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…….

IMG_20150626_203522_edit

 

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 !     

Advertisements

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 !

2014_08_01_03 2014_08_01_04

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!  

2014_08_01_05 2014_08_01_06
2014_08_01_07 2014_08_01_08
2014_08_01_09 2014_08_01_10

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 .

2014_08_01_11

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

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

Islay Visits Part XXXVII – A Tale of Two Distilleries…..

Tuesday 29th July 2014

It was a bit of an overcast morning when we emerged from the cottage , So after a rather late breakfast we decided to head up to a favourite spot of ours in the north-east of the Isle , Bunnahabhain . I love going up that part of the isle , the drive up the road makes you feel as though you are somewhere else , it was also quite sunny when we arrived there ! There was quite a lot going on around the distillery as they were transferring stock to new casks , mainly sherry butts by the looks of it , Long John was busy on the fork lift and there was bodies flying in and out of various warehouse doors ! We made our way up to the shop and were greeted by a very enthusiastic guide who no sooner were we in the door was offering us a dram and making pleasant conversation . Sorry i didn’t take her name but she did say you’d just started recently at the distillery and she is thoroughly enjoying her job , she was a lovely lass ! After a natter with Lillian we went for a bit of a walk along the pier , said hello to Long John and made our way back to “Other Places” .

2014_07_29_1 2014_07_29_2

We had a drive up the Mulindry Road which these days is remarkably quiet , especially of pigs ! Once reaching the High Road we headed into Bowmore to pick up a few Post Cards and try out the new “Taste of Islay” Bistro in the former distillery warehouse  . We’d heard mixed reports about it but decided to give it a go , you can get anything from a Sandwich (£8) to various dishes ( from £8 for Seafood ) , tea , coffee , cakes , wine , whisky , beer….

We went for a couple of Cream Scones and a Tea and Coffee . Things didn’t get off to a good start when one of the paper menus we were given had the remains of someone elses meal on it and for some reason the Scones took a good 10-15mins to arrive after the drinks . The other thing that spoiled it was the fruit scones were hot and the Jam and cream just melted and rolled off it….. The scones weren’t a patch on the ones we had at The Bridgend Hotel last week and the bill came to £3.30 more than the same drinks and cakes we have at The Celtic House Coffee shop . I’ll let you draw your own conclusion……

To finish the afternoon off we popped into the Distillery Visitors Centre , where the reception was the exact opposite of the Bunnahabhain one ! Now before anyone thinks we’ve got a downer on the Bowmore Distillery , we love the place , done loads of tours here , have stayed at their wonderful Cottages quite a lot recently (they are well recommended!) , it’s just that the Customer Service at the VC could do with improving , it’s always nice to get a friendly greeting when you walk in the door or some kind of acknowledgement ! (and this is not a new thing)

Anyway we headed back to the Cottage for a tea of Islay Venison Burgers and a few drams to finish the night……..   

 

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

2014_07_23_7

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 . 

2014_07_23_8 2014_07_23_9

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 .

tonights tea

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 .

ardbeg

 

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 !

bowmore

 

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

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

pillitteri

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

2014_07_24_1

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……. 

peller_estates

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 .

Islay Visits goes West……. Even More Further West Than Usual !

Since last September we’ve been hiding a big secret !

Let me explain….. As everyone knows we spend every possible holiday on Islay , usually a weeks break in the Spring around about May time , our two week Summer vacation and sometimes a long weekend in the autumn/winter .Our friends who know this have been puzzled by the fact when we’ve been asked when we’re back we’ve been saying not until summer (a long time no visit for us !) and when they’ve wondered why we haven’t been able to tell them causing more bewilderment ! And what perplexed them even more was when i said i’d applied for my first passport , 2 and 2 were put together and 5 was arrived at . So lets go back to September…….

We were about to book our two stays , the Spring one at the start of May and the Summer one slightly earlier than normal in the middle of July , We couldn’t get our normal summer place – Maol Buidhe – as the owners take it then so we went for a new place Lyrabus Croft Cottage just outside of Bridgend . We were about to Book a place in Port Ellen for the spring trip when an interesting e-mail arrived in my inbox from a distant land .

It was from the organiser of a Whisky Festival , She’d really enjoyed reading about our adventures on Islay over the years , 2014 was the 10th Anniversary of their Whisky Festival and they were planning on having an Islay theme , She was wondering if Melanie and myself would be interested in being Special Guests at the event and host an Islay Whisky Lounge ?

Now to say we were slightly shocked was an understatement , this type of thing never happens to us , people offering to fly us half way round the world and have us as Special Guests . We’re not Whisky Icons like a few i could name !

So after letting it sink in for a while , we replied to Johanna taking up her terrific offer of being guests at The 10th Anniversary of the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala in Canada !

So a few firsts in May for me , First trip out of mainland UK , First Flight , First time using a Passport , First time being a Special Guest at a Whisky Festival ! Good job i’ve got Melanie to keep me right !!!!  

So the next “Islay Visit” will be from Toronto , i’m still classing it as an Islay Visit as it’s about Islay and it’s Whisky ! We’ll be taking some Classic Islay Whisky along with us to sample In the Islay Whisky Lounge as we talk about all things Islay and tell the good people about the wonderful piece of Heaven we love off the West Coast of Scotland ! 

We’ve also found out since that a good friend of ours will be there exhibiting , so it’ll be good to see Ashok there !  

A Link to the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala Site

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….