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Feis Ile – Lagavulin day 1

Day 1:

Today was a 7am start, but arriving in the line-up for the ferry we’re by no means the earliest start of the day.

Standing next to our car was a group of gents from Falkirk who are extremely well versed with the Island and the Feis Ile.  Like most people heading to the festival they have some surprise whisky in there bags. These gentlemen have something very special, there own syndicate single cask bottling of Port Charlotte!  Under the guidance of Jim McEwan at Bruichladdich they have bottled it as (Gaelic for Port Charlotte). The stats and tasting notes below:

Age: 8yo,       Distilled: 6th December 2001,        Bottled: 2nd March 2010,       
Sherry Hoggie? No. 826,   ABV: 66%,       Total output: 286 bottles,

Port Sgioba 8yo

The time is only 8am and this is breakfast!

Nose: The top note is a mild spearmint followed by a gently smouldering fire smoke. Wet hay, barley and earthy farmyard aroma chases a reduction of vanilla and balsamic vinegar (which is very pleasant). Some stewed figs and mulled wine sweetness mask a slight woodiness.

Palette: Hitting the tongue and washing around the month this is initially crisp. The minty freshness on the front of the nose sweeps in; followed by a thick sweetness. However, the high ABV and tannins quickly come to the fore. The drying effect is slightly overwhelming at first, but the fruit and huge sherry taste builds to a peak which allows the smoke to come on the back.

With water this whisky mellows and the sweetness, mint, mild iodine-esk smoke and sherry become dominant. Leather chew filling out the end

Finish: Medium in length with Sherry and slight woody leather.

In Summary: This is a going to be great with food, would love to get this dram alone with a good chunk of Dunsyre blue (made in South Lanarkshire, Scotland by Humphrey Errington from unpasteurized milk from Ayrshire cows curdled). The balance is just on the cusp of going to far towards the wood, but Jim’s guidance on bottling has kept them on the straight and narrow. An interesting bottling of Port Charlotte and one worth having in the cupboard to share with friends. Gents, looking forward to your next set of releases.

The weather is incredible and docking we set out straight for Lagavulin. We arrive at the white wash distillery buildings shining in the sun and join the queue of whisky lovers basking in the heat waiting to get their hands on this years bottling.

The Feis Ile attracts people from all around the world and listening to the conversations going on around us you have the standard groups. Swedish, German, of course Scottish/English, American, plus handfuls of Japanese and Italians, etc…

As we headed into the main area of the Lagavulin open day we meet Nick Morgan, spokesman for the Classic Malts Selection™ range from Diageo. Nick is accompanied by Mark Gillespie the host of whiskycast podcast, who has flown in from the USA to cover the festival (click on the link to follow his daily updates and interviews).  As Mark and Nick are on their way to join Iain McArthur for a tour of the warehousing we head to the dramming section to get the weekend started.

Billy, Iain McArthur’s brother, is manning the make shift bar area. We start the tasting with a health dram of Lagavulin 16yo, (Neil has a old 1990’s bottling, which you can see a comparison of on, followed by the newly released limited edition distillery only bottle and finishing on a 1993 single cask, caskstrength whisky chosen that day. Tasting notes below:

Lagavulin 16yo

Lagavulin 16 years old

Nose: The nose is all thick smoke and peat. Phenols creep in, particularly a most medicinal iodine with hints of sherry and oak and Lapsang Souchong tea.

Palette: The palate is dry and smoky with thick, pungent peat. Notes of oil and tar with a touch of salinity. The iodine returns with intent and notes of faint sherry and oaked tannins balance out the affair with the wreckless abandon only an islander retains.

Finish: The finish is big and powerful with pungent peat and medicinal notes and a touch of sweetness.

In Summary: A legend!

Lagavulin Distillery only bottling

Nose: The top note is sweet and bready with a that great peat smoke creaminess. Nuts, muscovado sugar, plum wine, fresh peppermint, unsalted butter and cake mix drag you in for more…

Palette: This carries all the flavours from the nose to the palette, a brings in more spices with cinnamon lingering.

Finish: A medium finish with light peat, warmth and cinnamon butter.

In Summary: This is in my top list of whiskies from this year. Slightly more depth, but not one for everyday of the week.

Lagavulin Single cask #4504 - fresh from the warehouse.  Distilled in 1993 a handful bottled Feis Ile 2010

Nose: Lots of Red fruits (Strawberries, cranberry at the front) blended with peat come through at first, white pepper, pine sap, burn toffee and coal tar soap linger in the end.

Palette: Exhaust oils, pepper and sweet crisp woody start. The fruit on the nose has switched to more vegetative flavours with a hint of salt beef and bagels, Then this drops into a but pungent allotment fire smoke.

Finish: Dry and woody.

In Summary: Fun and dangerous like Clarkson with a V8 blender!

After the sampling we headed out to Ardbeg for lunch- the crab chowder is great! It’s hard not to love this little distillery and as the three of us sit eating you absorb the atmosphere .  The new Supernova is out for sampling, Myself, Neil and Joel jump in there and gave it a try.

Ardbeg Supernova 2nd Release 2010        Abv: 60.1% ABV       Age: No age Statement

Can't wait for the new iPhone so I can take better pictures!

Colour: Egg whites with a hint of green (this looks young, but that means nothing)

Nose: At first it is subdued, but then a note of apple marks it opening up. In quick succession peach melba, pear, scorched hickory, lemon or citrus juice jump out. The nose starts to get exciting with Tar coated tomato vines and cigar ash, a prawn or pacific sea ozone develops into leather, iodine/leathery iodine and Asda digestive biscuits (they seem to have a sweeter nose than Macvities).

Palette: Sadly the taste is more one dimensional. The obligitory burn wood ash, Lime lingers and runs into the finish, ginger nut biscuits and maltiness are all this offers.  After 30mins of nursing this dram I gave up!

Finish: There is a medium length with lime zest and ash.

In Summary: This for me is a slightly boring dram and would say that the bottlings from independents such as SMWS have been better. Was expecting a higher standard, leaving me feeling a little let down.

Earlier, as we waited in the dramming section at Lagavulin, someone mentioned the Ardbeg festival bottling and a price of £220.   Although the the guys at Ardbeg didn’t confirm the price Neil and Joel we’re given a preview for their post later in the week.  This bottle isn’t going to be a 100 bottles of 25 year old (like Bowmore at a plus £300 price tag) and I wonder where these prices come from? Is it a marketing team decision or is it driven by LVMH the brand owner.

I’m confident the bottle will sell out, but at what cost to the long term relationship with fans and collect-ability of the whisky? There is small disquiet with fans here at the festival as the ever increasing prices force people to spend more and more.  At the extreme small handfuls of people making this pilgrimage to Islay are moving away from buying the new expressions as they loose their affinity with the Ardbeg brand. Word of mouth could have a bad impact if fans are put off.

Well, tonight we’re off to Port Mor and in the distillery tomorrow with Bruichladdich so lots more to come.



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2 Responses

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  1. Andy Haughton says

    Great to meet you at Kennacraig and share our Port Sgioba with you guys. Reluctantly I headed back to Falkirk on Tuesday, although my body probably couldn’t have handled much more abuse anyway. That’s all our guys away now except Bruce who is there for the duration.
    Thanks for posting the tasting notes, we really appreciate it. We love the stuff and think we have bottled a wee gem, however being a bit biased it was great to hear all positive feedback over the last few days.
    Looking forward to Feis Ile 2011 already…….

  2. Scott Jackson says

    Hey Darren – great to meet you guys at the weekend and to share a dram or two -thanks for the mini Master of Malt 12. Glad you enjoyed the Port Sgioba and thanks for the write up – much appreciated. Must keep in touch as our other casks mature and come to bottling. We are in the process of buying a Glen Grant cask at the moment as we don’t have a Speysider in our portfolio yet – something a bit different for us. As Andy says above, looking forward to next year already.

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