What a start to the festival. Up at 05:00 to leave on the 07:00 sailing from Kennacraig. The air was still, the sea calm and the sun shining – 20 degrees at about 08:00. It was a promising start to the event.
We landed at Port Askaig, stopped in Bowmore to stock up in food and carried on to our gorgeous cottage by the sea in Port Ellen. We were greeted by 4 miniature Ardbegs and tasting glasses – awesome! We decided to quickly unpack and head to Lagavulin to join in with the hoards queuing for the festival bottling. – a 14 year old cask strength Lagavulin selected from the Number 1 warehouse. An hour later it was ours – and was later signed by both Georgie and Iain.
Our first event was a tour of the distillery and we met up with the guys from Balvenie and had a very enjoyable and knowledgable tour which finished with a tasting in the old malt mill. We we’re treated to the Lagavulin 12 [Special Release 2011] paired with venison sausages, but the real winner was a 19 year old Lagavulin selected especially for the event. Bottled at 53.1% it was all toffee, smoke and caramel on the nose. This was matched by a very clean toffee and sherry taste while the finish lingered long with more smoke. A truly great Lagavulin.
We then met up with Colin Dunn who was on great form outside the whitewashed walls with his own cocktail bar and we’re hoping to go to his class at Caol Ila on Monday – and fingers crossed, the weather will be just as good!
The next event was a classic. We were led into the Lagavulin warehouse for a cask tasting with Iain McArthur; warehouse man at the distillery for over 40 years. We will post some detailed notes on some of the whiskies later but just to give you a flavour of what we had we’ll put some brief notes here.
We started with an 8 year bogeda sherry cask at 57.8%. Golden copper in colour it was full of Werther’s Originals on the nose with classic Lagavulin smoke. The taste was a mixture of a spicy peaty tang with coal smoke and dry burnt toffee on the finish. Lagavulin no longer bottle whisky under the age of 12 years but on this evidence they really should. Cracking.
Skipping past the 10 year old (57.8% again) we moved onto the sister cask of the festival bottle – a 14 year old sherry cask at 56.3%. The nose was thick and creamy and we found chilli and syrup on the palate with some treacle toffee. Sweet and sticky on the finish; the festival bottling was worth every penny on this evidence.
We finished the day off with a BBQ outside the house on the beach and washed it down with some Bruichladdich Rocks and some Ardbeg. Day one was complete and what a start it has been. Islay, sun, whisky, beach – bliss. Bruichladdich is next.