The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Islay Festival Tasting

Six extremely rare whiskies from the 2014 Islay festival of Malt and Music. This is your only chance to try these whiskies without paying the earth at auction. Try whiskies from Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Caol Ila, Bowmore and Lagavulin. This pack costs £80 (inc. postage) and contains six 50ml samples. If you would like to pick your own samples, look here. The blog of our trip is here

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In late May 2014, the Whisky Tasting Club journeyed North-West to Islay to bring you some of the best offerings from the Feis Ile, or The Islay Festival of Music and Malt, to give it its full title. Frankly, we went there for the malt, but the music was pretty good, too.

To cut a long story short, each distillery (including Jura) has its own “day” where it holds special events, tastings, etc. More importantly for those not able to make it, a special limited-edition bottling (or two) is released for the occasion. In previous years, these have been very limited in number and those unable to make the festival have often found it impossible to find a bottle. Luckily, the distilleries seem to have learned the lesson and the numbers on offer are now considerably larger so people like us don’t have to spend the entire trip queuing up for them. We have brought you seven bottles back (not including Bunnahabhain and Jura). Whichever ones you choose to purchase, we hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Official information and notes are below. Our thoughts can be found on our blog:

Bowmore Feis Ile 2014

Happily for us, Bowmore released 700 bottles of this a few days early so we
were able to get it without the usual queuing.

Bowmore normally releases two expressions for the festival. In addition to this one (matured in firstfill bourbon casks), they released 300 bottles of a more expensive 1989 vintage, finished in a French oak wine barrique. As much as we love Bowmore, we didn’t fancy spending a night with sleeping bags and thermoses, so we declined the offer. We hope you understand.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Lemon puff biscuits. Salty. Vanilla. Almond cream.
Palate: Cream soda. Intensely salty and spicy at the back of the mouth. Light lemon sherbet.

Retails for around £100

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Caol Ila Feis Ile 2014

Always a favourite of the WTC, we didn’t make the Caol Ila day for various reasons but were pleased to discover that 1,500 bottles had been released, so we picked up two later in the week.

This is probably in response to complaints by festival-goers about the limited number of bottles released by Diageo owned distilleries, which then
turn up on auction websites at idiculously high prices. his expression was personally elected by David Wood, the istillery manager at Caol Ila.

Distilled in 2002, it has been matured in refill American Oak hogsheads and bottled at 55.5%.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Peat. Carbolic. Fried green peppers. Bananas. Citrus. Water brings out the fruits.
Palate: Massive peat and oak. Sour fruits. Coconut and vanilla on the finish. As with the nose, water softens the peat and brings out the fruits.

Retails for around £100

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Bruichladdich Octomore Discovery

The massively heavily-peated Octomore is a cult whisky and was always likely to sell out fast. Except it didn’t. Bottles were still available at the end of the Festival week, much to our surprise.

Inspired by the Scottish traveller Martin Martin whose travels to the Western Isles discovered the natives quadruple distilling an early and potentially lethal version of whisky, the Discovery is quadruple distilled and matured in oloroso butts for seven years. Unlike the earlier version, this one won’t kill you if you have more than two spoons of it. Probably! But it’ll be fun finding out.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Enormous peat with dark chocolate and an orangey and a savoury vanilla element lurking underneath.
Palate: Massive and hugely drying peat. Orange liqueur. A late thwack of acrid coal smoke. Water softens it and brings a grappa note out.

Retails for around £150

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Kilchoman Feis Ile 2014

The youngest of the Islay distilleries - until Gartbreck starts producing – Kilchoman (pronounced Kill-Hoe-Mun) was one of the few distilleries to release a single-cask whisky for the festival, in this case 525 bottles of a 5 year old expression matured in two bourbon casks and then finished in a Fino
Sherry cask.

Tony and I attended a tasting on the day, given by the owner Anthony Wills who was refreshingly forthright about his experiences setting up and running the distillery. He referred to one of his experimental whiskies as ‘a bit shit’, which is a nice change from the usual corporate smoke and mirrors. Terrific man,terrific distillery.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Acrid, thick coal smoke. Caraway seed. Buttery richness. Green apple skins.
Palate: Great balance between peppery and peaty, dark chili chocolate and smooth mint toffee, with a twist of lime at the end.

Retails for around £150

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Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014

This is the one we look forward to most of all, and, as usual, Lagavulin didn’t disappoint. If you only get one bottle from any Islay Festival, get the Lagavulin.

This was probably in Diageo’s mind, too, as they increased the number of bottles released to 3500 to keep everyone happy. This one is drawn from casks filled in January 1995 and is matured in European Oak sherry butts. It was selected by Lagavulin warehouseman Iain “pinky” McArthur who
interestingly doesn’t drink alcohol. Clearly, this doesn’t detract from his ability to select a decent cask.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Sherry. Stewed apples. Tropical fruits. Bubblegum. Rockpools. White chocolate. Dry smoke.
Palate: Coastal. Heavy peat . Rich, chili chocolate. Juicy sultanas. Superbly balanced.

Retails for around £150

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Ardbeg Auriverdes

Meaning “green gold” to celebrate the World Cup in Brazil, this was one of the most eagerly awaited bottlings of Feis Ile 2014. As usual, Ardbeg really put on a really good show with a football themed day ending with a brutal series of “bog football” games where all-comers challenged each other and the Ardbeg team.
The great weather made it less boggy than it should have been, but it was great fun, particularly if you weren’t playing.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Huge, sweet and yet dry peat and lush fruits. Herbal. Water softens it immeasurably.
Palate: Thick, dry peat with a fruity edge, but remarkably restrained. Macaroon on the finish. Water brings out a chocolate fudginess.

Retails for around £85

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