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Sunday 3 June 2012

Islay Odyssey - Day Six: Single Malt Scotch Westie

Hello! it's a Jubilee Special, folks... woof. 

A crack of dawn start and both Caskstrengthers are up, washed, coiffured and ready for the final day of the Feis - Ardbeg Day.  If this was a music festival, it would be 'Islay of Wight' and Ardbeg's open day would be the headlining act; everyone piling down to this quirky south shore distillery to see just how mad the events are and what the distillery staff are wearing (last year, it was flamenco gear)

Eminem...or Mickey H?
This time around, what with some 'other'  low-key sporting event happening somewhere in the south of England the theme of the Ardbeg open day is sports related and everyone is decked out in tracksuits, trainers and sweatbands - with the 'Daley Thompson' of Ardbeg, Mr Mickey Heads himself (aka Mr H)  wearing a huge bling'y gold chain.

The Olympic-themed day had its very own opening ceremony, with the crowds invited to group together under their nation's flags:  Ridley was the proud bearer of the Cross Of St George, with 20-or-so English folks following behind. Alas, the same cannot be said for Harrison.  Carrying the flag of Norway (his other home nation) he failed to attract any Norwegian visitors, despite loudly bragging that 'we've got all the oil'.  Eventually he found some friends and the parade of nations could begin in earnest, to the strains of The Proclaimers- I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)

Ardbeg have always excelled at bringing in and entertaining the crowds during their open day and this year is no exception: Events ranging from sheep tossing, canine racing, (using long bungee cords and dog suits) to cask end discus a cracking 70's rock cover band and acrobatic display team.  What's not to like about that?

But of course, the whiskies on offer need to be as top notch as the entertainment and this year the masterclasses, also themed with sporting titles were excellent.  Bryony MacIntyre was back from her new exciting role in the blending labs to host a great tasting - Bryony's Phenolic Gymnastics, which demonstrated the peating levels in several expressions: Ardbeg Kildalton Four Year Old - 2008 - 60.8% (still work in progress, but full of light buttery character, fresh zesty fruits and bags of vanilla) Alligator, The Ardbeg Day festival bottling (which we reviewed here) and a new single cask sample from 2002 in first fill bourbon 57.8% (with superb soft 70's style peat, charcoal/BBQ notes and vanilla custard)

Mickey's tasting also had a superb cask sample from 1998, matured in refill sherry - perhaps one of the best examples of whisky from the modern day era of Ardbeg and hopefully destined to see the light as a single cask in the future (please)

There was a little chatter about the (not-so-secret) Galileo bottling from 1999 -  matured in wine (Marsala?) We hope to bring you more news as it comes.

The closing medals ceremony saw the various event champions awarded gold, silver and bronze - amazingly the lovely Cat from Master Of Malt and our good friend Eugene Van der Meer winning the raffle prizes of some classic Ardbeg expressions and a giant sized 4.5 litre bottle of the festival bottling (looking like a normal sized bottle in Eugene's hands!)

Altogether, a thoroughly superb way to end the Feis and once again setting the bar high for next year's festival.