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