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Monday 30 June 2008

Bruichladdich Declares Itself God.

It's a good company, Bruichladdich. But is it God's own whisky? Not any longer! Three new "multi-vintage" whiskies will be introduced by Laddie this year, replacing the current Waves, Rocks and 3D series. We've spoken in the past about the excellent creativity within the distillery walls at Bruichladdich, but this time they have chosen to reinforce their old brands by keeping the Waves and Rocks names and adding Peat to that series (see above pics) to create a core brand of whiskies that consolidates their current offerings.

According to the press release;

Each cuvée is masterfully assembled by whisky legend Jim McEwan from several ages of Bruichladdich single malt, from different cask types and diverse whisky characteristics.

The concept was originally inspired by Champagne’s Remi Krug: “With a single vintage, it is God who decides on the quality. But with a multi-vintage, I am God.”

Right-ho. A nice concept, excect the PR machine trundles on to say the whiskies had "evolved haphazardly". Come on, Bruichladdich. Either you are an Evolutionist or a Creationist. One can not simply call themselves God and then rely on haphazard evolution as a means of creation, otherwise one is, by definition, not God...

Anyway, back to the releases:
Rocks will be the lightest of the lot, with fresh and fruity tones thanks to French Oak casks. Listed as a good aperitif whisky.

Waves will be mild, with hints of peat (15ppm, apparently). This is an "anytime of the day" whisky, which feels is exactly the right time of day to pour your first dram.

Peat will be, er, peaty. Replacing the 3D series (and boy do we love the 3D3 here at towers) this is slightly toned down at 35ppm (so lower than Ardbeg) still with a rich peat flavour but without the more medicinal undertones.

The prices look great with Rocks going out at somewhere around £25 a bottle retail, and Waves and Peat at £30. Excellent stuff. We hope to bring you reviews of these at some stage, when we will decide if the role of "God" is one that Bruichladdich can fill or not. Well, if you're going to set the bar, you might as well set it high!

Sunday 22 June 2008

Re-tracing our steps...

A slight departure for us at Caskstrength.  We've covered some clearly astonishing whiskies over our short, but sweet career as bloggers - and even some slightly odd experiments (Bruichladdich beer anyone?) But for some reason, we've never covered a bourbon. Until now that is.  
Perhaps we're slightly snobbish - or just not really bothered, but neither Joel nor I felt we could get terribly excited about a few new bottles of bourbon to have a crack at.  Perhaps previous bad memories, or minor alcohol-related indescresions are to blame.  Like most, we've had our fair share of bog standard American sour-mash, swished around with a cheap, watery cola mix at the Dullsville Arse & Trumpet pub. But it took a trip to our friends, the Whisky Exchange and the visit from a truly visionary US fellow, Harlen Wheatley to totally change our palates and opinions.  
For those who don't know, Harlen lays claim to the title of 'Master Distiller' at the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky.  On a very rare appearance to these shores, Harlen led a small group of privilaged tasters (luckily including a Caskstrengther) through the distillery's recent  6 expressions, teaching us a few eye opening distillation facts along the way.  
The Premise of distilling great bourbon is not wholly different to distilling great whisky. What does differ is the primary ingredients involved.  Buffalo Trace pride themselves on the expert combination of 3 grains- malted barley, rye and corn which go into the various mash tuns to produce differently flavoured bourbons.  According to Harlen, each grain gives a certain distinct flavour component to the distillate; a well rounded maltiness from the barley, sweetness from the corn and minty, peppery notes from the rye.  
So onwards to the tasting!

Buffalo Trace Bourbon:
90 proof /46%abv

Nose: Masses of immediate fruitiness; passion fruit, raisins and diced apple all mix with a very heady aroma of vanilla, chocolate covered fudge and honey.  what follows is a surprising smokiness combining with cinnamon and spice, as the alcohol prickles through.

Palate: More sweetness, tempered with charred wood from the casks. beautiful mouth feel with more fudge and cinnamon.  Small hints of leather and tobacco also come through on the finish.

Finish:  Different as to be expected from that of a malt- shorter notes of pepper and spice but there's also a longer, lingering mustiness and more leather.

Overall:  Having only tasted a handful of good bourbons in the past, I would say that my palate has been re-awakened to this often disappointing drink. Buffalo Trace has certainly surprised me, as to its complexity and sheer depth of flavour.  I would urge any bourbon virgins to try this first and discover the wealth of hidden treats at the bottom of your glass. At around £20 it's also great value for money.

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old:
 90 proof /45%abv

On to round two and we're on slightly familiar ground here.  Eagle Rare is a limited 'single barrel' bottling, which forms part of the distillery's 'Antique collection'.  Sounds like we're in malt whisky territory then, with this the 10 year old edition. (a 17 yo is also available in even more limited supply) 

Nose: Cinnamon, cloves with wisps of ripe vanilla pods immediately hit you following onto a burst of citrus sherbet and buttery candy.

Palate:  A really pleasing licorice flavour coats the tongue with lovely fresh fruit compote (especially strawberry and blackberry) coming through afterwards. Further hints of leather, tobacco leaf, vanilla and red wine.  an excellent balance.

Finish:  This older bourbon has a much drier finish than the Buffalo Trace but there are equal hints of  vanilla, then salty popcorn which round off this splendid expression.

Overall: Again, for a  a sub £30 drink, this really is worth seeking out. It has a slightly classier feel than the Buffalo Trace, but the care and passion of a great bourbon runs through both expressions.

Rock Hill Farm:

Our third tasting and another single barrel bourbon.  Rock Hill Farm is another small batch release  from Buffalo Trace, this time bottled at 8 years old. 

Nose: Spirity, with less fruit than the previous tastings.  Big bold vanilla and cereal notes are the dominant features here, rich and buttery, but with less subtlety than the Eagle Rare.

Palate: More of that smooth butteriness with more hints of old leather and bonfire toffee.  Lighter hints of fragrant fruit (papaya?) emerge as you delve in further.

Finish:  A bitter chocloate hit on the finish, with a slight mintiness and a cigar-like aftertaste.

Overall:  After the two initial tastings, I was slightly less enamoured by this expression. Sure there's a quality about it but it lacked the overall complexity of the Eagle Rare and the lovely rounded fruitness of the Buffalo Trace.  At nearly £50, it certainly doesn't match up to the value of the others either. Not a miss, but then, not entirely a hit with Caskstrength either. 

Sazerac Straight Rye:
6 yo 45% abv

Wow- a taste departure!! and a definite first for Caskstrength.  This is certainly the first Rye tasted here and it becomes obvious just how much the difference in grain has a profound effect on the taste.  

Nose: Loads of white pepper, mint and cloves combine to give this an unmistakable menthol-like aroma.  Very dry, with further hints of old oak and cedarwood on the second nosing.

Palate: A big cereal hit gets your attention immediately, then a creamy, classic 'rye bread' smoothness with hints of pickle and even spicy pastrami.  A slightly salty soda water note comes through at the end. 

Finish: More drying oak and aromatic cloves give this one of the most distinct finishes we've tasted.

Overall:  A completely different grain and such opposing flavours make this stand apart from the other tasting notes we prepared.  It is an enjoyable experience, but flawed.  I would doubt this has any chance of catching on the same way as bourbon in the UK but one can imagine the flawless cocktails it could complement, so for another sub £30 bottle, this would make a unique aquision to your cabinet.

WL Weller 
12 yo Straight Bourbon 45% abv

So into the home straight now and another different approach from Buffalo Trace. WL Weller is another aged bourbon from the distillery and uses a 4th grain, this time wheat in place of the rye to add a delicate smokiness into the mix.

Nose:  Surprising smoke immediately grabs your attention.  Almost single malt like, it intertwines with wholegrain toast, ripe fruits and sweet hickory BBQ sauce.

Palate: A complex blend of more summer fruits, sherry, raisins and chocolate.  A really moreish mouth feel.

Finish: Dry oak but leads to a real sweetness, like the Buffalo Trace in the death.  Very refined and hugely drinkable.

Overall:  Once again,  more innovation from this excellent distillery.  The use of wheat as a grain is not unique (Woodford Reserve produce a wheat'ed bourbon too) but the complexity of flavour, coupled with the smoky edge really works and makes this an extremely good bourbon.

So our final treat of the night, and it's a proper firecracker of a finish- 'Ladies and Gentleman- my I introduce you to our headlining act of the night: The one, the only.... Mr George, T, Stagggggggggggggg'!!!
(cue frenzied applause and the sound of young bourbon fans fainting in expectation!!) 

George T Stagg
Single Barrel Bourbon, aged 15 years. 72.4% abv!!

Ok, we've all tried some pretty big hitting whiskies over the years. Any one remember the Caol Ila 8 yo unpeated; bottled at 64.9% or the Glenmorangie 100 proof?  They're basically brutish and blunt in their approach to the palate, desensitizing it with the sheer power of alcohol. Undrinkable in our opinion, unless you muzzle them with a good measure of water.  But who wants to remove the bite from the guard dog?? Buy a Labrador and be happy with its generally placid nature.
In Darwinian terminology, the George T Stagg could possibly be the missing hybrid genus between the biggest, meanest Rottweiler- full of snarling ferocity and the prettiest pedigree Spaniel, serving every playful whim you could ever think of... 

Nose: Root beer and freshly cut carrots mixed with sweet floral passion fruit, toasted oak, parma violets and lightly perfumed linen sheets (the kind you imagine Keira Knightley waking up with, on a crisp summer morning) (ok, enough perving Ridley, back to the booze! ED) In a word - divine.  How they create such gentle combinations of flavour at this strength, is extraordinary. 

Palate:  Again, more of that floral passion fruit, but we're fully back in bourbon country with twists of tobacco, thick dark chocolate and espresso coffee.  Not the slightest interference or bitterness of alcohol at all. 

Finish:  More smoke/ cocoa on the finish and a really pleasant warming mouth feel as the alcohol dissipates-  you're left with nothing but smiles and good cheer!!

Overall: An undisputed  'true great' in the world of bourbon.  Buffalo Trace only make a tiny amount of this and if you're lucky enough to find one,  grab it with both hands and don't even think about reaching for the water jug.  

All in all,  an unforgettable night of great chat, history, science and of course, great drinking. Caskstrength acquired a bottle of WL Weller, which in our opinion was the pound-for-pound winner, but pitched against the Stagg- any great single malt whisky, let alone bourbon would struggle to get gain the advantage.  
Watch this space for an exclusive interview with Harlen further down the line hopefully!



Thursday 19 June 2008

We've Arrived! hits 50+ reviews!

This is it, ladies and gents. Here is our 49th, 50th and 51st whisky reviews. Actually, that's a bit of a lie as that number has included 2 beers (whisky related, of course!) but it is not bad going since we started in March of this year. When I finally pass away, I want my liver to be made into pate and served at my funeral, as it will be better than any foie gras found around today.

What have you tried so far, we hear you cry (new readers, at least). Well, here is a little list for you of what exactly we have tasted thus far:
Arran - Founder's Reserve
Ardbeg - 1977
Ardbeg - Very Young
Ardbeg - Still Young
Ardbeg - Almost There
Ardbeg - Renaissance (We've Arrived!)
Ardbeg - 1975 - Cask No.1375 - Distilled 1975
Ardbeg - 1975 - Cask No.1378 - Distilled 1975
Ardbeg - 1990 - 18 YO - Fourth Fill Bourbon Cask - Cask No. 2553
Ardbeg - Corryvreckan
Ardbeg - Mor - Feis Ile 2007
Ardbeg / Glen Moray - Serendipity
BBR - Blue Hanger
Bowmore – 8 YO - Distilled 14th June 1999
Bruichladdich - PC7- Unity
Bruichladdich - Port Charlotte - PC6 - Ian Buxton Single Cask bottling
Buichladdich 3D3
Bruichladdich - Valinch X4+1 Deliverance
Bunnahabhain 1976 – 31 YO
Bunnahabhain – 21 Yo – Dist 1986
Caol Ila - 1991 / 2007 - 16 YO - Berry Bro and Rudd - Cask No. 286
Caol Ila - 1978 / 2002 - 23 YO - Rare Malts
Caol Ila 1991 – 17 YO
Clynelish 1995 – 12 YO
Dallas Dhu - Old Malt Cask – 21 YO
Glen Scotia 1992 – 15 YO
Grants Ale Cask Reserve
Highland Park – Old Malt Cask- 23 YO – NAS
Highland Park 1989 – 17 YO
Highland Park OB 12 yo Single Cask - 1995
Johnnie Walker - Gold Label - Centenary Edition (18 Year Old Blend)
Johnnie Walker - Blue Label
Lagavulin – 1993 / Bottled 2008 – 15 YO – OB - Feis Ile 2008
Lagavulin - 14 YO - Feis Ile Bottling 2007
Lagavulin - 8 Year Old Lagavulin - Distilled 2000
Lagavulin - 15 YO - Distilled 1993
Lagavulin - 42 YO - Distilled 1966
Laphroaig – 10 YO – Cask Strength
Laphroaig – 1989 – 17 YO – Feis Ile 2007 Bottling
Laphroaig – Cairdeas – Feis Ile Bottling 2008
Macallan - OB - Elegancia
Macallan 1990 – 18 YO
Port Ellen - Berry's Own Selection - 1982 / 2008 (25 YO)
Royal Bracklar – Rare Malts – 20 Years Old – Dist. 1978
Talisker - 10 YO
Talisker - 12 YO
Talisker - 18 YO
Talisker - 57 Degrees North
Tomintoul – Mackillops Choice – 35 YO – Dist. 1966
BEER: Islay Ales - Bruichladdich 2008 Peat Ale - 500ml - 7.6% Vol - £3.50
BEER: Innis & Gunn Original - 6.6% Vol - 330ml

Right. On with our reviews and how fitting that, as we arrive at 50+ reviews we should do a retrospective tasting of the development of Ardbeg across their Very Young, Still Young, Almost There and Renaissance (We've Arrived) range. As the fruits of their labour under the ownership of Glenmorangie, this range is a classic example of why Ardbeg is such a loved and wonderful dram. The wonders of the 3 Kildalton distillieries on Islay (Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg) are there for all to taste, but to have a range of whisky showing development over a 10 year period really is wonderful and it gives a rare opportunity to taste malt development and maturation in progress. Let's kick off with a whisky we reviewed recently. Apologies for a re-print, but it is nice to have all these tasting notes in one place:

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 - Still Young - Distilled 1998 / Bottled 2006 - OB - 70cl - 56.2% vol

Nose: Butterscotch, Caramac bars and coaldust dominate, but there is an emergent savoury note as well. Absolutely lovely.

Palate: Very drinkable despite its youth and strength. Slightly less bumptious and more approachable than its predecessor, Very Young - but still with the big hot spices, coal tar soap and citrus character.

Finish: Long, tingling, warming, astringent. Spices, white pepper and chilli still throwing their weight around and bursting in flashes across the tastebuds.

Overall: Another epic dram from the team at Ardbeg. Strangely, it doesn't seem to suit water: the smallest drop seems to throw it off balance, and the palate becomes quite salty. But there's no need for water in this anyway - take it like a man!

Ardbeg - Almost There - Distilled 1998 / Bottled 2007 - OB - 70cl - 54.1% Vol

Nose: Wet turf & wet wool to begin with, then gets very earthy with distinct bonfire aromas - more woodsmoke than coal. Like burning loose, wet, young peat rather than the heavy, dense, older stuff.
Palate: Noticeably smoother than the Very Young and Still Young, its predecessors in this series. Very approachable, with a more pronounced sweetness sitting well alongside the lemon, brine and smoke that so characterise the younger bottlings.
Finish: Sweet and salty, with the peat mixing with some faint hints of legumes (runner beans, fresh sugar snap peas) and still plenty of spice.

Overall: It is just fascinating to taste this alongside the two earlier versions and the Renaissance - to chart the development of one of the world's greatest malts from its infancy. As one would expect, this version is more balanced and complete than its younger siblings.

Ardbeg - Renaissance (We've Arrived!) - Distilled 1998 / Bottled 2008 - OB - 70cl - 55.9% Vol
Nose: Immediate sherbertiness (if that's a word) - lemony. Then some tinned fruit salad, sugar syrup, sawdust and peach melba. The peat remains in the background as the nose develops green apples and barley sugar, then comes forward: coal smoke & woodsmoke, very nice. With time, the nose becomes more peppery, with not unpleasant hints of tweed and old floorboards, like an ageing relative's attic. But the real thing is the sherbert: it's almost as if the whisky is effervescent - you can't help half-expecting it to fizz up your nose...

Palate: The very second it hits your tounge there is a real Champagne quality to it. But only for a split second. Fizz, sparkle and then a big coal hit... then the spices come rushing in - yowser! Very warming, the bonfire notes are here again, but accompanied by some exotic fruit. Then it's the turn of the coal - this is a smouldering, intense, complex whisky. It's also delicious.

Finish: As the smoke and spice roar on, the finish becomes slightly drying, with dusty oak, honey that peach yoghurt? Whatever. This is going down a treat.

Overall: A great end to the 'Young' series. Ardbeg call it the 'path to peaty maturity', but whatever you want to call it, it's been a great trip. And this stuff is brilliant. Bodes very well for the widely-anticipated new batch of 10 year-old.

Sunday 8 June 2008

Bin Men Don't Do Rubbish.

In March we were lucky enough to find a bottle of this Highland Park OB, in a wonderful printed bottle (embossed on the reverse with the highland park details) which has been done esp for Oddbinns, who were knocking it out for under £40. It come in a beautiful bottle (just flip it over to see a map of Orkney embossed on the bottom), probably the nicest one I have seen this year, with lovely gold lettering on the front (see the picture above).

A little tab around the neck of the bottle reads:

"Cask number 1555 was filled on the 25th July 1995 and after just over 12 years maturing on Orkney, this classic sherry cask, previously seasoned with Oloroso sherry has matured beautifully. Providing a wonderful dark natural coloured cask strength single malt bursting with flavour and character."

Opened this weekend, let's get into the tasting notes of this cheeky little dram:

Highland Park OB 12 yo Single Cask - 1995 - 60.6% - Cask No. 1555 (Oloroso Cask) - Probably somwhere in the region of 500 bottles.

Nose- Beautiful: Fruit cake, natural caramel, polished oak, cocoa, cloves, mixed peel and orange peel. Wonderful sherry notes, vibrant oak. Old skool leather. Like a Gentlemen’s Club that Phileas Fogg would be a member of . Then comes Butter scotch and ginger, becoming more savoury, then exotic, candied sugar-almonds. Lightly toasted white bread pops up mixed with light coffee. Water softens and brings out toasted buttered hot-cross-buns.

Palate - It is immense. Chocolate, rich malt, huge rich sherry presence. It is so powerful but polished with malt to back it up. Big spices and exotic fruit mix with cloves. A lovely sweetness but with a solid malt foundation. We aren’t so concerned with mouth-feel here at, but this has big mouth feel. An excellent balance of strength and intensity, helped by the cask strength nature of this bottling.

Finish - Very long. With, chillies and sugared almonds again and all that you get in the palate, only echoes.

Overall - What an insane bargain at £36 (or £38, we can’t quite remember and we’re too scared to look at our bank statements post-Islay!) and in a high street store. The best "bang for your buck" this year? Shows what can be done when a top quality distillate goes into a top quality cask. A massive credit to anyone involved; a massive plus to Highland Park and a massive plus to oddbins for knocking this out at under £40. Expect to spend upwards of a tonne on this now which, to be fair, is still worth it.

Notes by Tim and Joel.

Thursday 5 June 2008

First Post, Post-Islay

At the Islay Ales Open Day, we picked up a few bottles of their beer brewed with the wort from the Bruichladdich Octomore mash. The bottle reads thus:

"Bruichalddich Peat Ale is brewed using heavily malted barley wort. Islay Ales has added Golding, Fuggle and Cluster hops to produce a beer with a bitterness which compliments the peaty character of the malt and a citrus, fruity aroma that has all the character of a heavily peated Whisky Malt and the best traditions of British Real Ale all in one bottle."

Can't argue with that, can you!

Islay Ales - Bruichladdich 2008 Peat Ale - 500ml - 7.6% Vol - £3.50

Nose: initial opening was a massive hit of smoke. Not woodsmoke or peat smoke, but cigarette smoke. Old cigarette smoke. Does anyone know the scene in trainspotting where the American tourist walks into the pub in Edinburgh? This smell should go with that scene!

Palate: anyone done a distillery tour? When the take the beer out of the mash tun and you get a taste the beer? A stupid thing to draw a comparison to given the origins of this brew, but that is the initial hit. It then mellows through iron brew, into a touch of passion friut / mango (last time I tasted that in such strength was in a dram of Black Bowmore) on swallowing.

Finish: then the smoke hits. Big time. Like the smell of clothes the day after a bonfire. And then it's gone. Very nice.

Overall: like no beer I have ever tasted before. It needs the strength of Vol to carry the taste over the smoke, otherwise it would be watery and get lost. This is a totally unique. If you can get a bottle, do it! I liked it, my house mate liked it and we both drink a lot of ale!

Monday 2 June 2008

Feis Ile Day Ten: Homeward Bound

Feis Ile Day Ten: Homeward Bound

That's all folks! Having decided not to take up our flights back from Glasgow to London, we extended the car hire by an extra day to drive our precious haul of bottles (not just whisky, but Islay Ales too) and the odd other item (the above shot is of the beautiful new Ardbeg book compiled by Gavin D Smith and Graeme Wallace called "A Peaty Provenance" signed by Michael Heads, plus a very empty bottle of Very Young) back to the Big Smoke.

It has been a wonderful, wonderful trip. A lot of driving (the drive back to London from the ferry port was 500 miles alone) but there were a fair few folk who had stopped on the Sunday at Loch Fyne Whiskies who had a lot further to drive than we did (Godspeed, Anders!).

Now we have arrived home to piles of post and nervous bank managers, it has given us time to reflect up on the drams we have consumed over the past nine days and come up with our individual favs:


1. Ardbeg - 1990 - 18 YO - 4th Fill Bourbon- Cask No. 2553 - Drawn Direct From The Cask

2. Lagavulin - 15YO - Cask No. 552 - Drawn Direct From The Cask

3. Ardbeg - Very Young - OB - 58.3% Vol

4. Longrow 18 - OB - 46% Vol

5. Glen Scotia - 1992 - 15YO - Murray McDavid Bottling


1. Lagavulin - 15 YO - Cask No. 552 - Drawn Direct From The Cask

2. Ardbeg - 1990 - 18 YO - 4th Fill Bourbon - Cask No. 2553 - Drawn Direct From The Cast

3. Ardbeg - 1975 - Cask No.1378 - Single Cask - Own Bottling

4. Laphroaig – 1989 – 17 YO – First Fill Bourbon - Feis Ile 2007 Bottling

5. Bruichladdich - PC7 (Port Charlotte) "Unity" - Advanced Tasting Bottling.

The Clam Speaks About Her Choice:

Feis Ile Day Nine: Pick Up The Pieces

Feis Ile Day Nine: Pick Up The Pieces


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.

Feis Ile Day Eight: "I Hate This Car, And I Hate Being In This Car With You"

Day Seven: “I hate this car. And I hate being in this car with you.”

(although there was a quick dram hidden in there somewhere)

Today has been a mixed day. The sun has been shining (the sunburn is all the proof I need!) and temperatures, according to the KIA’s trip computer, reached as high as 21 degrees. The open day today was at Bunnahabhain but we decided not to make it over there, having spent some time there earlier in the week with Distillery Manager John MacLellan (See tasting notes on their 21 YO festival bottling from a previous day).

Instead, your intrepid reporters decided it would be a good day to discover some of the island we had not been to before. We jumped in the KIA, checked the trip computer which told us we had 109 miles of fuel left and headed off for the Cross of Kildalton. What a glorious drive down past Ardbeg and into the wilds; roe deer running by, eagles circling the deep blue sky and remarkably unspoilt sandy beaches that bare more resemblance to the Caribbean than Kildalton!!

On our travels we have tasted some clearly brilliant whiskies, but feel that the wonderful environment and spectacular weather this week on Islay, have added at least another 50% to the overall enjoyment of this trip.

Our drive back from the Cross of Kildalton took us past the entrance to Ardbeg. With nothing else planned for the day and being two able bodied “young” men, we popped in to see if there were any tasks that we could help with in readiness for the Open Day, just a few hours away. After a short spell of helping clean chairs and tables, we were taken for a swim off the pier round the back of the distillery. A keen-eyed Angus spotted a star fish which made for a very amusing photo.

Having dried off in the afternoon sun, we headed home for some tea, but DISASTER STRUCK....

The KIA, which had been doing so well thus far, proved to be the weak link in our adventure and decided to run out of petrol. Ok, so it was probably our fault for neglecting to fill the tank sufficiently (who knew the petrol stations all close at 6pm on Islay??!!) but the onboard trip computer did tell us we had a rocking 30 miles till empty...

Help was at hand however when Jimmy, owner of the Bridgend Spar sold us a tenners worth of fuel after hours!!

Buoyed with our successful blag, we decided to celebrate heavily and, on our return home and once full of home-made fish pie, we headed out to the Lochside Bar in Bowmore to partake in a local past time: drinking loads of beer and watching a great Celtic band.