We were greeted by even more sun on Monday – the third day in a row – so we donned our shorts and best summer wear and headed down to Port Askaig to visit Caol Ila. Recently reopened to the public after a 6 month closure, Caol Ila is a juxtaposition of a stunning setting looking over the paps of Jura with a rather disappointing looking 1970’s building. Still we’d come here to sample the whisky, not to marvel at its architecture and that’s what we did.
We had a very informative and very very warm tour, pausing briefly in the still room to admire the view over the Sound of Islay before heading down the coolness of the warehouse for whisky and food pairing. We began with cheese straws and the fabulous Caol Ila Unpeated. Now at 12 years of age it is fresh, minty and surprisingly thirst quenching on a day like today. Next up was the 2007 Distillery Only Bottling (review to follow as a purchase was made) served with some divine handmade chocolates shipped in from somewhere near Elgin. A cracking combination.
We then paused to enjoy the sun before heading to the cooperage for our final event here – a maturation experience with Georgie and Iain. This consisted of 4 tastings, lots of banter and humour, and lots of great information. Georgie and Iain are obviously very knowledgable and now our wives are even beginning to appreciate the whisky. The first two drams were new make spirit and the warehosue cask – a 6 year old bourbon refill at 61.4%. We then had a bit of fun with a blind tasting before discovering they were a 4 year old unpeated Caol Ila and the Feis Ile bottle – both were fabulous. Some notes:
Caol Ila New Make Spirit 63.5%
Nose: light floral smoke with some real earthy undertones. Very pleasant
Taste: cereal, fresh barley and orchard fruit
Finish: long, sweet and floral
Caol Ila Unpeated 4 Year Old [distilled 27 April 2005] 66%
Nose: zesty, vanilla, sweet
Taste: strong, packed a punch, bitter liquorice, juicy, minty
Finish: fresh and long
Feis Ile Bottlling 11 Year Old European Oak 60.4% (the wive’s thoughts)
Nose: vanilla, raisins, honey roast ham
Taste: sweet sherry, smoked marshmallows, toffee apples
Finish: warmth by a bonfire on a summers night
The Feis bottle was a cracker and unbelievably it didn’t sell out on the day – find out if there is any left, you won’t regret it.
Now we were busy on Monday night too. We walked down to Ramsey Hall in Port Ellen for the annual nosing competition and waited for the guy from Japan to win again – he did. We again bumped into and spend a great night with Master of Malt and the guys from Balvenie and tried to guess the whisky. The premise is simple – 9 opaque glasses with the 9 distilleries from Islay and Jura in plus two additional ones were we had to guess the island. Easy… No chance we thought (last time round I got two right, but that was two years ago). As I mentioned the winner was a foregone conclusion with a score of 10 it of 11. Unbelievable. Then Sam Simmons (@dr_whisky) from Balvenie came second with 8 before I picked up a prize for getting 6! That’s right – I won a prize at the nosing competion! I was presented with a bottle of Lagavulin16, congratulated by Georgie, MoM and Balvenie and couldn’t quite believe it!
Monday was another good day – although the week is going rather quickly.