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The Islay Whisky Festival 2012 ( Feis Ile 2012 ) – A Whisky Boys Review

Here I am again going to the most beautiful Isle in the world, where some of the finest Single Malt Scotch Whiskies are produced.

Saturday the 26th May together with my wife, Jacqueline I catch the ferry “Finlaggan” from Kennacraig to Port Askaig. On board, Bruichladdich were doing a wee Whisky tasting, which also included the absolutely marvellous Botanist Islay Gin, what a way to start the festival week, I said hallo to Craig Johnstone, (Bruichladdich’s Business Development Manager) and had a chat with Robin Laing a singer songwriter of some repute and also a co-member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, all this made the 2 hour ferry trip very enjoyable indeed.

As all my traveling took place on the Saturday and not arriving in Port Charlotte until approx. 4 pm I missed the Lagavulin Festival Day. Once Jacqueline and I had unpacked the car and emptied our cases we headed down to the Lochindaal Hotel/pub for a dram and then over to the Port Charlotte Hotel which only sells Islay Whisky and has one of the largest selection on the island. A couple of drams later we headed back up the road for dinner and a wee night cap all set for one of the highlights of the whole festival week, Bruichladdich’s festival day.

After a good breakfast of kippers and scrambled eggs we headed a short distance down the road to Bruichladdich Distillery for their open day. Whilst all the visitors were awaiting the gates to be opened, out came some of the Bruichladdich crew giving out to all a tot of one of their great single malts to keep spirits high.

Entry was £7 per head which got you a couple of drams of either a Bruichladdich or a Port Charlotte. At the open day I enjoyed oysters and an Islay burger, yum.

There were many masterclasses and tours going on throughout the day and plenty of entertainment and music, from acts such as Skerryvore, Robin Laing, Islay Pipe Band, Ella Edgar Dancers and Contra Band to mention a few.

Every Distillery on Islay had a festival day and I visited Bunnahabhain on the Friday and this also was a fabulous day with mini Highland Games and loads to eat and drink. Jacqueline even had a 12 Year Old Single Malt Slush Puppy, whatever next.

On the Wednesday I visited Bowmore Festival Day which I felt was more relaxed but I was able to get a wonderful cocktail, a Whisky Sour made with a fine Bowmore, cant remember tasting one better. On the same day I popped over to Islay House Square for some ales from Islay Ales, again entertainment and music featured highly as did my next half dozen oysters.

On Thursday I caught the wee ferry over to Jura and spent a couple of hours in and around the distillery, had a wee nip of my favourite Superstition. Jacqueline and I went into the local hotel for a sandwich prior to heading back to Islay, in the hotel an American lady ordered a haggis and cheese Panini, how weird.

On the Wednesday evening we had tickets for An Evening With Robin Laing which was being held in the Bruichladdich Visitor centre/shop, a great evenings entertainment with some great drams.

On the Thursday night we went to the 10th Islay Whisky Festival Dinner being held in the Port Charlotte Hotel, a seven course meal with a different dram with each course, the drams were:-

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2006.
Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old.
Jura 16 Year Old.
Caol Ila 18 Year Old.
Ardbeg Uigeadail.
Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old.
Laphroaig 10 Year Old.

Another fantastic night.

I felt on this trip, the Island was not as busy as I have seen it before on festival week, but again over 900 visited Bruichladdich’s Festival Day, as we all know money is tight these days.

My own personal highlights of the week were:-

  • Bruichladdich’s Festival Day.
  • Robin Laing’s concert.
  • Whisky Festival Dinner.
  • Graham in the Port Charlotte Hotel.
  • The Islay Oysters ( all 3 or 4 dozen of them )

This trip I decided to buy some of the Festival distillery bottling’s and I managed to get one each from, Bunnahabhain, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich, Ardbeg and Laphroaig together with a bottle of Port Charlotte Single Cask which was auctioned by Jim McEwan.

You do not have to wait for Whisky festival week to visit Islay or indeed any of the Distilleries, Islay is beautiful and welcoming at any time of the year, if you have never been to Islay before, then why not?

If you intend to visit Islay soon please check out www.portcharlotteholidays.com for outstanding five star accommodation, tell them the Whisky Boys recommended them.

Until next time a big thanks to the Distilleries and the people of Islay, see you again soon.

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