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Monday, 2 June 2008

Feis Ile Day Nine: Pick Up The Pieces


Feis Ile Day Nine: Pick Up The Pieces


"Uuuuurrrrrggggghhh."


Not a good way to start our only day of real work on the Isle. Banging hangovers thanks to the Lochside Bar the night before, the roads on Islay are unforgiving enough when stone-cold sober, let alone when full of the mispent frivolity of a Finlaggan-fuelled romp at Duffies Bar.

We arrive at Ardbeg in more glorious sunshine and are greeted by a Caskstrength favourite: the inimitable aroma of a fried breakfast!

With stomachs settled and headaches subsiding, it was time to get to work- and hard work it was. Within minutes of opening, the Old Kiln Cafe was already filling up with eager Feis Ile'ites, Ilachs and those generally looking for a tasty lunch. Caskstrength were drafted in to help pour drams, clear tables, lug crates and whatever else was deemed necessary. In addition to the whiskies which kept the tills ringing throughout the day, the t-shirts seemed to be a massive hit as did the hipflasks which sold out before we had a chance to buy one for a friends 30th Birthday (oops...!)

The Caskstrength lunch break was deliciously liquid based at the managers tasting over in the old malting room.
Below is a guide to our courses:

Ardbeg - Very Young - Distilled 1998 / Bottled 2004 - OB - 70cl - 58.3% Vol:

Nose: Green leaves, grass and hints of smoke at the back. Sweet peas, cloves and lemon zest, soft creamy butter.

Palate: Cream, more fruit, this time apples, toffee, bonbons and more cloves.

Finish: Fresh green tea, grass cuttings, brine, leading into lemon sherbets.

Overall: When we first tasted the VY for Discussion, we thought it was a little too young and spirity, but this mixed with a little water is a really excellent whisky, its weight and complexity far outweighing its age.

Ardbeg - 1975 - Cask No.1375 - Distilled 28th March 1975 in first fill Sherry butt. - Bottled 8th November 2006 - 70cl - 54.2% Vol

Nose: Fudge, wet sand and classic sherried dried fruit

Palate: Iron Brew, condensed milk, sherbet more raisins and dried vine fruit, very smooth.

Finish: Nuts (particularly hazelnuts) raisins hints of oak leading to a little bitterness (rather like London Pride) and more waves of background Sherry.

Overall: as this developed in the glass the nose became more developed and was wonderfully sweet and creamy. The excersise was to taste this next to a 'sister' cask which is reviewed below...

Ardbeg - 1975 - Cask No.1378 - Distilled 28th March 1975 in first fill Sherry butt - Bottled 8th November 2006 - 70cl - 53.7% Vol

Nose: mature cheddar, vine fruits, spice (cinnamon) coupled with a slight meatiness and caramelised apples.

Palate: Sweet sherry and then dry oak leading to zesty sherbet.

Finish: slightly quicker than the previous cask, but bearing similar hallmarks of Nuts, raisins and oak.

Overall: Mickey Heads took a straw poll of which cask the room preferred and the vote swung the way of the first. Caskstrength were plumping for the 2nd, until the nose came alive (then we were both split down the middle! Such is unpredictability of great whisky, eh).

If there's one thing we saw all day, it was the unbelievable hard work and dedication from all the distillery staff to make the event a success. Everyone mucked in (a few were even deputised in from Broxburn to work on the bar and wait tables!) So well done to Mickey, Jackie and Joanne for running a tight ship...

As the day drew to a close, us Caskstrengthers' decided that the best way to unwind was to head up to the north of the Isle to catch the sun setting into the sea. Finding an unbelievably beautiful and secluded beach, we climbed a craggy rockface and sat there drinking the last of the remarkable Single Cask Lagavulin we'd been lucky enough to get earlier.

This experience is what really summed up our Isle adventure. Clearly the simple, uncomplicated things in life are truly the best!

Thanks to all our new found friends that have helped make this wonderful trip such a success:

Ella, Andy, Andrew and Mark from Bruichladdich.

John MacLellan at Bunnahabhain

Graham Logie & Iain McArthur and all at Lagavulin

Antony Willis at Kilchoman

Mickey Heads, Jackie, Emma Dugga, Angus and all at Ardbeg.

Boyd, Giorgio, Hans Moleman, Will Ferrell, Wiggy McCann for keeping us entertained whenever we bumped into you.

And finally a massive thanks to Joanne and Derek for their unbelievable hospitality and friendship.