Feis Ile 2007

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Feis Ile 2007  
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Feis Ile 2007

June 1, 2007

Hi – Today we’re leaving Islay with tears in our eyes and hopes for next year. Last night took place the fantastic Lindores Flaming Lobster Party (or something like that) and both the company (several great people from the industry) and the food (thanks to Ian Gray, Martine Nouet and Geert Bero) as well as the music (thanks to Norma Munro and several guest stars) were of the highest classes. The whisky was excellent as well (thanks to the guests who were bringing one bottle each – imagine), not to forget the full moon and an almost tropical weather on Islay. The Malt Maniacs were represented by Martine, Konstantin, Olivier, yours truly and of course smartly beige-jacketed organiser Luc T. Thank you guys. Picture: part of the line up. My favourites (from the right to the left): the rare Bowmist, the Old Clynelish 5yo (of course), the Bruichladdich 1966/1983 Risereva Veronelli at 53.5% and the Longmorn1973 G&M Cask Series at 55.7%. Those were bottles I never tried before but there were also the excellent Glen Grant 1959 by the Whisky Club of Austria, a Glenfarclas 1974 for Germany and a few Ardbegs single cask (including the famous 1972 for Velier Italy). And, last but not least, a Bowmore 1971 drawn from the cask – straight from the distillery - that blew us all away. Pure magic.

May 31, 2007

Temporary letter change at Ardbeg (no Photoshop here!)
Hi – The sun still shines brightly on Islay. Amazing, several friends got sunburnt yesterday! Anyway, here are two other new Feis Ile bottlings we could try.
Caol Ila Caol Ila NAS ‘Distillery Only’ (58.4%, OB, 2000 bottles, 2007) From American and European oak. Colour: pale gold. Nose: powerful, very fresh, clean, purely maritime. We have some kelp, oysters, fresh butter and of course some lemon to match all that. Then there are touches of gentian spirit and liquorice sticks as well as hints of grapefruits and crystallised oranges (hints of sherry). A crystal-clean Coal Ila on the nose. Mouth: now it’s a little rounder but still powerful, nicely buttery, with also lots of ‘green’ flavours (funny notes of sorrel but also green apples and lime). Slight roughness but the smoke is well integrated. Finish: rather long, slightly tannic, on marzipan, white pepper and lemon. I’d say the whole is rather purer and with more zing than the regular Cask Strength version but a little rougher. A big dram, not for weaklings. 88 points.
Bowmore 7yo 2000/2007 ‘Feis Ile 2007’ (57.1%, OB, fresh sherry, 700 bottles) From warehouse No.5. Colour: pale amber. Nose: extremely expressive, hugely farmy, with big notes of hay, moss, tobacco, leather and quite some shoe polish. Also lots of dried mushrooms, inside of an old wooden cupboard, matured tequila… Lots happening in this one, the sherry literally coating the peat. Mouth: rich, thick, creamy, starting on an immense fruitiness. Also lots of spics right from the start (cloves and ginger). Cooked strawberries. Hugely candied. Hints of burnt caramel and burnt raisins. Treackle toffee. Just hints of sulphur. Finish: very long, cleaner than expected. A huge sweetness remains on your palate for a long time. Very good for its young age but you have to like thick whiskies. 85 points. Bowmore
MacBeatha And also MacBeatha 15yo (54.3%, Kilchoman Distillery, 110 bottles) A Bowmore that’s been finished in rum at Kilchoman. The clan MacBeatha, who lived at Kilchoman and who used to include the Lord of the Isles’ physician, may have brought the art of whisky distilling rto Scotland according to our fellow Maniac Lex. This whisky is very good, with fine peat complemented by an enjoyable fruitiness from the rum. The latter masks the distillery character a bit but that works nicely here. Very precise and elegant whisky, and excellent surprise. 87 points.

May 30, 2007

HI - We finally managed to try the new Port Charlotte Valinch in proper conditions...
First Cut Port Charlotte ‘First Cut 27/5/2007 valinch’ (61.5%, OB, Feis Ile 2007) Colour: full gold. Nose: very powerful, starting on notes of freshly brewed coffee and toasted brioche, with also a little burnt rubber and hints of Guinness. There’s also the peat of course, more ‘vertical’ than ‘horizontal’, whiffs of sea air mixed with candy sugar. Cleaner and purer than when I first tried it on the spot. With water: it got more rubbery but some very nice notes of maraschino came out, as well a little marzipan. It got also quite farmier. Mouth: very powerful, with a huge sweetness and various fruit liqueurs (apricots, cherries…) Again these toasted – burnt notes, roasted raisins, torrefaction, heavily reduced red wine sauce… Something ‘cooked’. The peat is quite less expressive than on the nose, the casks having been hyper-active.
There’s also a little rubber, strawberry jam, sangria… Very concentrated. With water: a little cleaner and peatier but the general profile stays the same. Finish: long, candied, with the rubber and the coffee still there. In short, a hugely spiced up version of Port Charlotte – if that’s possible. Very good whisky but I like the PC5 a little better, for it’s cleaner and more ‘natural’. 85 points.

May 29, 2007

Portnahaven at twilight.
Hi – We finally managed to try the new Ardbeg 10yo ‘Mor’ (57.3%, OB, 4.5litres, 1000 bottles, 2007) – yes, a.k.a. the lamp stand - at the Lochside Hotel yesterday. The nose was very close to ‘the distillery’, starting on peated barley and coffee, with also huge notes of mashed potatoes, oatcakes and then grass. Less fruity than the regular OB, more on raw grain and peat, closer in style to the older 10yo at 40%. Just a very slight soapiness but that vanishes quickly. The palate was powerful and very compact. Very peaty ‘of course’, fruitier than on the nose (kumquats). The finish is clean and full. The whole is maybe still just a little bit immature but both balance and style are perfect. 88 points. Now, after having had that one we had the bad idea to have lunch at the Lochside and even if the bar is absolutely great and the people very friendly, I got seriously sick because of some scampis and spent the whole afternoon lying at our house instead of chasing cockles at Gruinart with my friends. Yes, a scampi there could well kill a horse.

May 28, 2007

Hi – Yesterday was Bruichladdich’s open day. Lots of people and lots of sun as usual (although there might have been a little too much wind, could you fix that next year, gang?) The whiskies were very interesting. First we had a cask sample of Bruichladdich 6yo distilled by the current owners. That batch was unusually peated at 10ppm.
Thomas (Malt Maniac) and Patrick standing on their chairs in front of Bruichladich's new spirit tank (ex-Inverleven)
The nose was still a bit immature, still rather on pear spirit and kirsch plus ripe melon. The peat came out with water and the more you waited, the more peat there was. The palate was much more mature, with an elegant fruitiness. Lots of melon, peach, apricot, pear and honey. 85 points. The Bruichladdich 15yo ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ cask strength, finished in Yquem csaks, wasn’t very expressive right at first nosing but really woke up with a few drops of water (very ripe yellow plums). The palate was rounded, rich, on caramel, yellow plums, pineapple and kiwi, with also quite some icing sugar. Long finish on apricot jam and kiwi. A success. 87 points. Then we tried the four time distilled X4 at 10 months and 78%, although we couldn’t feel that high strength. It extracted anything it could find in its sherry bloodtub and was a true oak liqueur. Immensely sweet and spicy, it reminded me of Spice Tree by Compass Box. It wasn’t unpleasant at all actually but it’s really a different product. Jim said they unleashed the secrets of speedy maturation by putting high strength spirit into a small cask but I’m not sure maturation only comes down to the amount of wood extracts that go into the spirit… Well, I’m no distiller. Then we had several other whiskies (like the new Port Charlotte valinch, the Legacy #6 or the Redder Still but I’ll publish my notes later).
(thanks to Helmut)

May 27, 2007

Konstantin Okay, after a painless trip on the ferry, thanks to Heinz’s wonderful North Port 15yo 1964/1979 (46%, Cadenhead dumpy) – 93 points, we’re on Islay! First thing we did yesterday was to rush to Lagavulin to swallow a few dozen fat Loch Gruinart oysters. Konstantin isn’t into oysters at all but Olivier managed to make him eat a small one. Well, that didn’t put a smile on our Austrian friend’s face to say the least.
Then we went to Laphroaig to try the new festival bottling: Laphroaig 1989/2007 (50.3%, OB, 2007 Feis Ile, 4,000 bottles). It was creamy, thick and candied, with the peat making a late arrival but a beautiful one. A rather different expression, richer and less medicinal than usual ‘phroaigs. (90 points, still).
Then we went to Ardbeg where we weren’t allowed to taste the new huge bottle a.k.a. the lamp stand (Ardbeg 10yo Mor). No big deal, back to Lagavulin, where we could try the Lagavulin 14yo 1993/2007 (OB for Feis Ile, 700 bottles), kind of a rounder 12yo with lots of gentian spirit and liquorice sticks (90 as well). Olivier
We also had a cask sample of the new Lagavulin 21yo to be launched later this year. It’s a sherry version that’s a true masterpiece (peaty sticky toffee pudding) but that, alas, they won’t be able to repeat in the coming years (not enough stocks). Anyway, it won’t be less than 93 points for this one. Now we’re off to Bruichladdich…

May 26, 2007

Yesterday was another great day. We left Deeside quite early and drove through the wonderful central Highlands down to Pitlochry, where we decided to pay a visit to the lovely Edradour. Andrew Symington was there and was more than happy to show us around. Lots of developments and some beautiful new rooms (shop, museum etc.) – but where does Andrew find all this energy? We could also try various cask samples of the new Edradour (I think the word ‘new’ really sums it up, the spirit got much cleaner and consistent than before I think) and of Ballechin, which is really a cracker at 3yo whatever the kind of cask it’s being matured in. Most importantly, besides the rather demonstrative wine casks (all full maturing), the bourbon proved extremely good I think, with lots of character and it's not mimicking any famous peat monster at all. Seriously, had they already been selling one of these I’d have bought a few bottles – and sherry seems to work extremely well as well. Anyway, it’s still to be decided what the second ‘edition’ of Ballechin will be later this year (i.e. which kind of wood). I’d vote for a ‘light’ vatting of sherry and bourbon, which would really display Ballechin’s ‘natural’ high class.
Kilkerran Anyway, we left Edradour much later than planned, but also much happier. After a few quick stops we reached Campbeltown where we had planned to meet with our Austrian friends and to down a few rare drams at the Arshiel Hotel. Alas, just like at the Craigellachie Hotel, the whisky selection went seriously down, both in quantity and quality. No more good old Springbanks but still quite a few old opened malts at 40%, that used to be great but that got just as dusty and worn out as the hotel itself ‘through the ages’, plus the odd ‘T’ distillery by Cadenhead, drawn from an inactive cask and bottled at 65%. I know you see what I mean.
Now, good news, we could also try our very first Glengyle a.k.a. Kilkerran, distilled in 2004 and bottled in May this year (62%, OB, The Tasting Room for Ardshiel Hotel). It was already very dark and even if the type of wood wasn’t mentioned, it really nosed like if it was a hyper-active cask. Loads of candy sugar, young rum, caramel… The spirit seemed to be very light (albeit clean), the ‘wood’ doing all the job. Pear spirit? The mouth feel was very creamy and oily. Again lots of caramel and pear spirit, the whole being also very spirity. With water: now it’s pure pear spirit plus grains and cereals. Again, it’s clean spirit but it’s probably much too young even if they used a very talkative cask (heavily rejuvenated?) It should gain complexity with age, that is, and is probably today’s cleanest and purest spirit by the Campbeltown group. 72 points.
Today: it’s Islay, where we’ll start by committing genocides on oysters and scallops at Lagavulin. And oh, we'll try to taste the brand new 1993 single cask for the festival selected by Pinky himself. Should be something (don’t miss it if you’re on Islay, but you’ll have to register to a tour or masterclass to get your bottle – that’s clever, less room for boring, cheap, ebayistic speculators). And then we’ll try to see what gives at Ardbeg and Laphroaig… Stay tuned!

May 25, 2007

Bird Hi, yesterday was another great day. First we stopped in Huntly where Mark Watt let us see the spot where Duncan Taylor will build their new distillery. Nice place with old buildings (an ancient mill that was also a creamery) that will be reused. We could also browse Duncan Taylor’s old bond book that lists all these old casks that were bought in the sixties and early seventies (as new makes). Quite moving, and so was a sample of Highland Park 1966 that’s not bottled yet.
Then we headed to Royal Lochnagar, Diageo’s smallest malt distillery, where manager Donald Renwick welcomed us in the friendliest way. Excellent bits of information on distilling and whisky maturation and as the beautiful Royal Lochnagar is also a school distillery for Diageo, they have quite a few very interesting casks from other distilleries lying in the duty paid warehouse. We tried several (a meaty Mortlach, a grassy Royal Lochnagar, a slightly oaky Millburn, a very waxy yet fresh Clynelish and, last but not least, a Lagavulin 1982 that, Donald told us, used to be quite closed and inexpressive until a few months ago, when it suddenly started to develop and got wonderful. We do confirm! It’s really a thrill to be able to try such whiskies in the company of such a knowledgeable person as Mr. Renwick. Also quite amazing to check that all the whiskies were excellent swimmers, which is rather rare we think (usually one out of two just sinks when watered down). Anyway, we were to overnight very close to the distillery and didn’t really have to drive after the visit, so we could also try some very interesting bottled whiskies, such as the Linlithgow 30yo 1973 (I wrote ‘crystallised citrons’ and 92 points plus ‘wonderful bottle albeit hard to read’), the Glendullan 16yo Centenary Bottling (‘cut cactus’ on the nose and ‘sweetened lemon juice’ on the palate, 85 points), the Glen Elgin 19yo Centenary Bottling (‘coffee-schnapps’ on the nose and ‘caramelised cereals’ on the palate, 88 points) and finally the Glen Ord 28yo bottled 2003 (‘apricots and spices’ on the nose, ‘speculoos’ on the palate, 88 points as well). A fantastic visit, heartfelt thanks, Donald. Oh, by the way, do you know why Royal Lochnagar’s chimney is so short? Because the Queen didn’t want to see it from the nearby Balmoral castle. Oh well… Today we’ll drive to Campbeltown where we’ll join a few Austrian Maniacs and/or Germaniacs and tomorrow morning it’s going to be the ferry to Islay.

May 24, 2007

All right, our first stop has been at the Craigellachie Hotel. The food was OK, Kirwan 2000 was OK, the room was OK, the Quaich bar was OK (lots of bottles that are almost empty and that were opened a few years ago so check the levels before you order a pricey dram) and of course we couldn’t help sampling a few of them. Especially a Glenfarclas 1959 offered by our Maniacal friend Luc (all that remotely!) that was very, very good (91 points), tasting notes to be published later on. It was that good actually, that we couldn’t help emptying the bottle. Sorry Luc… The other highlights were two very excellent Strathislas by G&M (the 40yo, 90 points, and the 1963//2005, 89 points), the Mannochmore 18yo Manager’s Choice (at 66%!) that fetched 89 points as well, a Glenfiddich 1964/2001 by Ian McLeod at 88 points and a Glen Scotia 1973/1996 OB at 86 points. We’re heading south now, more later!

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