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Friday, 27 May 2011

Road To Islay Day Seven: Harrison, it's not about the money or the midgets.

Awaking to a fug of cigar smoke and the inimitable taste of Lagavulin from the night before, Thursday was yet another day of dashing all over the island in search of some cracking whiskies. Today was the day of Kilchoman’s open day, but also Jura, so our plan was to get the small ferry over to the island in the morning. But disaster struck. Again, the weather was too rough and the crossing was cancelled, throwing our trip out the window. So instead we stopped into the Islay Ales Brewery for a little look round and a quick half of their two whisk(ey) themed beers.

Islay Ales - Kentucky Kiss- 5.1%

This is a beer, which has been fermented in fresh bourbon barrels, then bottle conditioned. It is a dark, malty stout style ale, with pronounced malt extract aromas and a very fragrant, floral waft of bourbon sweetness. The palate has lots of character, with a sweet, malty tongue coating taste, again with bags of the bourbon fruitiness. Anyone fascinated with the link between beer and American whiskey should grab a bottle of this, as the flavours are extremely well balanced and showcase just how progressive Islay Ales have become as an artisanal brewery.

Islay Ales – Single Malt Ale – 5.0%

Winner of a gold medal at the CAMRA champion Bottled beer awards in 2010, the single malt ale has a superbly clean, floral nose, with pronounced hoppiness and lemon zest, reminding us of a slightly heavier IPA. It is brewed using only pale malt (hence the ‘single malt’ description) and American Amarillo and English Bramling Cross hops. The palate is again clean zesty and very hoppy, making this a cracker of a summer ale- alas not what we’re experiencing on Islay at present.

Onwards to Kilchoman and we arrive to a bustling open day, which is hugely pleasing and a sign of prosperity for this great new Islay distillery. The festival bottling this year is a 5yo from 2006 and a vatting of 2 fresh bourbon casks - no 31 and 32 and then finished in Oloroso sherry. Apologies for the lack of picture- we’ll stick one up as soon as possible.

Kilchoman – Feis Ile 2011 bottling – 500 bottles - 56%

Nose: Very fresh marzipan notes, slightly zesty, with buttery tones and a whiff of smoke and dark sherry.

Palate: Sharp with heathery honey tones, with sooty coal smoke, then sweet banana foam sweet notes. More than a hint of Caol Ila’s Moch about it, but at cask strength.

Finish: The smoke lingers with light, sweet malt notes.

Overall: Light weight with less of the pronounced peat, which earlier bottlings of Kilchoman have exhibited. We really liked this – again thinking it will probably shine brighter on a hot summers day than a rain sodden weekend in May!

We had a little chat with Anthony Wills who gave us a sneak preview of the distillery’s new bottle shape, which will see its first service for their 100% Islay bottling, which is due out later in June. Caskstrength will be back on Islay for the launch, so stay tuned for more info…

We’d worked up a bit of an appetite by now and our pals at Master Of Malt were hosting a bit of an impromptu BBQ at their digs in Carnduncan. The wind had begun to whip up but our chef Ben expertly manned the stoves- to produce some of the finest Southern style cuisine we’ve ever tasted; Racks of baby back ribs, home made BBQ sauce, thinly sliced lamb and hand turned burgers. But to begin - Ridley had to encounter his culinary nemesis, the humble Islay oyster. Quite why anyone can derive pleasure from oysters is beyond Ridley- as this video perfectly illustrates.

In our next post, we visit Bunnahabhain for their open day and start pricing up distillery themed 3-piece tweed suits at the Islay Woollen Mill. Will Ridley’s Visa finally succumb to the massive seizure it has been threatening??