Laphroaig oh and a snifter of Ardbeg.

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What’s this – there’s a touch of cloud in the sky this morning.   A rarity based on our week long period of being up here.    I’m sure it’ll burn off shortly and we’ll be left with the glorious sunshine we’ve come to expect this week.      If you spy us on our journeys in our Green Landrover 110 – come up and say hello; we’re friendly .

It’s day four of the Islay Whisky Festival (Feis Ile) for 2012 and we’ve heard a rumour that there’s a limited amount of the Ardbeg Feis Ile bottling is being released each morning at 9:30 at a price of £65.  Since we’re leaving the island on Saturday morning which is Ardbegs open day we’ll miss it so it’s nice to know that it’s available prior to the main event.    However due to the lets be honest here; Bloody stupid Scottish licensing laws we can’t actually pay for it until 10am.   So we’ve put a couple behind the bar for collection later with our names on it.     We head the short journey down to Laphroaig where I’m booked on a tour, whilst the others are booked on  Concert of Malts.

We pick up a wandering guy from Taiwan called Zak,  who’s been over here for a couple of months understanding why people want different whiskies.  It sounds like a great trip as after Islay he’s off to Arran and then onto the mainland.     You’ll see him going about – he’s strolling about in a kilt.   We picked him up just after leaving Ardbeg as he walked back down the road – and he’s heading for Laphroaig – funnily enough that’s where we’re going so it’s all aboard.

The Laphroaig distillery is a world apart from yesterdays experience at Caol Ila; take any photos you want and it’s a much more relaxed affair with doors left wide open,  left,  right and centre.

We know it’s an industrial process, but Laphroaig maintain a friendly approach to visitors and tours and it’s a very relaxed day and there’s none of secrecy that they seem to want at Caol Ila. The Port Ellen primary school are there selling Tea Towels, Aprins (sic) etc to raise funds for their school.  It’s comical to see an eight year old discussing the merits of buying their tea towel to someone who’s had a few drams – especially when the eight year old swaps into the Gaelic  🙂   Let’s just say that my seller didn’t have change of a fiver for a £3.50 tea towel so I gave him the fiver and I got the tea towel, he went away with a smile on his face, everyone was happy. The Feis Ile bottling is a Cairdeas (Gaelic for friendship) is available and comes at a reasonably price of £45.  Having tried both it and several other double / triple woods in the sampling shed (in the museum) I’ve got to say it’s quite different and most pleasing for what is normally a very very peaty drink.

The distillery tour (£5) takes you round the main parts of the distillery – the Maltings (some of which are still done there), The very smokey kiln (excellent) Washbacks (and a tasting of the wash), the stills and then of course the casking area where the sample is provided along with a neat Glencairn glass with Feis Ile 2012.

A cracking tour and the others that were taking place – including the wellyboot tour seemed popular.

Some great entertainment and attractions – again the St Johns Church ladies (also present at Lagavulin) were serving up their lovely soup and wide selection of cakes etc. The juniors of the local community made an appearance and gave us both a great dancing display and also a very good choral recital.

Whilst I was enjoying the delights that Laphroaig have to offer, the others (Al, H, Ralf, Wolfie, Garson and Smudge) were off at Ardbeg just up the road attending their Concert for Malts event.  By all accounts, some lovely drams but the event seemed a little disjointed and some strange choices of music.  They did ask for feedback on how the event and I know they’re thinking about asking others to submit their recommendations for matching malts to music.

Anyway the samples included :

  • A new spirit.
  • 10 year old
  • Uigeadeil
  • Alligator
  • A single cask 1976 – 53.5% for the Italian markets, bottled 2002
  • Kildalton 24 year old.
  • Ardbeg Day.

Tastes between the group were shared between the Kildalton, the single cask and as H puts it – the Ougadouge one which translates into the Uigeadeil.   Smudge who was driving preferred the chocolate truffle that was provided – which makes a lot of sense as she wasn’t drinking any of them.  🙂

Once they had done their Ardbeg thing, they popped down to Laphroaig to catch up with me and in no time I had them signing up to the Friends of Laphroaig and staking their claim to the field in which they now own their square foot of Islay peat.    Not that getting a miniature dram and a flag of your country swayed us in any way.   So armed with our phones acting as GPS’s we set off to locate our spot in the field opposite.

By chance, four of them are in close proximity.

Another great day out and great hospitality from the people working on Laphroaigs day.      You did the distillery proud.

  • Volker
    May 29 2012

    What a cool trip Craig! Please leave something for us too!!!! 4 weeks to go before we will check it out ourself. Islay we are coming…


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