Oh man, this is cool. Having arrived yesterday evening to be greeted on Islay by Joe and the team of The Whisky Lounge, I was driven to Port Ellen and with a swift lend, slip, climb and swear, I was on the ship named Irene and being shown what would be my cabin for the next six days for Feis Ile 2015.
Being my first Islay Festival, Feis Ile 2015 will naturally always hold a special place in my heart. I say this at the beginning of the week when I know not what will unfold if I will obtain any of the limited-edition festival bottles.
I felt like such a newbie last night, the guys were all incredible but most had been on the ship for a few days or at least a few hours and one or two looked a bit like true seafarers already, so knew how each day would unfold and had already gotten their ‘silly questions’ out of the way.
But I asked all of mine anyway, why the hell not?!
Once the ground rules were established, dinner was consumed I headed onto land again to the #WhiskyFabric gathering behind the Bowmore distillery . I meet up with friends old and new for drams and banter (a couple of photos below). When back on the ship and whisky was flowing it was as if we had known each other for years. A really great bunch of people.
My first-day highlights included, in chronological order only:
A Fry up is always great but a fry up on a boat just seemed a little more special, especially as we then set sail around the island for the first time. A truly memorable experience and something not a great number of visitors to this whisky kingdom will have experienced.
The views were astounding but wow I bricked it when we had to get on a ‘rib’ in choppy seas
Totally the best way to turn up to a distillery though, very James Bond.
2. Lagavulin special tasting (starting at 10:30 am!)
Well, how would you feel trying seven cask strength Whiskies before 11:30 am? Pretty bloody great as it happens. From a gorgeous new make at 64% to an 11, 13, 17, 22, festival and the whopping 33-year-old cask strength, every single one was special. Full details to follow in a subsequent post soon.
3. Kilchoman tour and tasting
After a rapid race across the island in our maroon minibus, I was taken around the now decade-old Kilchoman distillery including gorgeous spirit safe and true craft-size production.
Really great to both see these guys doing so well but also to experience such small scale production.
I also sampled the 10th Anniversary bottling, and the 5th 100% Islay release which was exceptional. Distillery Stories piece to follow in due course.
4. The incredible island scenery
Islay is beautiful, no doubt about it. The afternoon rain ruined a bunch of scenic photos but I included some below to hopefully capture it from the sea this morning.
5. Laphroaig tour and unique cask tasting
This one will go down as a true highlight as this was the whisky / distillery that convinced me that this was a drink worth spending a lot of time and money exploring.
I enjoyed a double measure each of the Feis Ile 2015, Feis Ile 2009, 25 YO, 10 and a couple that have escaped my memory right now. What a tasting, one of the best I have ever been at.
Bought a few bottles too, of course.
What a day. Until tomorrow’s update… Feis Ile 2015 has been epic already.