The Whisky Tasting Club

Day 5: Bowmore (err…lagavulin)

so a disclaimer, I am really quite drunk while writing this. Its 7pm, we have been to a warehouse visit at laga and the beer event at islay square. Michelle and Arby are both fast asleep, and I am going to have a probably very inappropriate rant.

Today was Bowmore’s open day. I’ve always quite liked bowmore whisky, but never been a big fan. It ranks with bunna for me, nice but I dont buy it often. 

After our last visit I felt bowmore were a bit schizo. On the one hand, they present themselves as the oldest, most traditional distillery on the island (which is true in many ways). On the other, they have the most corporate, slick distillery operation of them all. I get the feeling that suntory influence bowmore distillery’s marketing much more than diageo/beam/vuitton do at the other corporate distilleries. The fact they make such a big play of their “heritage” just puts me off. Go to Lagavulin and the heritage is just there, no need to ram it down my throat. Anywway, Bowmore had several events on today, and we did not book any of them. This was more to do with inefficiency, I was a bit overloaded in the organisation and just forgot, but none of them appealed that much. They had a “core” masterclass (taste the standard range for £15), the whisky and food masterclass for £30 (“pairing some of bowmores newest releases with various food styles”) and the “ultimate” masterclass for £125.  they had two festival bottlings, 500 bottles of “tempest” @£45 and 100 bottles of 25 year old for around 250. I would have bought the tempest, but didnt realise it had gone on sale on saturday and think it had sold out. The 25 yr old had sold out by 10 am today. The whole festival bottling thing has the aura of a bubble. There is no intrinsic justification for paying these prices other than people have sold it on ebay for more in the past. I’m not spending £200+ on a whisky that is probably no better than a standard cask strength bottling, I drink the stuff, I don’t collect it (well, mostly). Everyone has their level and mine is £100  per bottle. If I were richer then maybe I would spend more, but maybe I would just be getting ripped off more.  

So after visiting bowmore and leaving fairly soon after, we went for a really fantastic walk on the Oa, blog to follow. We had a warehouse tour booked at laga for 14:30, so thought we would go back to ardbeg for lunch. At 13:00 it was completely rammed, no shaded spot for the car+dog and no service outside. So we left (this our third visit to ardbeg already) and went and got a  sandwich from the port ellen spar. We had an impromptu picnic at laga in what may be the last of the glorious sunshine we have had, then went for the warehouse tour.

This was just fantastic, best distillery event I’ve done. There were just three of us on the tour, and Iain who ran it was an old hand with 30 yrs+ at the distillery. We started with new make which was colourless, then a 10 year old, then a 13 yo from a fourth-fill cask, a 17  yo sherry casks and finally a 44 yr old! Great whisky, informal, informative, just what you want at a distillery. We drew the whisky out of the casks ourselves by a mouth pippette technique, he showed us the head and the legs and we all chatted away more and more as the tasting went on.

My three favorite distilleries are all on this south coast of islay, and sometimes its easy to forget laga because of the more proactive marketing of the other two. This event has propelled laga back up to at least equal footing for me. So I wont give tasting notes (didnt occur to me to make them I was too busy enjoying myself), suffice it to say if you like laga then you would find them all, lovely, even the newmake. Go on a warehouse visit here if you get a chance, 5*doubleplusgood.

After the event we headed off (slowly and cautiously) to the Islay brewery event @ the islay square house. We had not been up here before. Its a lovely square with the brewery and a chocolate shop. Chatted to a sociable bunch of germans. I think germans are much happier chatting with a beer in their hand, whisky brings out the anorak in them. Anyway, as per usual they were good company and I’ve got quite into the islay ale. So much better to taste a beer on draft than in bottles.

We then walked home and michelle and the dog went straight to sleep. I’ve cracked open a beer and wrote this load of old nonsense. What a lovely holiday, the sun has even come out again. I think another laga is in order :)

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  • […] Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – Titled “Bowmore (err…lagavulin)”, we get some info on what was being offered at Bowmore, but Tony and Michelle actually headed off to Lagavulin for a tour. And what a tour it was (tastings right out of the casks)! Not only do I HAVE to go to Islay some day, but a Laga tour will definitely need to be part of the itinerary. […]

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