Sunday, 22 June 2014

Feis Ile 2014

Not being able to attend Feis Ile 2014, I made the decision to make an overnight whistle-stop tour of Islay and visit as many distilleries as possible and pick up the festival special releases as possible, both for myself and also for a bunch of whisky blogging and twitter friends who were doing a bottle share on some of the bottles with me.

Ben's Whisky Blog
Somerset Whisky Blog
Scotch and Sci-Fi
Whisky Gospel
Whisky Israel
Shai A
Yorkshire Fellowship of the still
Livingroom Whisky

The first day I managed to go to Lagavulin, and then over to Laphroaig and then Ardbeg which was unusually shut because everyone was recovering from Ardbeg day the previous day. I then headed to Bowmore and then Bruichladdich. I managed to find a lovely camping spot in Port Charlotte right outside the old Port Charlotte (Lochindaal) distillery which was pretty apt because Port Charlotte releases from Bruichladdich have became some of my favourite whiskies. The next day it was off to Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila, followed by Kilchoman and then back to Ardbeg.

Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottling: Distillery Bottling
Expression: Feils Ile 2014
Age: 19
Distilled: 1995
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 54.7%
Cask Type: Ex sherry, european oak.

Nose: Initial hit is of the richness of rum and raisin ice cream, topped with caramel pouring sauce. Cherry coke mixing with vanilla, cinnamon, orange oil. Salted pretzels, rolling tobacco, ash and soot. There is also a earthy heat like wholegrain mustard. Turkish Delight and Rosewater. Water makes this thicker and a bigger sweetness bringing out strawberries and raspberries.

Palate: Spicy and savoury. Pork crackling cooking with coriander, cloves and black pepper. Poached pears with cream.

Finish: Long and sooty with malty biscuit coming through. Espresso, dark chocolate and highland toffee. Savoury notes coming through again with lamb and rosemary.

Comments: Well balanced and constructed. As much as I hate to love Diageo, this really is quite elegant and faultless to me.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottling: Distillery Bottling
Expression: Auriverdes - Ardbeg Day / Feils Ile 2014
Age: NAS
Distilled: N/A
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 49.9%
Cask Type: N/A

Nose: Melon, green apple and lime juice. Liquorice and sports mixture sweets. A reduced sugar sweetnees coming through as maple syrup biscuits and tinned treacle. Oak but more like the bark from an oak tree. An old wooden boat washed up at the beach with bits of seaweed, old ropes and barnicles. The peat is light here and I am getting more woodlands and coastlines than bogs.

Palate: Fruity but unripe pear and apple. Drying and slightly tannic mouthfeel, and feels a bit thin.

Finish: Medium length with white chocolate and hazelnuts. Chocolate covered coffee beans.

Comments: I do like this and I think it is hard to always keep up with Corryvreckan and Uigeadail which are both strong brand leaders. An Ardbeg for when other Ardbegs are a bit too much maybe? A summer Ardbeg?

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottling: Distillery Bottling
Expression: Octomore Discovery - Feils Ile 2014
Age: 7
Distilled: 2007
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 69.5%
Cask Type: Oloroso sherry.

Nose: Thick and meaty. Seared t-bone steak and gristle on a grill with burnt garlic and a plum and paprika sauce. I don't imagine such a sauce exists but if it did this is what it would smell like. Sunday morning bacon rolls. Sugar sweet marshmallows roasting on an open flame. My shoes have also caught fire, with burning leather and laces. There is road tar and engine oil dripping from an old bus. Cointreau orange liqueur and that first sip from a glass of Pepsi with a slice of orange at the top. Cinnamon, and vanilla. Mint chocolate, caramel and praline. Smoked haddock and smoked cheddar. Sweet barley emerges later on.

Palate: More carbolics that I couldn't detect on the nose. Soil, turf and moss. Tastes like chemistry class at school as if I shouldn't be drinking this. Combustion, drinking a car battery through a straw. The skin in my mouth is sizzling. Sweet and sour chinese sauce. Thick and oily.

Finish: A phenolic blast with the cinnamon and orange spices following through in what reminds me of a Halloween candle. Sharp wood. Smokey meat, cigars, melting plastic and burnt circuit boards. Powerful and full on.

Comments: This is quite powerful, and it has more of a heavy oily meatiness going on that I would associate with some Mortlachs but then with an added phenolic punch to it.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Bottling: Distillery Bottling
Expression: Dram an Stiureadair - Feils Ile 2014
Age: 10
Distilled: 2004
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 56.7%
Cask Type: Marsala finished for 1 year.

Nose: Sharp and spirity at first, the high ABV and youth is evident and I need to add some drops of water to tame it down right from the start. The marsala wine notes are dominating with cranberry, strawberry chewit sweets and a little blackcurrent as well. The wine also gives it as vinegary note which I sadly get from many wine finishes so might just be me. Ripe peach and apricots. Cola cube sweets and Stiffy's Kola Kubez vodka shots. A little of the Bunnahabhain itself coming through with olives in brine.

Palate: Concentrated berry juice, cranberries and peach.

Finish: Medium length, but possibly just being carried by the ABV. Tangy fruit, a bit like Tamarind pulp and tomato salsa. A touch of Trifle dessert. Drying.

Comments: If you like wine finishes you may love this, but to me it seems unbalanced and the wine dominates over a young spirit. This isn't Bunnahabhain to me sadly.

Distillery: Kilchoman
Bottling: Distillery Bottling
Expression: Feils Ile 2014
Age: 4
Distilled: 2010
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 58.7%
Cask Type: Fino sherry finish.

Nose: Dry apple from the fino. Rhubarb and custard sweets. Chocolate honeycomb. Tropical esters - pineapple, mango and grapefruit. Sharpness of peeling the skin from a tangerine. Lots of country side notes and I feel like I am standing in the middle of a field with bales of hay, heather in the ground and pollen in the air. Spring time. Also farmy notes of cowsheds. Pistachio nuts. Tech class (wood shop) at school, and also old wooden school desks. Coconut snowballs, biscuits, liquorice. 

Palate: Sweet and smokey with black cardamom. Fishermen's Friends sweets. Kop Kop sweets. Barley broth. Malty and earthy.

Finish: Long and creamy. Vanilla, pear and apple. Soil and leaves.

Comments: This is better than last year's Feis Ile bottle from Kilchoman. It is sweeter than I would have expected with the fino finish which is a sherry I would associate as being much dryer than Oloroso. I got a chance to try the new make as well which I will post a later review of but if anything shows that this is really good quality spirit as soon as it comes off the still. There is nothing in there that I would expect subtractive maturation to take care of.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Bottling: Distillery Bottling
Expression: Cairdeas - Feils Ile 2014
Age: NAS
Distilled: N/A
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 51.4%
Cask Type: 1st fill bourbon casks, Amontillado hogsheads

Nose: Lemon icing sugar which reminds me of my gran's empire biscuits. Lemon cheesecake. Creme fraiche. Scottish tablet and butterscotch. Werther's original sweets. Freshly laundered clothes and fabric softener - maybe that lemon element coming back through here again. Like a painter's studio with new canvas and watercolour paints. A bit of white chocolate toblerone. Burning incense sticks and a touch of gunpowder smoke. Cinnamon and ginger.

Palate: White chocolate and hazelnut. Baking spices.

Finish: Medium finish, another young and malty finish with fudge and cream. Falls a little flat.

Comments: Quite young and missing that phenolic Laphroaig punch I am used to, but very easy to drink and the Amontillado finish seems to integrate well.

Distillery: Bowmore
Bottling: Distillery Bottling
Expression: Feils Ile 2014
Age: N/A
Distilled: N/A
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 56.1%
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon

Nose: Tinned pears with vanilla custard. Banana foam sweets. White grapes coming through like a glass of champagne with a strawberry. Getting richer as toffee crisp bars with caramel and biscuit. I am getting a note like hairspray of which I get solvent and pure ethanol. Cereal elements of oats and wheat. Bubble gum. Belgian waffles.

Palate: Vanilla with the custard being quite prominent again with a bit of white chocolate in there. There is a waxiness like yankee candles with vanilla and coconut elements.

Finish: The ex-bourbon dominant vanilla and coconut leading the way. Medium length. Baked bananas. Jalapenos stuffed with sour cream.

Comments: Another young one, and again I don't think I detected any smoke there at all? This could have been any young highland - reminds me of a young Glen Garioch in many ways.

Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottling: Distillery Bottling
Expression: Feils Ile 2014
Age: 12
Distilled: 2002
Bottled: 2014
Strength: 55.5%
Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon

Nose: Light and fairly delicate (for a young Caol Ila anyway). Ham and pinapple pizza lending it both a sweet and a savoury note at the same time. Bashed overripe banana and kiwis. Rowntree's tooty frootie sweets. Estery and malt. Soft dairy vanilla fudge. Coastal saltiness (yes I know it is matured in the central belt) in the way of salted popcorn. The salty note again is like a salted lime after a shot of tequila. Light smoke. Is there maybe a mix of peated and unpeated malt in here?

Palate: Salty sweet. Light and fruity while still having a fairly oily and chewy mouthfeel. Ginger beer. New wood.

Finish: Medium length. Shortbread, pepper and ginger.

Comments: Quite delicate and light for a young Caol Ila. Like some of the others I have tasted this year it appears to be quite an accessible dram.


The winners are:

1. Lagavulin. Considering the number of bottles available, Lagavulin have both managed to cater to high demand at and after the Islay ferstival and also producing a really great quality whisky at a great price. £99 for a 19 year old at cask strength is great considering the cask strength 12 year old version goes for not much less than this.

2. Bruichladdich Octomore Discovery. This is better than the Octomore Scottish Barley and I like the Oloroso influence and the meaty savoury elements. It is a big hitting whisky for sure. Down side is the price at £150 a bottle which I feel is a bit too expensive when compared to the standard Octomore releases. It would have been nice to see this be £100 or less.

3. Ardbeg Auriverdes. Again I like this, and maybe it doesn't hold up in price and taste to some of the standard releases, but it is by no means make it any less. Again a bit expensive for a NAS release when using the Lagavulin as the benchmark.

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