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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Feis Ile Day Six: "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"

Day Six: "I'm forever blowing bubbles."

Wed started with a fascinating warehouse demonstration at Lagavulin. Another eclectic mix of nationalities shuffled into warehouse no.2 to enjoy hearing distillery manager Graham Logie and the utter legend that is Iain McArthur talk (and taste) us through some young, middle-aged and very old casks.

Before we were allowed to tuck into any casks, there was a demonstration from Graham and Iain on the traditional process of measuring the alcohol content in whisky. The aim was to show the lowering of alcohol content during maturation and how this affects the flavour.

The first cask opened by Iain was an 8 Year Old Lagavulin (Distilled 2000 – cask no 426). Slightly harsh on the palate, as a young whisky tends to be, this is still unmistakably Lagavulin but missing what makes Lagavulin great; the woods and smoke hadn’t mellowed the whisky and none of the farm-yard quality that the 16 YO has had developed yet. This was an interesting cask to try as an example of how this particular Islay malt develops.

Next up was a 15 YO (Distilled 1993 - cask no 4504), the sister cask to their 2008 Feis Ile bottling and immediately it was obvious that we were drinking something great from a cracking cask. The classic hallmarks of Lagavulin were all there- amazing swirls of smoke, sweetness and then brine on the finish, really rousing stuff. With a little water, its soul really came alive with a new-make fruitiness, mixed with more of that delicate smoke flowed over the tongue and palate. A quick straw poll indicated that our enthusiasm was shared by all those assembled.... certainly in our top 5 drams of the week so far. Really very good.

To conclude the tasting, Iain drew some whisky from a very old cask: 42 YO - Distilled 1966 - cask no. 552. The narrative that this tasting had taken us on, was to show the aging process of whisky. It was concluded that Lagavulin reaches it peak at between 12 and 30 years old. This expression was over oaked, watery and weak at just over 41% vol. but was certainly very interesting to try. It could well work out to be the oldest whisky we try on this fantastic trip!

We left in high spirits (!) due to the fantastic presentation from Graham and Iain and headed off to the open day at Islay ales where we picked up a few bottles to take back home, including a Bruichladdich Ale, made with the mash from Octomore (the highly peated Bruichladdich offering) which we look forward to sampling on our return.

Wednesday also welcomed in the Open Day at Bowmore. Their Feis Ile release is an 8 YO, matured in ex-Bordeaux Limousin Oak casks from Warehouse No.5, :

Bowmore – 8 YO - Distilled 14th June 1999 – limited to 800 bottles – additional packaging of a velvet black bag - 70cl – 54% Vol

Nose: Heather, ginger, mint humbugs, menthol, faint smoke, lemon bonbon. Warm cotton towels. Gristy.

Palate: . Dry sherry/sweet fudge, cigar smoke and cedar wood. Dried berries.

Finish: Dry. Coffee liquor. Dark chocolate and Seville orange notes leave a long finish.

Overall: A unique Bowmore that isn’t over-sweet and packs a punch, especially on the finish.