our first official tasting event was at Lagavulin. Originally billed as Women “nose” best due to the gender of the distillery manager Georgie Cranford who was running the event, it was changed to a “masterclass” for reasons unknown, probably corporate.
There were about 50 people at the tasting held in a hall behind the distillery I had not seen before. There were 5 whiskies and a sample of new make. These were, in the order tasted
1) standard 16
2) distillers edition (current one I think)
3) distillery only bottling
4) 12 year old
5) Feis Ila bottling
the new make was one of the nicer raw spirits I’ve tasted, very peaty and smoky. I’ll only talk further about the distillery only and Feis Ila bottling. The distillery only is the left over whisky from the 1991 distillers edition, stored in old wood since bottling in 2007. Its been bottled at 52.5 abv. Funnily enough, the 1991 distillers is one of michelle’s all time favorites, and this did not disppoint. More rounded by more time in wood but with a better kick because of the cask strength. Definitely one for your traditional Laphroaig fan. The 2011 Feis Ila is a single cask (no.1715) 13 year old, distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2011. The cask was selected by lagavulin legend Iain Macarthur, and bottled at 51% abv. Each bottle is numbered.
This was the first time I’ve done a vertical tasting of Lagavulin and I can recommend it, although if you can only do one event here, go for the warehouse tasting, nothing beats supping laga straight from the cask. Georgie’s talk was interesting, although she was clearly trying not to say anything too controversial. One chap asked the question of why, given people have travelled all round the world to be here, do the distillery did not make more effort for the festival by involving local people and companies to make it a true celebration. It is a good point, although I don’t think the fault lies just with Diageo. The trouble the festival has in this respect is that the island is very big and there is no obvious centre. If you drive through Bowmore you would see no evidence of the festival, and in my opinion the week lacks clear central planning. At least this year there is a functional website, but it is not updated. If I was in charge I would have a travelling tent and stage which went to each distillery on the open day, much better bus services running free across the island and a week long craft fair/stage in the centre of Bowmore or even at Islay house. Still, since I’m no fan of craft fairs and drive, I’m not that worried!