Islay Whisky & Music Festival
another mixed year for weather - lashing rain for Lagavulin on
the first day, sunshine from Sunday to Tuesday and plenty more
rain for the next three days. We believe Ardbeg had reasonable
weather for the final Saturday but Helen was not at the Festival
this time and Caroline had to come home on the Friday.
Our thanks for the photos on this page go to
Dave and Marty Coffey, clients from Colorado.
As ever, most distilleries were open on weekdays
and a few open on Saturday - just as outwith Festival time - to
take the strain off those who were having their Festival day.
One or two closed for the day or morning after their fest day
to give staff time to recover and tidy up.
The order of days was much the same as last year
with Lagavulin starting the Festival off. Tours were not self-guided
this year and two Masterclasses were held again to accommodate
the great interest in these. Food was available too but the rain
did rather make it a little difficult! Nonetheless, everyone we
spoke to had enjoyed it despite the weather. Ardbeg again ran
a midnight tour on this first evening with much success.
As now seems traditional, Bruichladdich had Sunday
and got the usual good weather and high turnout. With music, food,
Masterclass and tours the place was buzzing. In an effort to add
more to the week, Bruichladdich also put on short events on other
days in case people could not get places on other tours - music
from Norma Munro on the Tuesday and stories with Jim McEwan on
Thursday lunchtime. These were late additions to the programme
and did not appear in print. However, there was good attendance
at both of them despite the lack of publicity.
Port Ellen Maltings and Caol Ila had Monday. The
Maltings repeated their successful masterclasses introduced in
2004 and again, they were full well in advance of the Festival.
So much so there was a waiting list in case of "no-shows".
Caol Ila was in a similar situation. Two tasting talks had been
set up and both filled up ages in advance of the week.
Tuesday was Laphroaig and a slight change of personnel
here. Robert Hicks, Allied Distillers' Master Blender, was due
to give a series of talks but had to cancel due to illness. However,
Blender, Sandy stepped in and all was well. John from the distillery
also ran talks and tastings during the day plus two at midnight
on different days - one with a dram of 30 year old at the end
and the other featuring a dram of 40 year old Laphroaig. There
were plenty of takers for these special events. The usual Laphroaig
Ceilidh was held on Tuesday evening again too. Also held on this
evening was a whisky dinner at Ardbeg with French whisky enthusiast
and chef Martine Nouet who always has interesting taste combinations
for people to try.
As mentioned above, the weather took a turn for
the worse again on Wedensday - Bowmore's day - but nobody lets
things like that bother them on Islay. The tours, Masterclasses
with the manager and stories and song in the vaults with Robin
Laing continued this year with the usual large numbers. The music
event with singers and dancers went ahead again in the evening
too. Caroline has to admit she did not attend this year but clients
who went enjoyed the show.
Thursday saw Jura's day. Unlike previous years they
ran morning events too. On weekdays early on in the Festival they
ran special Manager tours then their main event on Thursday afternoon.
This was as good as ever with Master Blender Richard Paterson
again in attendance to educate and entertain the audience with
his great knowledge.
Distillery Destinations the highlight of the week was this evening
where we ran a whisky dinner in conjunction with the PortCharlotte
Hotel, as last year. This year it was our Director Caroline's
turn to match the whiskies to the food and to talk about them.
She chose to illustrate her menu with a few of the photgraphs
she has taken on various visits to Islay. So you can see what
we ate and drank the menu is shown here.
Canapes with Caol Ila Cocktail
Roasted whole Islay woodcock on a bed of sautéed wild
mushrooms served with rocket leaves drizzled with a port and balsamic
Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old
Roasted yellow pepper soup topped with a nutmeg foam
Isle of Jura 10 Year Old
Loch Fyne smoked salmon filled with cream cheese and asparagus
wrapped in seaweed presented with fresh salad leaves drizzled
with truffle oil
Bowmore 1990 - Helen Arthur Single Cask Collection
Forest berry & lemon sorbet
Saddle of Islay lamb coated with rosemary and set with fondant
potatoes and a rich red wine jus garnished with caramelised baby
Chocolate whisky tart served with home made Bruichladdich ice
James McEwan's Special Selection Bruichladdich
Tea/coffee served with home made whisky tablet
Busty Nail - Laphroaig & Loch Fyne Liqueur
Caroline decided to call this "Expect the Unexpected
or Just a Bit Out of the Ordinary". She explains, "This
was partly because a lot of people still do not think to use whisky
more adventurously in mixing or in cocktails - and I mean single
malts as well as blends. It's one of my favourite complaints and
I'm not sorry for going on about it. So I decided to have a whisky
cocktail as a starter. I chose a Caipirisky - the whisky version
of the cachaca based caipirinha from Brazil. Our friends at Diageo
suggested Caol Ila or Talisker would work in this and, as it had
to be an Islay, I used Caol Ila 12 year old. I think it is slightly
bettter with 18 year old but a cracking opener for the evening
anyway. I had hoped that the unexpected with the starter would
be Bunnahabhain 12 year old in its new packaging but the company
decided, quite rightly, that no one was to get a glimpse of the
new pack till the following day. But we all enjoyed the whisky
with the starter anyway. Jura might not be an obvious choice with
soup but I chose it because I used it with cock-a-leekie soup
at a whisky dinner I help set up in Washington DC a couple of
years ago and it worked very well here too. Bowmore goes very
well with some fish and seafood due to the slightly salty taste
and this year's choice of partner worked well. It was the Bowmore
from the Helen Arthur Collection that she does for Versailles
Dranken in Holland.
Uigeadail was chosen to partner the lamb and its rich sauce as
it contains some sherry cask matured whisky. This helped to stand
up to the sauce but it does not have a cloying or overly rich
sherry element. The real "unexpected" of the night was
the Bruichladdich. Okay, the dessert had Bruichladdich ice cream
with it so it was the obvious choice. However, I rang Jim McEwan
in advance of the event and told him what the dessert was. We
agreed it had to be something with plenty of vanilla, bourbon
effect and real richness and unctuous mouthfeel. Jim came up with
a beauty. It was a vatting of 21 year old sherry matured Bruichladdich,
17 year old bourbon matured and a dash of 12 year old matured
in bourbon cask to give it a bit of zip. I picked up some ice
cream from the Port Charlotte Hotel the day before the dinner
and a group of us tried it in Jim's office. Stunning! I could
wax lyrical about it for hours. And because it was a special vatting
of a couple of bottles he did for me, it is not available to buy
anywhere. Our "unexpected" for the coffee and whisky
tablet was a Rusty Nail, which I have mentioned on our web site
before. It's a mix of Laphroaig 10 year old and Loch Fyne Whisky
Liqueur which has tones of tangerine, coffee and chocolate in
it. Mixed with Laphroaig, it takes the edge off the liqueur's
sweetness and makes a fine end to a good dinner."
And certainly not least, we have to thank once
more the Port Charlotte Hotel. Brilliant food again this year
with superb co-ordination of food and whisky service. Billy has
moved over to a management role now in the hotel and the kitchen
is in the charge of Ranga who arrived as second chef a couple
of years ago. The transition is obviously silky smooth.
Bunnahabhain took Friday for tours and tastings
during the day again as well as the launch of its new packaging.
The Condenser Club evening continued in its Friday evening slot
with music, drams, snacks and a chance to meet all the distillery
managers once more. We should also mention that the new Kilchoman
farm distillery was officially opened on the Friday morning with
visitors being treated to a tour, talks, nosing and barbecue.
That's one we hope to include more on our Islay tours throughout
On Saturday there were some poor souls up very early
following the Friday evening party. Reason being that Ardbeg,
innovative as ever, decided to hold a dawn tour of the
distillery this time. The day began at 05.45 with people able
to depart in time for breakfast at their accommodations. Ardbeg's
theme for 2005 was Join the Revolution, complete with Che Guevara-like
publicity posters sent out in advance of the day. The time passed
quickly in their splendid mix of events and tours - or so we are
told as, sadly, we could not be there.
End of May next year will see the Islay Whisky
Festival for 2006 and we look forward to returning clients and
plenty of new faces. As ever, good accommodation books up fast
so, ideally, get to us before Christmas 2005 if you want to go
in 2006. Some of the events also book up very quickly once the
distilleries announce what they will be doing - though some of
that is not usually decided till two or three months beforehand.
This year some other evetns were added at shorter notice. Ferries
to get there in time for the first day book up quickly too once
the summer timetable comes out so book with us early and we look
forward to hearing from you.
2001 Distillery Destinations Ltd