Welcome to the second instalment of our Bruichladdich adventure. In this article we interview Jim McEwan, Master Distiller at Bruichladdich and hear his views and stories from an amazing 52 years in the whisky business.…
It was another early start in a week of early starts, and another ‘Islay breakfast’! Today was going to be a good one. A sampling of some new unknown drams at Laphroaig and then a final Ileach fling, our last distillery visit – Ardbog Day!…
Day six of the festival was supposed to be light on the whisky; a mini detox if you like before the spoils of Friday hit us. Lagavulin had other plans though. As you know we missed out on Lagavulin’s day through travelling up to Scotland so we jumped at the chance to take part in a warehouse tasting with the legend that is Iain McArthur. We arrived at the distillery and were led down to the warehouse by Iain who as usual was entertaining us with jokes and stories along the way. The actual tasting was fabulous. Iain was on top form, he was very funny and informative and entertained everyone – he also included the now customary rubbing of whisky into the hair of people who weren’t looking at, or listening to him! The whisky at Lagavulin speaks for itself and it isn’t often that you have the opportunity to try it straight from the cask. Here then are our brief notes of a rather good morning.…
Wednesday on Islay is Bowmore Day, and as fortune would have it we were staying in Bowmore so the 09:30 tour wouldn’t require a massively early start. Except that it did, as we were up and at the distillery for 07:30 to obtain a precious silver ticket that would allow us to buy a bottle of the more affordable Bowmore Feis Ile bottling. We’d arrived too late on Saturday to make the distillery so we were keen to ensure that we were able to obtain a couple of the final 300 bottles.…
Bowmore Bottle Your Own Oloroso Sherry Butt [55.5%]
Nose: Fruity, Christmas cake, peat smoke, very well balanced
Palate: Sweet, smokey, raisins, treacle, steak, spices
Finish: Very long, exceptional
Another day, another iconic distillery!
The sun was already in full swing when we rolled into the Laphroaig distillery car park. The girls were off to a Mixxit whisky cocktails class and the boys were meeting Vicky Stevens at Laphroaig for a tasting of all 5 batches of the Laphroaig Cask Strength 10 year old. Again, it feels like Christmas!
After the obligatory 'cartwheel in front of the Laphroaig waterfront sign' photo, Vicky led us into the dunnage warehouse. It was vault-like, damp, dark and quietly oppressive. Casks, laid three high, stood motionless in a state of stasis, the magic of maturation unseen but unstoppable.
The group, a smorgasbord of nations, assembled excitedly as Vicky locked us in a poured the first dram. Soon we were nursing a healthy measure of the Cask Strength Batch 1. Hailing from 2009 this whisky was big and bold, the flavours of Laphroaig turned all the way up to 11. Batch 2 was a lot sweeter and incredibly moorish – it really was fabulous trying the whiskies in such a unique location. Vicky recounted many great tales as she expertly led us through the whiskies and the warehouse. On the top floor we were treated to Batch 3 which was back to the more traditional bourbon influence with the old style bandages and TCP scent filling the warehouse. Batches 4 and 5 (5 only recently bottled) were enjoyed as we continued our tour through warehouse 1. It was really interesting noting the temperature variations throughout the building and sampling the spirit in the very place it was distilled and matured.
After a brief pause to collect our rent we were off on a distillery tour. James talked us through each stage of the process and we enjoyed a thoroughly enjoyable stroll through the building of Laphroaig. It's great to see that every day is a school day too; we never knew that the fire under the kiln shouldn't be that hot! It should be about 30 degrees so as to smoke the barley to perfection rather than cooking it. No distillery tour would be complete without a whisky so we finished off in the filling store with a dram of Quarter Cask – perfect.
The afternoon was set up to be free of whisky so we headed off to the Big Strand which is err… a big beach facing out to the Atlantic. Gloriously long and sandy we had a great walk along the beach taking the standard jumping photos!
The evening was spent in Bowmore. After some refreshments in the Lochside hotel, our walk home was interrupted by a sprint to the pier to beat the rising tide and claim one of the final bottles of Master of Malt's That Boutique-y Whisky Company prize – but more on that tomorrow. An amazing sunset rounded the day off and that left us looking forward to Bowmore and some fun with Master of Malt on Wednesday.
So this may not be the most informative post but I thought that some of you may be interested to know what whisky I tried during the Feis Ile. Well, here is a complete list (we’ll select some and do some in-depth reviews soon!). Enjoy!