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Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Feis Ile Day Four (Part 1): "Mission (Almost) Impossible

Feis Ile Day Four: “Mission (almost) Impossible”

Part One:


Your mission today, should you choose to accept it, is to acquire a bottle of Port Ellen - 1981 - Official Festival Release, available from 9am at Caol Ila Distillery.

This blog will self destruct in 10 seconds...”

--- GULP!!

With such and important mission, it was vital for to plan ahead our morning journey to Caol Ila. The buzz across the island over the pervious few days surrounding this release was electric. Anyone would have thought the Beatles had magically reformed to play a secret free gig at Caol Ila’s still room. The only hard-and-fast facts were the venue for the release and the time of sale: 9am. We figured that, with such anticipation an early start was required. Rising at 5.40am to a gloriously sun drenched island with similes on your faces, we made our way through the Islay rush hour (which involved Neil herding sheep and large cattle out of the rural roads) across the island and down to Caol Ila. As we made our decent down towards the distillery, it was clear that a few other people had the same idea and a short queue had already formed with a truly international feel. Much like the 12 days of Christmas, it comprised of: “4 sleepy Swiss, 3 Whisky dealers, 2 distillery workers, and a handful of islanders.”

Although the glorious sunny weather prevailed, sadly a large part of the queue was in the shade of an office block. That coupled with the icy wind blowing through the Paps of Jura, it made for a cold and blustery wait. Thankfully At one point, a very friendly distillery worker, arrived with bacon rolls and tea, lifting everyone’s spirits!

Our previous Festival bottling purchases had led us to believe this could be a fairly competitive experience, but a real sense of camaraderie prevailed.
As the doors opened dead on 9am, it was unfortunately clear that a large proportion of the now very long queue now assembled would leave empty handed. Everyone (including the Distillery Manager) seemed shaky on the exact number of bottles available, with figures ranging between 115 and 200. However we were able to ascertain from one source that the numbering of the bottles was somewhat erratic with some numbers missing from the sequence and in one case, 2 bottles identically labelled (apparently both with the number 0007)

A special note of congratulations goes to the Swiss gent (who bore a striking resemblance to the great Ronnie Corbett) on being the first through the door. His sacrifice- arriving at the distillery at 8pm the previous evening!!!

Fair play to Diageo for pricing this bottling at a very agreeable £99.99p.

Mission accomplished; we left with beaming faces for a warming shower and some breakfast, each cradling a bottle of Special Release Port Ellen.