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Tuesday 23 June 2009

Woaaah Black Betty (bam ba Lam...)

Things may seem a little quiet here at Caskstrength lately. That's not because we've been lazy in our pursuit of whisky perfection. Far from it actually. The last couple of weeks have seen us channeling all our energies into on very specific project.

A project so exciting that it could tear the roof off modern whisky blending.

A project that, once sampled will reduce your tastebuds to jibbering tearful wrecks at the mere thought of its sheer quality.

A project that.... (ok that's enough unnecessary build up, thank you, Ed)

Yes, i'm talking about the long awaited (well a couple of weeks at least) vatting of the many samples we collected during our superb visit to Islay's Feis Ile at the end of May.

'Black Betty' - Black Bottle, but a bit more sexy and rock n' roll???

What started out as a bit of a running joke has turned into a real labour of love. From the 100 or so whiskies we sampled, the cream of the crop were swiftly stored in sample bottles and then carefully blended in various quantities at a secret lab in Zurich. (Zurich St, South London)

(our glamorous assistant feverishly tweaks at the Gas Chromatograph, searching for an answer...)

Below is a list of what made the final cut in Black Betty and as you'll see- we didnt skimp on the quality! We have aimed to get as many of the Feis Ile Bottlings into it as possible, as well as a sumptuous array of peated treats...

Ardbeg Still Young, Uigeadail,
Ardbeg Single Casks, 1375, 1378, 772, 1189 & 1190 !
Bruichladdich Octomore sherry finish

Bruichladdich First Growth Yquem & Latour finishes

Bruichladdich Feis Ile Bottling 2009

Bowmore Feis Ile bottling 2009 (1999)

Bowmore 1988 port matured
Caol Ila 10 yo unpeated

Caol Ila distillery only bottling
Caol Ila Feis Ile bottling

Glen Moray 1962 (Celtic Heartlands)

Kilchoman 3 yo Sherry finish & 3 yo fresh bourbon bottling

Laphroaig- Quarter Cask, 30 yo, 27 yo, and Cairdeas 2009 Feis Ile
Lagavulin - 2000, 1997 1993, 1966, 1969 Feis Ile bottling and 21 yo!!
Port Askaig Caskstrength & 25 yo

Port Ellen Official 1st release !!

(the Bunnahabhain FI bottling sadly never made it, but it is there in spirit...)

Black Betty finally lives and breathes!!!
Arise my dear... and conquer all before you...

Umm. wait a minute. Does it actually taste any good?? That's a hell of a lot of good whisky to be 'a wastin'... let's see...

Black Betty (bam ba lam)- Vatted malt - strength ??

From the deepest islay peat bogs, something murky and dark steps forth... heavy peat, light peat, some medicinal notes, younger cereal whiffs, older classic swimming pool peat, woody oak and some fresh sweet fruits.... wow. How did that happen? Everything seems to have its own space. Some distinct wine, butterscotch and mint humbug aromas are also present, which give a pleasant youthful top-note, against the backdrop of very old and oaky whiskies.

Palate: Ok... this is the moment of truth... eyes closed everyone:
Licorice, lemon zest, passion fruit, sherbet, red wine notes, lots of oak and then sweet floral bursts, countered by a Caol Ila-a-like coal/sooty note. As bizarre as it sounds this is actually drinkable! Hooray! we didn't ruin loads of great samples after all!!!

Finish: Dry wine notes give way and the floral notes just keep on developing, partly I think down to the Bowmore 1988 Port matured sample which we may have been a little heavy handed with... but then you get the same rainbow of different peat flavours we first nosed, particularly that glorious soft gentle peat present in the older Ardbegs. Pretty damn good.

Overall: Clearly this could have gone totally tits up, but the whole affair has felt like a really worthwhile experience - 4 friends, lots of great whiskies and one goal... to have some fun and create something a little chaotic, but eminently drinkable.

We'll be giving away a sample bottle of this in the coming weeks so you can decide for yourselves if we wasted our time!!!

Friday 19 June 2009

breaking the (Spring) Banks!!

Some interesting news came in on the C.S. wire today regarding an extraordinary days trading at Bonhams, one of the UK's most celebrated auction houses.

A packed saleroom of high-spritied bidders from all over the world competed vigorously for the 355 lots on offer yesterday, with hundreds of absentee bids already in place prior to the sale commencing. An astounding 100% of lots had sold by the end of the day, the total sale reaching well over a staggering £138,000.

Among the top performing brands were Ardbeg, Bowmore, Highland Park, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Port Ellen, The Macallan and Springbank.

The mouthwatering highlights of the sale included the following:

a rare miniature of Springbank-1919 £1500,
Black Bowmore-1964 £3000,
The Macallan-1938 £1800,
Springbank-1958 £960,
Laphroaig-40 year old £1200,
Port Ellen Maltings-21 year old £1620, (which we would sell any available grandmothers for, just to try a sip. )

Tasting notes to come shortly on the above list, when we've managed to convince the bank they're better off being drunk, than pored over in a glass case... ;-)

Bonhams Whisky specialist Martin Green, says: “This is one of the most successful whisky sales on record with the highest percentage of lots sold in the 20 year history of whisky auctions.”

For further whisky porn, here's a picture of a pretty lady fondling her highly prized assets:

Thursday 11 June 2009

Prince of Wales

Phew. So that was that, another Feis Ile under our belts where we had a brilliant time of whisky and community. Another big thanks to the folk of Islay for letting the world decend upon their isle once again.

So, where do we go from here. 110 whiskies in 10 days means our liver took a much deserved break of soft drinks and water for a week or so. However, during the surrender to Highland Spring (not Highland Park), one good friend had a 30th Birthday and I couldn't resist trying one of his gifts:

Penderyn - Aur Cymru (Welsh Gold) - NAS - 46% Vol - Nov 2008 Edition - Finished In Madeira Casks

N - A nice waft of soft butter, violets and just a hint of sweet desert wine, obviously.

P- Very soft on the mouth feel, this cuts in with a real sweetness that makes you think the whisky has spent just the right amount of time in the Madeira casks. Everything is there; butterscotch, heather and a little toffee apple. None of the spices I was expecting but a drinkable if not remarkable dram.

F - A pretty quick and easy follow on from the palate, this is gone in an instant and not in a bad way.

O - Mmmm. Difficult one, as it is the first whisky back from hundreds (literally) of Islay drams, which kinda skews our whisky senses a little. The overall feeling I get with this whisky is that there is not quite enough power and wood to the spirit itself, before the finishing took place, leaving me thinking that the whisky needed more time in Bourbon casks to take on some decent wood flavours first. It is a good whisky this, but coming off the back of "smokey, peaty whisky week" it just feels a little, er, tame!

Thursday 4 June 2009

The Dram'atic list....

So in case some of you were wondering just what the 100+ drams were that we snaffled during our time on Islay, below is a handy alphabetical list...take a deep breath....

We're also currently vatting a VERY SPECIAL batch of Islay whiskies to form our very own version of BLACK BOTTLE, a blend which purportedly includes whisky from every Islay distillery in its make up)

BLACK BETTY (Bam Ba Lam) - named after our favourite driving tune on Islay will be unveiled later this month, as we reassemble the A-Team for one final, monumental tasting - so stay tuned for the results! Will 'BETTY become a near legendary blend, or simply prove that we have no idea what we're doing in the blending stakes??!

Ardbeg Still Young
Ardbeg Uigeadail
Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist
Ardbeg 10
Ardbeg 1975 Cask 1375
Ardbeg 1975 Cask 1378
Ardbeg Lord Of The Isles 2002 Release
Ardbeg Warehouseman's Dram 1995 1st Fill Bourbon
Ardbeg Supernova
Ardbeg SMWS bottling
Ardbeg Corryvreckan
Ardbeg 1992 Cask 772
Ardbeg 1998 Cask 1189
Ardbeg 1998 Cask 1190
Ardmore: 1990 G+M
Bailie Nicol Jarvie
Benrinnes SMWS bottling
Black Bottle
Black Grouse
Bruichladdich Octomore 3yo Sherry Matured
Bruichladdich 21 YO Fresh Fill Bourbon
Bruichladdich 2001 Resurrection
Bruichladdich 16 YO Frist Growth Lafite
Bruichladdich 16 YO Frist Growth Margaux
Bruichladdich 16 YO Frist Growth d'Yquem
Bruichladdich Rum finish 1
Bruichladdich Rum finish 2
Bruichladdich Rum finish 3
Bruichladdich Rum finish 4
Bruichladdich Rum finish 5
Bruichladdich Feis Ile Bottling 2009
Bruichladdich Redder Still
Bruichladdich 16
Bruichladdich 18
Bunnahabhain Feis Ile
Bunnahabhain Family Silver
Bunnahabhain 10 YO
Bunnahabhain 1976 31yo 'Falster'
Bunnahabhain 16 YO Manzanilla
Bowmore New Spirit
Bowmore 1999 Bourbon Cask
Bowmore 1999 Sherry
Bowmore 1999 Wine (Ch. Lagrange)
Bowmore FI Bottling
Bowmore 16 YO Wine + Bourbon
Bowmore 1988 Port Matured
Craigellachie Provenance: 1991 12 year old
Cleinleish SMWS
Caol Ila New Spirit
Caol Ila 10
Caol Ila 12
Caol Ila Distiller's Edition
Caol Ila Distillery Only
Caol Ila Feis Ile Bottling 2009
Caol Ila Cask Strength
Glen Moray 1962 Celtic Heartlands
Glen Grant-Glenlivet: 1989 13yo 62.4% (Cadenhead’s)
Hazleburn SMWS
Imperial: 1991 15yo 43% (G & M)
Invergordon 1965 42yo Celtic Heartlands
Kilchoman New Spirit
Kilchoman Sherry finish 3 YO
Kilchoman Fresh Bourbon 3 YO
Kilchoman Sherry Matured 3 YO
Laphroaig 15 YO
Laphroaig 18
Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 OLD
Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 NEW Batch 001
Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Laphroaig 10 YO
Laphroaig 30
Laphroaig 1981 27yo
Laphroaig Cairdeas 12yo Feis Ile Bottling 2009
Laphroaig Triple Wood
Laphroaig New 25 cask strength
Lagavulin 2000
Lagavulin 1997
Lagavulin 1993
Lagavulin 1966
Lagavulin 1969
Lagavulin New Spirit
Lagavulin Distiller's Edition
Lagavulin 16
Lagavulin 12
Lagavulin 21
Lagavulin Feis Ile bottling 2009
Longmorn 15
Longrow 100 proof
Port Askaig Caskstrength
Port Askaig 17
Port Askaig 25
Port Charlotte SOI Blood tub
Port Charlotte Rum Cask 7 yo
Port Ellen Pert Mellons
Port Ellen 21 YO DL IWS
Port Ellen 23 YO DL IWS
Port Ellen First Release 1979
Port Ellen Fourth Release 1978
Queen Of The Moorlands Caol Ila
Queen Of The Moorlands Laphroaig
Queen Of The Moorlands Bowmore
Queen Of The Moorlands Tullibardine
Redbreast 12
Rosebank SMWS
Royal Brackla
Royal Lochnagar 1985 18yo 43% (Provenance)
Talisker 1981 20yo
White Heather Blend 1960's

Phew.... time for a cup of tea I think!!!

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Islay Festival 2009 - Day Ten (Homeward Bound)

Day 10: A Kick In The Ballochs…

Bang on 7am and our alarm clock blasts into action, as welcoming a sound as a prize festival bottling smashing on a stone floor and the accompanying ‘yelp’ of despair. Last night was our ‘big night out’ and boy, we were all paying for it this morning.

As the memories started returning to our hazy heads, it became apparent that both Murdoch and Hannibal had found temporary ‘accommodation’ on, respectively, the bathroom floor and the green of the local golf course.

After some life-giving breakfast bananas, a frantic display of lodge clearance was instigated, with a few dozen sample bottles slipped into coat pockets, shoes, pants and anywhere they could be safely stowed. With the screech of tyres, Joel gunned our battered hire car out of the Machrie seven minutes before our 9am deadline (the final check-in time for our ferry). Somehow, we arrived at the port with 5 minutes to spare. Surely a new island record??

The Calmac breakfast has entered folk lore since Iain Banks wrote of its high quality and ability to cure any drinks related ailment, so clearly it was the order of the day. Refreshment of our pallor’s and smiles was nearly instantaneous, and soon all memory of our previous day’s entertainment at Ardbeg was successfully restored.

After kicking back with the selected works of the greatest of all fictional Eastern European Bovine philosophers, the Immortal Cowjetski, the 2 hour journey to the mainland gave us all time to reflect on just what an amazing event the Feis Ile is and how much it represents the resilient spirit of the island’s wonderful community. It is as much about visiting old friends, making new ones and respecting Islay’s rich heritage, as it is about great whisky - and, with the exception of a few greedy and unscrupulous speculators (you have been noted) everyone threw themselves into making 2009 a year to remember.

To celebrate, we’ve come up with a list of awards for those folks that went that extra mile to make the Feis Ile a right royal cracker!

Best Distillery Open Day: Ardbeg (with a very close runner up – Bruichladdich)

Best Festival Bottling: Ardbeg, single cask 1189 (runner up - Caol Ila single cask)

Best Overall Event: Laphroaig ‘Hands On Laphroaig – The Source, The Peat, The Malt’. (Runner up – Port Ellen Maltings visit)

Best Tasting Session: Ardbeg single cask and Committee bottlings, hosted by Michael Heads (Runner up- Bowmore masterclass, hosted by Iain McCallum)

Legend Of The Festival: Iain McArthur, Lagavulin (runner up – ‘Ardbeg Tie Guy’)

Most Sorely Missed This Year: Hans Moleman (runner up: Boyd)

Best Festival Food: Bruichladdich Soiree (particularly the venison and the amazing scallops)

Special Award for Best Gentleman’s Accoutrement: Ridley’s Tippling Stick.

Spirit Of The Festival Award: Islay Homecoming parade and The Whisky Exchange Blog would like to thank the following ‘legends’ for making our festival the best so far. Adieu Islay and see you again in 2010!

Joanne & Derek Middleton, Mickey, Jackie, Drew, Emma and everyone at Ardbeg, Mark Reynier, Jim McEwan and Andy Hogan at Bruichladdich, Willie JJ and Malcolm, Duffy, Eva, Jasmin, Bernard and Risto, Gordon Homer & Mel, Hansemalt, The Immortal Cowjetski, Paula (Edinburgh Whisky Blog), Iain McCallum at Bowmore, John MacLellan and Kirsty at Bunnahabhain, John Campbell, Vicky Stevens and Simon Brooking at Laphroaig, Gavin Douglas at Kilchoman, Iain McArthur, Billy Stitchell, Kevin Sutherland and Graham Logie, at Lagavulin, Caol Ila and Port Ellen Maltings, Paul Hathaway at Islay Ales, the irrepressible legend that is Colin Dunn, Tatiana, Ardbeg Tie Guy, Wiggy McCann, Hans Moleman, and everyone else who makes the Feis Ile such a wonderful event every year.

Postscript: What happened to ManDate?

This photo, taken by a gobsmacked fan at King’s Cross Station on the last night of the band’s legendary Islay tour, is the last known image of ManDate before they disappeared to do their various side projects.

It is believed that Hannibal left to pursue a full-time crusade to save a priceless document detailing the exploits of his endangered species Chappius Hirsutis. BA, meanwhile, was distracted from his ManDate commitments by an obsession with the Immortal Cowjetski, the noted Eastern European Bovine Animist philosopher, and Murdoch had been re-captured and shackled to his desk at The Whisky Exchange. The whereabouts of Faceman are unknown. One theory is that he was kidnapped by a harem of lust-crazed beautiful women. Others believe he was asked to travel to Nepal to give the Dalai Lama tranquility lessons.

One thing is for sure. If you’re in trouble, if you need help, and if you can find them – you’re probably better off with the real A-Team.


Monday 1 June 2009

Islay Festival 2009 - Day Nine- Ardbeg

The Malty-Millionaires....

Dictionary definition of Holiday: n: 'A day free from work that one may spend at leisure, especially a day on which custom or the law dictates a halting of general business activity to commemorate or celebrate a particular event'

7.30am: Joel's alarm rings throughout the lodge, signalling the start of Day 9. Or Saturday as it is known to most folk. On the mainland, our whisky WAGs and friends we're still snoozing, ready to awake to a sun-filled day of BBQ's and FA Cup Finals (both the original and the Scottish versions). We however, are greedily stuffing boiled eggs, Coco Pops, Sugar Puffs and toast down our cake-holes as a full days work awaits our eager hands.

After a beautiful morning drive through Port Ellen, we arrived at Ardbeg with keen smiles and full bellies, ready for our orders from Jackie. After donning our box-fresh Ardbeg polo shirts (Neil managing to find an olive green number to match his tweed), we were divided into 2 groups: Joel and Tim were to man the outside bar while Neil and Darrell were enlisted to be the official snappers for the day. A tough job that involved wandering around in the bright sunshine, taking pictures of smiling Ardbeg enthusiasts, printing them off and putting them on display for all to see. How they didn't run out of paper I will never know!

The day flew by, switching between picture taking, dram pouring and shelf stocking. If asked, we'd oblige. Soon it was time for a well deserved lunch break; Ardbeg had the wisdom to serve packed lunches (and we mean packed: a roll, McCoys, a chocolate bar, a (soft!) drink and one of your five-a-day) All this was missing was a miniature of Ardbeg 10 year old ! So we grabbed ours and headed up to the Highland Games to see folk tossing sheep (don't google images that!), throwing bags of bungs over a high jump and trying their hand at strongman stone lifting.

Later in the day, several teams competed to lift the much-sort-after Tug-of-War trophy, only for it to be retained by the Ardbeg workers themselves, with a (little) help from 'Big Barry' (literally the 'anchor' in the picture below)

After lunch we took and the chance to attended our only booked event for the day: the Ardbeg Twisted Tasting held in the old Malting rooms. On entering, we were presented with a menu containing 16 (yes, SIXTEEN!) different Ardbegs. The 40 attendees then ticked the box next to the 6 drams they would like to try and, as is Ardbeg and Islay tradition, it went to committee! The 6 most popular were chosen and drams poured. The Ardbegs that missed out were: 10, Uigeadail, Nam Beist, Still Young, Renaissance, Blasda, Corryvreckan, Supernova, Cask 1190 and MOR. This left Lord of the Isles, Cask 1189, 1975 cask 1375 and 1378. Plus a very exciting dram entitled "Warehouseman's Special":

Ardbeg - Warehouseman's Special - 1995 refill bourbon - 53.7% - cask 2761

N: Superb vanilla + fudge ice cream over flambéed bananas, coffee revels fresh orange juice, pepper. Fresh chopped mix herbs.

P: Heather infused fudge, caramels (hints of burnt sugar?), soft peat, effortlessly sweet notes, into bitterness. Malty cereals. The peat takes time to appear but breaks through to be fairly delicate and well balanced.

F: Classic soft Ardbeg fudge, smoke and light elegant peat. Juice from tinned pineapples / a hint of citrus.

O. Another sensational dram fresh from the warehouse. We have a soft spot for refill bourbon cask Ardbegs which gives excellent vanilla, citrus and tobacco notes to the peaty spirit.

After our long lunch and six drams it was back to work. Being from good music business stock, this didn't phase Joel and Neil in the slightest!

The afternoon continued apace and as the sun began it's decent into the sea, we called time on the bar and the photos, to retire for a BBQ with the hard-working staff of Ardbeg.

From manager to volunteer, every effort was given to ensure a good day was had by all. As the evening drifted off into darkening sky, many islanders headed to the Final Fling event at Ramsay Hall. But for the bloggers, Sunday morning was seen in with a brief walk along the coast at our lodgings, sitting with a dram in hand and listening to the Islay waves crashing on the rocks for the last time, dreaming of our next trip back.

Islay Festival 2009 - Day Eight

‘A bunch of prize tossers’

It was another early start on Friday as we had a lot of ground to cover. First up was a 9.30am tasting at Islay’s newest distillery, Kilchoman, where we were shown around by deputy manager Gavin Douglas who was filling in at short notice for Jim Swan who had been injured in an accident at home – our best wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery.

We hadn’t realised just how small Kilchoman was – it really is tiny. Small but perfectly-formed, I suppose. Gavin told us that the small stills produce only enough 45ppm spirit to fill three casks per day (a mix of fresh and refill bourbon plus some fresh sherry, although we also saw some French wine casks in the warehouse).

The warehouse was, like the rest of the distillery, small and full to bursting with barrels. The spirit we tasted was mostly 3yo from different cask types, and we all agreed that it had the potential to become seriously good whisky when it gets a bit older.

Kilchoman 2006, nearly 3yo. Matured in fresh bourbon, then re-racked into a sherry cask. 60ish %.

N: Vanilla, buttered toast, cream soda, muffins. Develops a faint TCP / bandages note with time.

P: Honey and smoke. Pretty peppery. A nice combination of sweetness and soot.

F: Becomes grassy and medicinal.

With the tasting finished, we motored over to Bruichladdich to say a quick hello to our friend Jo in the warehouse. We only popped in for a minute as we were running late for a lunchtime tasting at Bunnahabhain, but we still managed to fit in a bit of an exclusive: full-term sherried Octomore!

Octomore 2004 Sherry Cask, 67.1% (!!)

N: Honey and tweed, rather pleasant. A little closed, though what’s there is pretty promising.

P: Boom! Massively phenolic as expected and, unlike the other two Octomores we’ve tried, some balancing sweetness in the form of honeycomb – real Crunchie bar character. The coalsmoke and burnt wood win through, but this has real potential.

F: Hot and smoky like a roaring coal fire, but with a thread of honey that really adds to the fun. This is definitely the most interesting Octomore we’ve tried so far.

Having said our thank-yous to Jo, we jumped back into our trusty Focus and roared down to Bunnahabhain, arriving in the nick of time for our blending masterclass, which was run by blender Kirsty McCallum from Burn Stewart. This was great fun, with the tables festooned with measuring cylinders and plastic beakers as well as the expected tasting glasses (Glencairn must do bloody well out of this festival, by the way).

In the event, just as with the Nosing contest a few days before, we were rubbish and didn’t win, although Faceman got pretty close. However, the best was yet to come. It transpired that Ian Millar, master distiller and Global Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich, was sitting at our table with some whisky mates from Dufftown.

At the end of the competition, Ian calmly plonked an incredibly old and rare Bunnahabhain on the table and announced that he’d been given it a while ago and that this seemed like a good time for it to be drunk! The room was taken aback by this very generous gesture, but recovered quickly and got stuck into what turned out to be one of the best malts we tried in the whole week.

Bunnahabhain 1976, 31yo 47.3% bottled in 208 for Falster (which seems to be a Danish hotel). Check out the amazing metal label.

N: Wow. Pure rhubarb and custard – with the emphasis on the custard. To pick a few more things at random from the swirl of lovely flavours: Green apple, apple pie, caramelised sugar, crushed almonds, pineapple cubes. Sensational.

P: Again, fabulous quality. Amazing apple crumble flavours, spice, cinnamon, clove, a hint of woodsmoke / bonfire. Blackberry pie.

F: Longer and more graceful than a supermodel’s legs. Absolutely beautiful.

Very special, heartfelt thanks to Ian Millar of Glenfiddich for an absolutely wonderful dram. This was up there with the 1968 Auld Aquaintance as the best Bunna I’ve ever tried.

We were pretty hungry after all this dramming and it was still only 2pm, so on exiting the tasting we joined the queue for a burger. There were probably 20 people ahead of us. Forty-five minutes later there were still five or so people ahead of us. After an hour we were at the front and pretty cross. It seemed that the people running the BBQ had been unable to grasp that the burgers weren’t cooking because of a lack of fuel. We watched as burgers that had been on the grill for ten minutes were turned over still raw and decided to sack it off.

Thankfully, the vegetarian Faceman had been in the queue for the spectacular scallops (actually he’d been through the queue twice in the time we were waiting for a burger) and was able to contribute a few delicious morsels. Disconsolate and still pretty hungry we trooped round to the lawn in front of Bunna’s cottages for the mini-Highland games, where we met up with our Austrian friends Eva and Jasmine and our Swiss chums Bernard and Risto.

After some fairly pathetic horseshoe throwing (none of us got more than one shoe anywhere near the pole), we moved on to the caber tossing. Joel’s massive pole was too big for him to get both hands round, so his attempts to toss it off were largely unsuccessful. Neil, on the other hand, was a natural, and he quickly proved to be a magnificent tosser of his admittedly smaller caber.

We were still hankering after a burger, so we decided to head for home by way of the Co-op for some instant BBQs. On our return to the lodge we managed to knock out some delicious scallops, a tuna steak, some chicken and half a dozen burgers in record time, and feeling suitably refuelled we headed back into Bowmore to our pre-arranged forum meet-up in the Lochside.

Duffie’s bar was heaving, but fortunately we ran into Gordon & Mel from Spirit of Islay as soon as we walked in. Willie JJ and Malcolm were also there and before long we were joined by Eva, Jasmine, Bernard and Risto. Islay ales and a couple of drams were consumed over a great chat before we headed our separate ways – it’d been a long day, not without its trials - and we needed our beauty sleep if we were going to be at our best for our big day at Ardbeg the following day...