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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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 !

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 – Addendum

It’s a week since we returned and i’ve just found some photos on the camera i was going to post , they are of the Cottage we stayed in . This was the first time we stayed in Deirdre and Gibsons place and i have to say it is one of the best we’ve stayed in ! It’s fairly isolated (the nearest place is their B&B on the other side of the access road ) and has astounding views around the isle…..cottage_stitch_2

(click on Photos to see full size) 

It’s very well equipped , has 3 bedrooms (2 are upstairs , 1 twin , 1 double) , the one downstairs is en-suite……

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The Bedroom is at the front of the house along with the living room…….  

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At the rear is the main bathroom and kitchen and utility room………

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kitchenThe kitchen has everything you need and has a great space to eat in , like i said earlier it’s a well equipped place ! To my favourite bit of the cottage , the sun porch…….

sunporchI sat in here every evening and watched the Isle go by , a great place for a dram and contemplation ! The views are stunning across the Rhinns . It was the ideal size for us two , plenty of room to move around , i think it would be a bit cramped if all the beds were occupied (there isn’t much room in the eaves) , 4 might be about it for a maximum number . Would we go back ? Definitely !!! They have their own site at Lyrabus Croft Cottage with full contact details .

 I’ve also now uploaded my photos onto Flickr , till next time !!! 

 

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 – Food(and other stuff….)

Thursday 31st July 2014

We had a lovely Wedding Anniversary yesterday , apart from have a wonderful meal at The Bridgend Hotel we didn’t do a great deal , the meal consisted of (i know some of you like our food reports….. ) Islay Langoustine with freshly made Linguine with a Langoustine Bisque for Melanies starter , i went with an Islay Crab with ginger , avocado , confit tomato  with a Filo and Sesame Crisp . We both went for the same meal , Islay ribeye steak with bearnaise sauce , wilted spinach ,mushroom and handcut chips . And as if that wasn’t enough i was a pig and had a pudding of Chocolate Fondant , Whisky Poached pear and Clotted cream ice cream , All very ably served by the lovely Hannah ! Suitably stuffed we went home to lie down in a darkened room……  

(Click on photos to see full size)

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Melanies Photo of the Crab starter

So back to Thursday…. We went off for a drive , Melanie wanted to look at Persabus Pottery so we headed that way . Seeing we were that end of the Isle , we went down to Caol Ila , where , after trying the Stitchells Reserve and Feis Ile 2014 i was easily swayed into buying a brace of each……. Seeing it was so nice we had a wander around Caol Ila , bumping into Lilys adorable little cat , the views around there are wonderful .

(No Swallows were harmed in the taking of these photos….)

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2014_07_31_03Up The Sound 2014_07_31_04Lilys Cat
2014_07_31_05The Harbour 2014_07_31_06Boom !
2014_07_31_07Jura Ferry 2014_07_31_08Finlaggan Arriving
2014_07_31_09Getting Closer 2014_07_31_10Steady !

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A content Melanie !

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We then went off to Port Askaig where we sat outside the Hotel with a drink and again admired the view ! Then it started to rain so we headed back to the Cottage via The Celtic House Coffee Shop taking in the Mulindry Road on the way to get ready for tonights main event , our Annual Meal with Ella and Mary at The Bridgend Hotel ! (Sometimes when something is so good…..) Mary picked us up on the way through and we met up with Ella at the Hotel . We made things easy for the waitress tonight , we split into two camps , Melanie and myself went for the same starters / mains , Mary and Ella went for the same starters / mains ! We went for the Crab starter from last night and had the main of Islay Estate Roe Deer fillet , Cabbage and Sage, Cauliflower Puree and mash and a game Jus , Ella and Mary went for the Feta and tomato salad for starters and for their main they went for the Simply Salmon fillet with New Pots and a medley of vegetables . Tonight it wasn’t just me who was a piggy , every one went for a Pudding ! Ella and myself had the Strawberries , homemade meringue  and ice cream . Melanie and Mary went for the Pain Perdu  , caramalised oranges and a orange and white chocolate sorbet with a white chocolate sauce (we can’t think of it’s name….) .

We had a great night with our Islay friends , great food , great craic and as always a good laugh !

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 !!!!