Day one of the festival, and we finally arrive on Islay via the lake district and Cairndow. The sun is shining and all is good in the world (after discounting vomiting toddlers and pre festival hangovers). By the time we got here we didnt want to move, but Pat went down to Lagavulin.
Press release: “The LAGAVULIN bottling is drawn from casks filled in January 1995. Matured in European Oak Sherry Butts, the liquid was personally selected by Lagavulin warehouseman Iain McArthur. At 54.7% ABV, it comes in an edition of 3,500 bottles.”
A couple of points: firstly, has it really spent 19 years in sheery butts? If so, they are tired old fellows, because whilst the sherry is there, it is not that prominant. Secondly, 3500 bottles? Last two times were were here they were single casks, 500 odd bottles. I’m not complaining, it means more people can drink it, but its a sign of the times. I bought last years festival bottle at auction for £30 over retail, so at £100 a bottle, this is not an investment whisky imo.
nose: Bex says: Ruhbarb (after coughing, she doesn’t drink), michelle: rhubarb crumble with custard and crystalised ginger. Alice: All spice. Tony: it is a classic Laga nose, very rounded and evocative, but quite hard to pin down.
taste Alice: underipe fruit,like walking into a wood thats just been copiced, with the green wood just starting to burn. Jim: late woody notes, green bananas. Tony. the green fruit is there, but it is also deep and smokey. This is a classy lagavulin, like a premium distillers edition.
I like it a lot, and would rather have 3 of these 1 of the last 21 year old, (which was lovely).
Pat was in Islay all day, here are his thoughts:
Day 1 – Lagavulin
I think it should be Qqqqagavuin; starting with a large Queue. This is a day I’ve never managed to make, until now. Was it worth it? Well, yes, kind of.
After two days of driving, an early start was never an option. We stayed in Port Ellen at the newly-furbished Islay Hotel (expensive but very well appointed, just up the road from the ferry terminal) and, after a very creditable breakfast (Stornoway Black Pudding – wow!!!), we took a look round the bay and happened across a boat called the Clam Muncher – who said the Scots had no sense of humour?
Having exhausted the distractions that Port Ellen had to offer, we ambled in fabulous sunny weather to Lagavulin where the queue for the festival bottling looked relatively short, until we remembered that everyone pays with credit card. Anyway, Lagavulin appears to be one of the very few distilleries that releases their special bottling On The Day. Maximum, one per person, £95. Fair enough, you think, it’s Lagavulin and they’ve only released a “limited run” of 3000 bottles. Then you discover that Bowmore have released 1000 bottles of their standard Feis Ile offering at a maximum of FOUR per person for £50, FOUR days early. And NO queue.
Anyway, it’s Laga, so you don’t ask questions and you queue up, behind the Germans, the Belgians, the Swedes, the Germans, the odd American, the Dutch, some Germans and some Italians (Did I mention the Germans?). This one is a 19 year old expression of indeterminate cask and very nice. Not earth shattering, but nice. But £95. After 90 minutes of queueing, I picked up two of the Feis Ile plus two bottles of their Triple Distilled, distillery only, Friends of the Classic Malts expression. Triple Distilled how, and in what, I never determined.
Once, I had managed to pick these little beauties up, my wife and I headed for the food and entertainment tents, where a folk foursome were bashing out some excellent renditions of, among other things, “The Leaving of Liverpool”. Hmm, lovely, a tent for Loch Gruinart Oysters next to a caravan selling other seafood. That sounds great. I’ll stick my wife in the seafood queue and I’ll stand in the oyster queue. Ok, I’ve been served. I’ll hand my wife my (uneaten) oysters and I’ll get the seafood in.
Forty minutes later, I’m still in the queue. But I’m near. Then, the Germans in front of me (who, true to form, pushed in) ordered 11 scallops, each of which takes 10 minutes to cook, and 11 langoustines. Oh, for f**** sake!!! Still, it was lovely.
So, this could have been organized rather better, but everyone was mega-friendly, and we spoke to several people who worked for the Galgael organisation, a hugely worthwhile organisation who helps those whose lives have taken a turn for the worse, and several people in kilts (an instant hit with my wife).
Overall, a worthwhile and life affirming day with fabulous weather. When was the last time anyone got sunburn in Scotland???
Then, it was back to our accommodation for a Chinese. From our back window, we can see, twinkling away in the distance, Bruichladdich, where the following day, we are due to enjoy an 11am masterclass with Jim McEwan. More whisky! Hoorah!!.