So last year we arrived about 3pm in glorious sunshine, raced down to Lagavulin, bought the last two festival bottlings then went for a walk on the beach in shorts and sandals feeling particularly smug. This year we had to catch the 7:00am ferry (due to our incompetence), left the boat to be met by in a howling gale in which we had to stand for an hour and a half to get our laga festival bottlings, feeling windswept and vaguely foolish for not retreating to somewhere more clement. Still, this is Scotland, so rain is to be expected, and its great to be back. The island is so familiar now (this is our third visit to Islay, now equal top in the list of our most visited holiday destination), even the dog seems to remember the cottage.
We chose the bumpy road to laga, and it seems that the tradition of waving at all passing cars has gone, although one old fella gave us the Islay finger. Still, I will persist with my Norfolk wave to encourage them. After buying two festival and two distillery only bottles (tastings later) we went for coffee at Ardbeg, popped into Laphroaig on the way back before coming back up to Bowmore. So we have visited my four favourite distilleries in the world before lunch time! News on the Festival bottlings
Lagavulin: 13 yo Single cask (51%), 588 bottles. We arrived at 10am and the queue was long. When we passed it again the queue was much shorter. Given we bought the last one at 4pm last year, I think the best strategy with this many bottles would be to go around 12:30-13:00. The queue moves so slowly
Ardbeg: This years bottling has spent its life in a Pedro Ximes sherry cask! Pure sherried Ardbeg. Not something I have tried. Best thing is, it is going to be priced at £90. Now, this is still not cheap, but better than last year, when the 10 year old offering was first priced at £220 before being reduced to £120 the day before release (without my knowing). I will definitely be getting some this year. Not sure how many there are, I would guess either one or two casks (600 or 1200 bottles?)
Laphroaig: Cairdais again, £45, 1400 available at the shop, more online (not sure how many, iirc it was 4000 last year). Had a small taste, very nice, we will write notes on Tuesday. Also picked up a bottle of the new cask strength.
Bowmore: As with last year, Bowmore have two festival offerings. The first is 500 bottles of a 15 year old sherry finish called Laimrig bottled at 54.4%. This is actually on sale today, but this doesn’t seem to be generally known as there is no queue. I’ve got mine in, notes on this on Tuesday. The second is 100 bottles of I think 28 year old for £350, which will go on sale on weds and will probably sell out at 2 am like last year. Don’t think I will try, not in this weather.
So finally checked into the cross house cottage at 2pm having already bought 10 bottles of whisky. Now we go off to Lagavulin for a master class tasting at 4pm. That’s my idea of how to start a holiday, who cares about the weather? Photos to follow.