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.
Lagavulin New Make Spirit [circa 70%]
The best new make I have tried. Very sweet and meaty with lots of apple and smoke.
Lagavulin 9 Bodega Sherry Cask
Nose: Smoke, figs, very peaty and reminiscent of the Illeach soil
Palate: Ashy and coal like. The sherry is very subtle with notes of charred steak standing out more. Crystallised orange and ginger with a big finish
Lagavulin 11 Refill Bourbon Cask
Nose: More like the Lagavulin we’re used to. Lots of smoke, scallops and floral notes
Palate: Sweet and light – a breakfast Lagavulin? Toffee and vanilla coming through strong
Lagavulin 15 Bodega Sherry Cask
This whisky is the sister cask of last years Feis bottling and is simply wonderful. A real gem and a highlight of the tasting
Nose: Honey, smoke, gorse and thistle. Very floral
Palate: Lots of meat and smoke – I really must open my bottle that I bought in 2012
Lagavulin 31 Refill Bourbon
Yes, you’ve read that right – straight from the cask a 31 year old Lagavulin.
Nose: Very tropical with lots of star anise. Subtle smoke, vanilla wisps, embers. Magnificent
Palate: Aniseed and liquorice wheels. The end of a beach BBQ. Deep and complex.
All too soon the tasting was over… but not before grabbing a couple of photographs with Iain over a dram of his favourite open cask in the warehouse – a Lagavulin 20.
The afternoon was going to be whisky free. We headed off for our annual tour of the Islay Woollen Mill and marvelled at the old machinery and the fine array of tweed. We listened to Gordon as he explained the workings and history of the place and the fact that he has made tweed for films including Braveheart, Forest Gump and Rob Roy. If you visit Islay this place should be on your must see list. Following a quick stop at Islay Ales (and a non-whisky purchase) we headed off to Portnahaven to try and spot some seals. Bruichladdich was on the way so it would have been rude not to stop and have a dram (or four) and after some purchases we had a lovely chat with Duncan over some whisky!
Portnahaven is at the far end of Islay and faces the Atlantic head on and you can really see the affect the ocean has had on the landscape here. Fortunately for us the seals love the area and we were delighted to find several in the area; a couple basking in the sun with one or two others in the sea. It was a real treat to see them in the wild.
Thursday evening was film night – but not as you know it. We met Vicky at Laphroaig at 19:00, lured by the fact that we could be extras in a brand new Visit Scotland advertisment and be paid £20 for the privilege. The film crew were running a little behind schedule, and wanted the light to be perfect so Vicky kept us and the rest of the crowd entertained with stories, coffee and whisky – oh the life of stars! Needless to say we enjoyed the drams of Cairdeas and Quarter Cask and the filming was a great success – even if we had to have apple juice in our glasses on set!!
Thursday ended very late… it was now Friday – we arrived back in Bowmore at 01:00. Following some superb pizza (cooked by Mike’s wife Sarah) we hit the sack knowing we needed to be back at Ardbeg for 11:00… Whisky free Thursday hadn’t quite gone to plan, maybe Friday would be different?!