A Bank Holiday Weekend……

The Whitsun Bank Holiday (as it’s known in the UK) is the second long weekend in the Month of May , We decided to make the most of it and partake in a couple of trips…… 

Saturday 28th May

It’s been a few years since we’d seen the cask of Longmorn we have a share in , it ws in it’s first year the last time we seen it , it was then stored in Bladnoch when it was under the stewardship of Raymond , since then there’s been a change of ownership and a change of storage facility , it’s now in a warehouse at Creetown owned by Raymonds son Martin . It’s been over a year since we last saw Martin so we could kill two birds with one stone so to speak , Catch up with Martin and check up on the Cask ! Ok 3 birds , pick up some bottles off Martin……. We set off from Newcastle earlyish on the Saturday , Well earlyish for a Saturday Morning start…..

It was very overcast when we left Newcastle but by the time we’d reached Dumfries (after the obligitory Coffee and cake stop) the sun was out and made it a glorious drive along the lovely Galloway coast . Martins business has progressed since we last popped in , so has his family with the recent addition of a 3rd baby boy Ben ! Martin gave us a tour of the premises before taking us to the recently opened warehouse , it was only recently he got the documentation off HMRC to start using the warehousing and he’s been busy moving casks in . Our cask is currently stowed in the Traditional style , in a stow 3 casks high , he is moving towards the Racking way .

(Click on the photo to see full size version)

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We removed a sample and had a quick taster from the cask…….

bhw_001Longmorn 2012

4yo at 61.3% , from a Fresh Bourbon Barrel 

First thing that strikes you about the nose is the sheer fruitiness of it  , Very Longmorn like , there’s also a big dollop of vanilla and a slight lack of youthfulness ! For it’s strength it doesn’t wreak havoc with your nasal passages . A lot of fruitiness on the palate again, bags of spices but the palate does show it’s age , it’s still thoroughly drinkable . The finish is Long , fruity , spices . A drop of water calms the palate down a lot and brings the fruit further forward and reduces the youthfulness .

An amazing dram at 4yo , very , very enjoyable but still needs a few more years . heading the way of a 7yo Longmorn that I purchased from the SMWS many moons ago that was so damn go I bought multiples of it .  

Martin also  gave us a try of an 8yo Craigellachie from a refill sherry butt ( Very nice but still needs a bit more time imho ) before heading back to the office for a coffee , a bit more of a natter and to collect a couple of bottles……..

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Bunnahabhain 23yo

46.3% , 156 outturn , ripe straw in colour £66.50

A wonderfully intriguing nose , very relaxed (as you’d expect at 23yo) , the usual confectioners sugar along with a touch of exotic fruit , ripe banana , after a little while there’s a lovely butterscotch toffee note appears . Great nose , one of them you could sniff for ages . Lots of hot spices to start with on the palate , was expecting more of a sweetness to it but it actually reminds me of a 1980 Bunna I had bottled by BBR , not a standard tasting Bunna but very enjoyable .A medium finish with clove and spices.

An enjoyable Bunna but I said not a standard one palate wise . Didn’t try it with water as it’s perfectly ok at this strength .

Ben Nevis 18yo

53.5% 264 Outturn 1/10/1996 – 15/07/2015 Hogshead 1329 light gold in colour £45 at the time.

A Sweet nose , Marzipan very akin to Battenberg cake , Vanilla , there’s a touch of Christmas Cake even though it doesn’t say whether this is a Bourbon or a sherry Hoggie .
A Bit of a bizarre palate , Wood spices to start with , Lemon , quite a sharp citrus note , then a sweetness keeps bouncing in , again there is a hint of sherry . A Long finish with a mixture of Sweetness , Lemon and spices and again a sherriness .

A bit of a strange dram but thoroughly enjoyable.

After we bid farewell to Martin we headed back East to Newcastle .

You can find Martins Business at Whiskybroker.co.uk

Sunday 29th May

After a more leisurely start to the morning  , we headed up north into the wilds of Northumberland to once again visit Cragside in Rothbury . We decided to do a short Woodland Walk this afternoon , once again it was overcast when we left Newcastle but the sun had appeared by the time we arrived at Cragside . The walk took us up the back of the House……

bhw_003A quite steep walk to start with but it did give us a good view over Rothbury……

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We were hoping to catch a sight of an elusive Red Squirrel but got treat to a local Raptor…..

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off we go…..

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Bye !

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We actually had 4 Raptor sightings this day , 3 on the drive back to home . The walk back to the Visitor Centre gave us some good views over the Estate ,One of the estate cottages…

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Which looks over Tumbleton Lake…..

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and has baby lambs in the field in front of it…..

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After such an exhausting walk it was only right we treat ourselves to a National Trust Cream Scone and Coffee before heading back home !

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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

Bunnahabhain Margadale Cask 9000070

This is the 4th cask i’ve been involved in the bottling of (details of the other 3 can be found HERE ) , This one was bought via Raymond Armstrong while he was at Bladnoch and was sold to shareholders who frequented the Bladnoch Forum . Some of us knew each other which would turn out to be a bonus the way future events unfolded…….

Basically with just under a year of the 10 year maturation left the company that owned Bladnoch was taken into Voluntary Liquidation , We all thought that the Distillery would have been sold by the time we bottled but it wasn’t ! So after talking with the Shareholder i knew we decided to track down the remaining members with the help of the Worldwide Internet and Raymonds new Forum . Eventually on the 11th February 2015 we got the cask released to Martin (Raymond’s son) for his company , Whiskybroker.co.uk , to bottle….. later that same day !

Margadale

The Margadale is the peated spirit distilled by Bunnahabhain and called Moine by the Company , the peating level is believed to be 38 ppm (just a smidge below Lagavulin’s and Caol Ila’s level ) but Bunnahabhain has been known to peat at a lower level .

The Margadale was distilled on the 26th January 2005 during John Maclellan’s management , filled into an ex-Bourbon Barrel – by the outturn of 243 bottles it may have been a fresh one or very tight 2nd refill – it came out at 59.2% ABV .

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And now the nitty-gritty bit….. How does it taste ?

Pale straw in colour . It is incredibly smoky on the nose , and i mean SMOKY ! Very seashore , the proverbial ‘Bonfire on the beach’ , It has a slight sweetness to the nose and a creaminess , very reminiscent of a South Shore Islay starting with ‘A’ , then a damp peatiness . A very fiery palate , lots of white pepper ,  a fierce peatiness along with smoke , there’s a hint of the Bunnahabhain sweetness but not much , a touch of barley and there is a slight chewiness to it  . The finish long , peppery hot and peaty . It can take quite a bit of water which enhances the creaminess  and the seashore qualities and doesn’t affect the smoke . The empty glass smells wonderful even after only a few minutes .

I’m more than happy with this , i’d put this up against any other 10yo Peated Islay and if i had to say which it was in a blind tasting i’d go for the one at the Southern end of the A846…

And then there were 4……..

Four       

Two Berrys Own Bunnahabhains

At the recent Whisky Lounge Manchester Festival i was so wrapped up in serving Amrut i missed the chance to try two Berrys Own Bunnahabhains at their table ! Thankfully Rob (@BBRrob) Whitehead has kindly sent me a couple of samples to try .

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Rob at the Manchester Festival 

1987 Cask #2451 49.8%

A lovely golden colour in the glass , on the nose a slight hint of sherry (a refill sherry cask? ) , The Bunnahabhain Sweetness – Edinburgh Rock/ Confectioners sugar , Cola Cube sweets , dried fruits , Marzipan and Christmas Cake dough . The palate definitely hints at a Sherry cask ! Carrying on the flavours from the nose it adds a strong spiciness and a luxurious mouthfeel , the finish is long with spices , the Bunnahabhain sweetness and a hint of sherry .

Another cracking Bunnahabhain , not overly sherried just nicely balanced , i prefer my sherried whiskies this way from a refill rather than the fresh sherry bomb . Does not disappoint !

1989 Cask #5716 42.9%

This one is more of a ripe straw in colour , it does take a little while to open up , straight away on the nose you can tell it’s ex-bourbon , more of the spirit notes , the Bunnahabhain Sweetness (see above) , a touch of malt , digestive biscuits and lemon . The palate is very smooth , very malty , with a strong lemon citrus .The finish is long and loaded with sweetness  and the lemon again .

This one shows off the raw Bunnabhainess , i suspect it’s from a slightly inactive refill cask , it is actually a very nice dram and if you haven’t encountered unsherried Bunna maybe a good one to introduce you to this style from the distillery .

Many thanks again to Rob for the samples , which once again prove that Bunnahabhain is a very under-rated dram from Islay !  

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” .

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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……..   

 

The continuing Islay Visit Part XXXVII

Tuesday 22nd July

Turned into a bit of a quiet day activity wise (it’s allowed to , we’re on holiday!) , first off we drove across to Machir Bay where it was a bit blowy off the Atlantic , then we headed across to Bruichladdich to say hello to our good friend Mary (McGregor) and pick up some cask samples . After a bit of a blether we headed down to Ardbeg for a bite to eat but decided to give it a miss when we saw the crowd that was there ! So it was back to Bowmore for a coffee at Roys with a slice of possibly the best Lemon Drizzle Cake i’ve ever had ! Wherever we go for coffee/tea and cakes we have to say the home baking is exceptional on Islay ! Then it was a visit to the Islay Whisky Shop next door and i actually purchased a bottle there ! I’m a bit of a sucker for an aged Bunnahabhain so when i saw this 1991 22yo from a sherry cask at £65 i was sold (even though it’s only 46%)…..

(click on photo to see full size)

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Then it was back to the Cottage for an afternoon and evening of whisky drinking and messing around with the 400mm lens on the 6D…….

bowmorethe same previous view of Bowmore with the 400 lens 

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One of the farm breed Heilan Ponies

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What i think are the new Kilchoman Warehouses in Bruichladdich

Tasting Notes……

Lagavulin 2014 Feis Ile

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54.7% Distilled 1995 Bottled 2014

Burnished Gold / Orange Marmalade in Colour , a wonderful sherried Lagavulin nose , smoky as you’d expect , touch of red and dried fruits , Christmas cake dough and bonfires on the beach .A delight on the palate again lots of smoke and Christmas cake . Also Cola Cubes sweets and dry sherry . The finish is long and smoky sherry .

Once again Iain has excelled at what he does best , finding the perfect Lagavulin Sherry casks to go into a Feis Ile bottling , at £99 it is good value for a 19yo Islay . Very recommended !!!

Ardbeg 1978 O.b.

1978 was a bit of a significant year in our lives , we both left school in the summer of this year (36 years ago !) and we both started work not long after , it was also a pretty good year for Ardbeg…….

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A beautiful gold colour in the glass with lovely oily legs , loads of oak on the nose at first , then the Ardbeg-dine (as in Iodine but Ardbegs own special version) with a slight hint of peat and creamy coffee . On the palate again there’s creamy coffee , oak , touch of peat and the ‘dine . The finish is quite long with a lovely sweetness mingling with the peat and ‘dine  . It’s good to bring a special Beg ‘Home’ 16 years after it left  ! Beg as it used to be !

SOS 1978 22yo Casks 1999/2000

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A slightly lighter gold in colour than the O.b. , not as much oak on the nose as the O.b. more farm yardie than anything else and very vegetal . Eventually you get Creamy Coffee and Chocolate coming through , not much peat or Ardbeg-dine . Very relaxed on the palate at first for Cask Strength but it does eventually kick in , more peat here with the ‘dine , it does resemble a beg but not one as in the 74’s , 75’s and 76’s , not even the beautiful monster that is the 77 O.b. . The Finish is long and….. well peaty , vegetal but definitely Beg !

Not ya standard Beg but I love it ! It does make you wonder if this is what it’s like at CS (56.9%) what would all the watered down Connoisseur Choices have been like if they’d left them like this ? An absolutely yummy Beg that I’m glad I bought to Islay !

Two Cask Samples……

 

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Port Charlotte 2002 Spirit of Islay Cask

OMG! This has progressed so much since I last tried it, there is now a strong hint of the Sherry Cask, there wasn’t before. The nose is of a dying bonfire on a beach mixing in with the sherry , it has all the hallmarks of the PC spirit , the palate is very chewy but the bonfire / ashes theme continues, the finish is very long. To me Port Charlotte has been the success of the distillery , i’ve bottled to excellent casks so far and this third one looks like it will be the same ! Jim had a sniff of this at the distillery and his eyes nearly popped out ! He remarked on a boot polish smell and what a cracking spirit it was . 3 more years to go…..

Bruichladdich 2008 Spirit of Islay II Cask

Still quite young (drawn days before its 6th birthday) but it has the Laddie characteristics, on the nose it smells wonderful, creamy toffee, green fruits, vanilla and coffee (?). On the palate it is still very spirity, he’ll of a kick (guess it’s still in the high 60 s ABV Wise) but it’s getting there! Addition of water calms the palate down a bit. Another 4 years for this should see the palate loose it’s spiritiness and it develope into a cracking Laddie .

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