiness to it , it is quite relaxed at first but if you hold in on the tongue for a while it explodes into life ! The finish is very long , farm yardie and malty . The best of the night so far , it is a stunning Laphroaig but i have to add with the stunning rise in quality of the recent 10yo CS batches and my personal favourite the 18yo , it doesn’t actually seem that special……

Number 4 is from Islays newest distillery , this bottling is for the 10th Anniversary of Kilchoman , bottled at 58.2% from casks from 2005 – 2012 and made up of 70% bourbon to 30% sherry . The nose starts of quite fruity then peaty then suffers from the one thing i find in all the Kilchomans i’ve tried , it smells young . The palate is feinty peat with a touch of sherry and the finish comes in long and feinty . This distillery release is still way too young for my liking .

Over the recent years the bottlings have become a bit of a cash cow in the festival and a few indy bottlers have recently jumped on the band waggon , this year it was the SMWS’s turn with the penultimate dram of the tasting . 3.243 ‘Dark , smouldering flamenco gypsy’ , a 17yo Bowmore from a sherry butt . After my last experiences as a SMWS members many moons ago i was expecting the worse when i saw it was a sherried dram , luckily it wasn’t the dreaded ‘S’ word ! The nose was your archetypal Christmas cake with peat and it was pretty much peated sherry on the palate with a good balance between spirit and cask . The finish was long , sherry with the Bowmore Parma Violets . Not a bad dram on the whole .

They say you always keep the best to last……. Well Eddie has , a 1991 Lagavulin at 59.9% , double matured for 24yo , first in American Hoggies then into PX casks (that seems familiar……) . The nose is very smooth , a touch of smoke with digestive biscuits and a smidge of farm yard , the palate has a  touch of sweetness with smoke and peat . The finish is quite long and very sweet . It is a very good Lagavulin !

So a bit of a mixed bunch , it’s now 6 years since we were last at the Feis Ile , we don’t miss it and we don’t miss the bottlings , the original concept of the Feis Ile bottling has been lost in the mists of time now especially as there is now a Whisky Auction van waiting on the isle to take your purchase away to make loads of money off it . If i’ve upset some of my distillery friends with my ramblings , sorry , don’t take it to heart , you have to take the rough with the smooth……  as we are increasingly !     

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Ardbeg Perpetuum

One of the two releases for the Ardbeg Distillery’s 200th Anniversary , this one comes with a box and at the lower ABV 47.4% , the other was a Distillery only release .

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Pale gold in colour , The initial nose is incredibly smoky , huge bonfire ! There’s quite a youthfulness to it , it’s very malty , quite medicinal as well , there’s also  the Ardbeg creamy coffee buried just beneath all this . All in all quite a lot happening on the nose .

A very strange start to the palate , would have sworn it was a laphroaig if it was in a blind tasting . , quite medicinal again , nettles and farm yard ,  there’s the smoke again and the creaminess , there’s also a nice peppery / spiciness to it . The finish is very long with a nice smoky spiciness to it .

This is the first Ardbeg i’ve bought since last years Ardbeg Day release , have to say it’s better than the last two releases i’ve tried (The new Kildalton and Supernova) ,  a pleasant surprise but it doesn’t come across as an Ardbeg , to my palate anyway , worth a try though .

Edit – I have to say i have revisited this several times since my initial tasting and have been less impressed with it every time , Still doesn’t taste like an Ardbeg (or a Laphroaig , as previously stated) and tastes younger everytime , Very disappointed in it as a 200th Anniversary offering , hope the Laphroaig (if i ever get one…. ) is better……..    

3 Tasty Samples

It’s not often i buy samples but i wanted to try a few so i purchased 3 off the Master of Malt site….. 

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Douglas Laing Director’s Cut 1989 25yo Longmorn

Longmorn is my favourite Speysider , i’ve been keeping an eye out for a 25yo to add to my bundle of 25yo’s  i’m collecting for our 25th Wedding Anniversary in 2019 . From a refill Bourbon Hogshead distilled in April 1989 and Bottled in June 2014 at 54.2% , it is a pale straw colour in the glass . The nose is extremely fruity and fresh , almost the old Opal Fruits , very buttery and vanilla , quite spicy as well . A wonderful Nose ! The palate is peppery , also lots of oak spices , still lots of fruit but the spices dominate . The finish is quite long with a lovely pepperiness to it .

A Lovely Longmorn , good balance to it and a worthy addition to the “Silver 25” list !

Glenfarclas 25yo

I’ve always had a soft spot for Glenfarclas , it was the First Distlllery Melanie and myself ever did a tour in back in the 90’s , we’ve shared some great old Farclases from the SMWS so a 25yo wouldn’t go amiss on the “Silver 25” list . A very soft sherriness to the nose , the traditional Christmas Cake – cake dough , dried fruits , glace cherries – and a hint of Coffee . The Palate pretty much carries on from the nose with the addition of chocolate and Cola cube sweets , A very sweet medium finish to it .

A Lovely Glenfarclas , definitely a future one for the list…..

Caol Ila 1998 15yo Unpeated – 2014 Special Release

Coming in at a whopping 60.4% , i’ve been want to try this one for a while , i’ve had the 10yo , 12yo and Stitchells Reserve .

Pale Straw in colour , the initial nose is fresh green apples , VERY fresh green apples ! Touch of lemon and Malt . Wow ! This is an incredibly fruity little number after the Apple it bursts into a bulging bowl of fruit , Wonderful ! The fruit continues on the palate , excellent , highly drinkable at the full strength of 60.4% . Really Spicy as well , becomes very Apple Pie and Custard after a while , the spiciness continues into the finish . With a touch of water it certainly calms it down a touch but seems to take a bit of it’s bite away .

An excellent dram , the unpeated spirit seem to get better with age .

A purchase since……

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The “Silver 25” List Currently stands at 9 Bottles……

25s

  • Ardbeg Lord of the Isles
  • SMWS 1978 25yo Brora 61.20 (labelled 61.2)
  • Bunnahabhain 25yo O.b.
  • SMWS 1980 25yo Caol Ila 53.98
  • Bladnoch Forum 1984 25yo Caol Ila
  • Laphroaig 25yo O.b. 2013 Bottling
  • DL Directors Cut 1989 25yo Longmorn
  • Bladnoch Forum 25yo Port Ellen
  • The Wine Society 25yo Islay Single Malt

That was the year that was…..

Well it’s that time of the year again , the time to look back at the past 12 months .

The Scotch Whisky hype has reached new levels this year and i seemed to have taken a step back from it . Surprisingly from the 3 Ardbeg releases this year i only bought one , the Feis Ile one (Auriverdes) , this years Committee release is the 1st one i’ve passed on since joining in 1999 , i thought £125 was way too much for a NAS release regardless of how peated it was , at least it gave another bottle for someone to throw into an auction…..

After trying the 3rd one , The “New” Kildalton , again i thought the price was too much for the whisky . The only other Islay bottles from this year i bought were mainly Feis ile releases (The Lagavulin , the Caol Ila and the Cairdeas from Laphroaig ) , i did stock up on the recent Laphroaig 10yo CS batch (excellent as ever) and their 18yo . We’ve only been to islay once this year (so far….) which is surprising for us but there is a damn good reason……

It’s been a bit of different year this year , our good friend Ashok asked us if we’d be interested in doing some stuff for him as he was returning to India to work from the distillery . We ended up doing 4 of the Whisky Lounges festivals around the country starting in our home City back in March , we had great fun at everyone , discussing a whisky we totally believe in with people who were genuinely interested in it , it actually bucked my interest up in whisky going after it was starting to wane with the previously mentioned over-hyping of Scotch .

nwf2014_2Our public debut “Behind the table”

For the first 3 months of 2014 we kept a secret from the Whisky World , in March we revealed that in May we would be heading over to Toronto to be Special Guests at the 10th Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala ! It was a very big deal for me on several fronts , I’d never been out of the UK before , i’ve never had a Passport before , i’d never flown before and i’d never presented a Masterclass to strangers before !

You can read  all about our adventures at these two postings……

Islay Visits….. Goes West to Toronto Pt.1

Islay Visits….. Goes West to Toronto Pt.2

Friends of Amrut !

To say this was the highlight of the year for us is a bit of an understatement ! We had a great time in Toronto , The City and people were amazing , it was great to finally meet Wendy in person  , we discovered Canadas fine Whisky and Wine and we got to fly over Niagara Falls in a Helicopter ! We cannot thank Johanna and Charles enough for inviting us over and broadening my horizons (Yes Johanna you’ve created a monster ! LOL !!!) and we’ve already booked up to return Next May to have a great time in the City and see the Festival properly from the other side of the table (starting to get confusing over which side of the table i should  be on……) , Mmmmm……. Canadian Whisky!

Ready for Boarding

 

In the Summer we manage to squeeze in a fortnight on Islay , staying in a new place for us on The Rhinns at Lyrabus Croft Cottage . An excellent place to base yourself for a long stay on Islay .

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In September We stretched our wings once again and flew over to Paris for the weekend (Johannas fault….. 😉  ) taking in the Whisky Live that was going on at the time . It was great to have a look around the beautiful City but i have to say i was well disappointed in the Whisky Live , too big and too much security for my liking .

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Discovering New Zealand with Erik (Burgess) at Paris 

We couldn’t believe how hot it was over that weekend and spent a great Sunday wandering and enjoying the city .

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We haven’t done much since , a few more whisky festivals and i’ve been broadening my knowledge of Canadian Whisky…….

Recommendations

So what would we recommend this year ? Here’s a sort of Mini awards for 2014…..

Best Islay Malt –  I have to say of the limited selection i’ve tried this year it’s one from last year that most impressed me , The 25yo Laphroaig 2013 Edition .
Best Non Islay Scottish Malt – Only one winner here , The 50yo Glenlivet that Ian Logan kindly let up sample , absolutely stunning for it’s age ! Cheers Ian !! 
Best other Whisky – Well there are so many Canadians that i’ve tried during and since our visit that could have taken this title , Gibson’s 18 , Forty Creek Barrel Select , Century Reserve 15/25, Pike Creek to name a few but there is one rye that has taken my heart , Pendleton 1910 12yo ! I would add that Eriks New Zealand Whisky and Zuidam Dutch Rye are highly Commended .
Best Meal on Islay – It was between two places The Old Kiln and The Bridgend Hotel , eventually decided on The Bridgend as we had two absolutely stunning meals there , one was our 20th Wedding Anniversary one . 
Best Coffee on Islay – Has to be Roys ! A cracking cup of Coffee and stunning home baking ! oh them cakes….. 
Best Festival –  Yes it’s the Spirit of Toronto ! Although we didn’t get a good chance to sample the wares this year (we will next year!), it is a fantastic event , very classy , a great venue and superbly organised ! Looking forward to our return . 

I hope all our visitors have had as good as year as Melanie and Myself have had ! All that’s left is to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year .

We’re already looking forward to 2015 !

Islay Visits Part XXXVII – The Final Part !

Friday 1st August 2014 

Our final full day on Islay , Boo ! We decided on lunch at Ardbeg so after a bit of a lie in headed off to the Old Kiln , on the way we spotted a rather fine cruise ship moored in Kilnaughton Bay…….

(Click on photos to see full size)

 

2014_08_01_01The Sea Cloud 2 2014_08_01_02The Rowers Practicing

There was a bit of practicing going on for the Islay Rowing Regatta . Once in we ordered the Fillets of Seabass in a white wine creamy sauce  . After picking up a bottle of Auriverdes and having a chat to Janey we had a stop off at Laphroaig to look at the shop , Melanie bought me a rather nice Polo Shirt and i bought a bottle of the 25yo !

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This will be put aside next to the Bunnahabhain 25yo and Ardbeg Lord of the Isles for 5 years time when we will celebrate our Silver Wedding on Islay . There was just time to pop into The Celtic House Coffee Shop for one last Coffee and Cakes , i must say this has been a great addition to Bowmore , the Coffee is great and the homemade cakes are Sooooo good ! Don’t know what the hell we are going to do next week when it gets to 3pm…… apart from suffer withdrawal symptoms !!!! It was back to the cottage for one last night and doing the worst bit of the holiday , packing up ! The days good weather actually gave us the best Sunset of the holiday…… and loads of Midges!  

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Saturday 2nd August 2014

 Due to being slightly slow and booking the ferry later than normal we couldn’t get our normal 9.45am one so it was the 3.30pm , giving us another chance to eat at Ardbeg . We stopped at the recently re-opened now community owned petrol station in Port Ellen to do our bit to help and got a bit of a surprise when out bounded Jackie to fill our car up ! She was doing her bit for it and in the process had a good view of the Port Ellen Rowing Regatta going on in front of her . It was a shame it started to rain as Islay was been very sporty and as well as the regatta it was also the Islay Ardbeg half Marathon .

So after a full lunch at Beg ( Seafood chowder ,  Supreme of Chicken Lydia with Vegs) , a stop off to see Mark and Helga at Islay studios , we finally departed Islay from Port Askaig on the Afternoon ferry .

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The Spoils….. Purchases , Gifts (Thank You !) and Samples !

Another little adventure over , we will return ! Hogmanay 2014/15    

Islay Visits Part XXXVII – Figures !

Wednesday 30th July 2014 

It’s funny how figures (i.e. of the number variety) play an important part in your life and when you start thinking of them all sorts of things pop into your head . For instance when i opened the two Ardbeg 1978’s i thought back to 1978 , the year the two of us left School , 36 years ago this very summer ! It’s also 36 years ago that we both started work in the very same summer…..

Talking of summers it was 30 years ago this summer i had my very first holiday in Scotland , camping with my old mate Dave Embleton who also introduced me to the delights of Single Malts on that trip (my first Malt was a 10yo Macallan) . Wow 30 years of drinking Single Malt Scotch Whisky and according to some i still don’t have a clue about it……

This year has been very special so far ,this year we done our first Whisky Festival on the ‘other’ side of the table , serving up Amrut to the good people of Newcastle standing in for Mr Amrut himself Ashok. We must have done something right as he’s asked us to do another 3 ! We took our first trip together outside of the UK (my first flight ) to Toronto , where we done our first Whisky Masterclass on the ‘other’ side of the table at the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala, This one mustn’t have went so well as no one’s asked us to do another one…… LOL!!!! (only kidding Johanna , Melanie keeps telling me how good i was !) 

  Todays date is the most important figure , the 30th of July , it was on this day i got married to the most important Woman in my life , Melanie , Twenty years ago ! Where has the time gone ? For 15 of those twenty years we have been coming to this beautiful isle , this is our 37th visit (hence the part XXXVII of the title for those of you of a slow disposition…..) , 10 years ago we spent our 10th anniversary on the Isle ( at the Old School , Ardbeg ) , Ardbeg even had a special bottle on sale on that visit , the 1990 for Japan at £60 (not for our 10th anniversary i hasten to add…..)  .

So what are we doing today ? We’ll probably making a lot of people sick with our lovey dovey ness LOL ! We’ll definitely be going out for a meal at our favourite eatery tonight and i dare say a fair bit of Alcohol will be consumed along the way……

To My Gorgeous Wife , Happy Twentieth Wedding Anniversary Darling !

There are many more to come !!!! 

Islay Visits PartXXXVII – Now where were we?

Wednesday 23rd July

Seeing it was such another glorious day we decided on a short walk , we headed off down south to Kilnaughton bay for a walk around to the Singing Sands . The bay was very busy with sunbathers so we parked up beside the Cemetery and walked around the bay itself .

(click on photos to see full size)

2014_07_23_1One of the Beautifully maintained Cemeteries 2014_07_23_2The View across Kilnaughton Bay to Port Ellen
2014_07_23_3Port Ellen Maltings 2014_07_23_4The Singing Sands
2014_07_23_5View across to Port Ellen 2014_07_23_6Melanie Sunbathing

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Carraig Fhada Lighthouse

After a glorious afternoon on the beach we headed back to Lyrabus to carry on the sun worshipping outside the cottage . On this trip we haven’t had many encounters with the local Raptor population , tonights was the closest we seen , it was down the bottom of the field and across the road , thank god for long , decent Canon Glass ! the first one is the actual view and the second is zoomed in thanks to computer software . 

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For Tea we we had a rather nice Islay Sirloin Steak washed down with a lovely fruity Le Clos Jordanne Twenty Mile Bench 2009 Pinot Noir .

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The evening was ended with a few drams and a bit chat in the daftmill chatroom .

Thursday 24th July

Today was a bit of an easy day , we headed off to lunch at Ardbeg to start with , Melanie had a Prawn with Marie Rose sauce Salad and i had  Chicken Strips in an Ardbeg Pepper sauce with rice , we both pigged out with a pudding of Strawberries , fresh cream and ice cream . After a bit of sun bathing at the pier we had a drive along Kildalton before heading back to Lyrabus to freshen up .

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The view from Ardbeg Pier

We headed over to Bowmore in the evening to pay the Nippy Chippy van our first visit of 2014 , Fish suppers all round !

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Needless to say the weather in Bowmore was stunning this evening !

On returning to the Cottage it was time for a glass of wine……

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Pillitteri 2012 Pinot Grigio

Nose – Florally , smells of old fashioned apples .
Palate – Fizz of summer freshness , smooth and zesty
Comment – Another Fantastic wine from Ontario

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The Girls appeared for their treats !

 

Friday 25th July

The final day of the first week (don’t you just love it when you know there’s another week to go ?) , the sun was shining so we headed off down The Rhinns for a walk around Port Wemyss and Portnahaven . We’d been to Portnahaven a few times but never really bothered with Port Wemyss for some reason ! It was a glorious walk in probably the hottest temperatures of the week…….

2014_07_25_01One of the old landings 2014_07_25_02Across the water
2014_07_25_03Melanie relaxing ! 2014_07_25_04Portnahaven
2014_07_25_05Along the Street 2014_07_25_06The Good Old days
2014_07_25_07Flowers 2014_07_25_08A street in Port Wemyss
2014_07_25_09The Coastal Walk 2014_07_25_10The Landing

On the way back up The Rhinns we popped in for a natter with Martine (Nouet) , she also gave us a try of her remarkable 2001 First fill Barrel of Port Charlotte , probably one of the best PC’s i’ve tried , loaded with tropical fruit , the familiar PC ‘ashes’ and it is the proverbial ‘dying bonfire on the beach’ , Brilliant ! Then after a slight detour to Bowmore to pick up some supplies it was back to the cottage to have a bite to eat and a drink in the sweltering evening heat . In all the time we’ve been coming to Islay i cannot remember such a spell of sunny days !

Tonights wine delight……. 

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Peller Estates 2012 Chardonnay

Nose – clean and fresh nose , green fruits
Palate –  green and tropical fruits , smooth across the palate .
Comment – a very smooth chardonnay , no a bit of tarteness like a few other chardonnays I’ve had from other places .