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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Islay Day 5 - Inspector Gorse

After Monday’s monumental Port Ellen tasting, our palates felt a little fragile and the only remedy was a long walk, to drink in Islay’s other great treat to the senses – its scenery.

We’d signed up to take the 2km walk to Ardbeg’s mighty Airigh Nam Beist (fed by the distillery’s main loch Uigeadail), to savour the surroundings and a few drams on the way. The weather seemed to be calm on our approach to the loch, but as we experienced yesterday, this is Islay- only an idiot would walk around in the countryside without a decent jacket. Thank the lord for North Face. Ok, their fabric is about as natural as a can of Coca Cola but when you have sideways hail hitting you in the face, the hoods are pretty decent.

A little dash of Ardbeg 10yo on the way helped keep out any cold and pretty soon, we’d reached the loch, a brooding black stretch of water, which was spewing out spray whenever the wind hit it. We slipped an empty bottle into the depths and pulled out a sample to try with the whiskes and to take away for our liqueur project (more of which later on.) I’m sure that the scientists among our readers may argue otherwise, but there is something inherently better enjoying a dram in the elements, with a dash of the source water to cut it - and both the Ardbeg 10yo and the liberal slug of the 1990 Airigh Nam Beist we got for the journey back were absolutely sensational.

Our guides Kristy & Neil told us about the chilling story of the nearby Kildalton Castle, purportedly the most haunted building on Islay. The tale goes that John Talbot Clifton, who owned the Castle had planned his final burial place 2 thirds of the way up nearby Knoc Hill, at a point where he would forever be able to see into his wife’ bedroom window. Many years after his death, some telegraph poles were put in, running down the hill, with one directly in front of his grave and on three separate occasions that very pole was felled during storms. It was decided that it might be better to move it away from the grave and the problems remarkably stopped… Spooky.

From one legendary spirit to another and we head down to Laphroaig for their open day. The distillery has continued the tradition of their Cairdeas bottlings with the 3rd instalment, The Ileach Edition. We enjoyed a quick dram in the tasting room

Laphroaig – Feis Ile 2011 bottling – Ileach Edition – 50.5% - 8 years old - 10,000 bottles (or thereabouts!)

Nose: Wet earth, sweet barley sugar, light but bright medicinal notes, lint bandages and a touch of mint.

Palate: More sweet grain tones, pineapple chunks and a light, zesty note, backed with a wash of medicinal peat. With water, sweetcorn, hot buttered popcorn and a touch of plum.

Finish: Light, but lengthy, with the medicinal peat lingering and sweet cereal notes.

Overall: Not a million miles from last year’s release, perhaps less medicinal than the 10yo, and more in-keeping with the Quarter Cask, without the spirity notes. A decent all-rounder.

By now we were famished, so headed back to our home from home in Gruinart for a slice of our host Joanne’s famous Black Pudding Quiche. But on the way we decided to stop to pick some gorse flowers, for a rather moorish liqueur. Later in the week we’ll be bringing you a little video on how to make this fabulously sweet, zesty recipe, using an Islay whisky as its base.