July 07, 2014

Feis Ile 2014 Islay Whisky Festival - Highlights

Paps of Jura
It's just as simple as this. If you like Islay whiskies, go to Islay. There is nothing to compare with sipping a dram at its source - the distillery where it's made. So, in May, I headed off again to this magnificent island, along with five favourite family members and several thousand other visitors, for the annual Feis - Islay's festival of music and whisky.
Bruichladdich open day
Feis Ile had its roots back in 1984, when dedicated locals decided to initiate a Gaelic, music and culture festival. This was expanded in 2000 when the distilleries became more involved and started holding open days and producing special festival bottlings. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is one of the most successful whisky festivals in the world, and a decision to attend benefits from planning a year in advance. Ferries, flights, accommodations and distillery activities are snapped up like hotcakes for the last week in May. Eagle eyes are useful for figuring out when distillery events become available for purchase, and much tenacity is required to snag a place at some of the headliner whisky extravaganzas.
But ask anyone who's attended Feis Ile - and many return year after year - and you'll hear the same accolades time and time again. This is one fine festival!
New friends and regular attendees from Sweden in their custom Feis Ile 2014 shirts
This year, the sun shone on Islay for the whole week, and I fairly scurried around the distilleries soaking in the atmosphere, local food, fabulous whisky events, happy people and great music.
Over the next few weeks, summer notwithstanding, I'll be writing separate stories about the whiskies and each of the distilleries, including Gartbreck - soon be Islay's ninth distillery - an impressive number for an island of about 600sq kms.
To kick things off, I'm going to pick a few pictorial highlights - a difficult task from a week with endless delights, but here goes.
Cool blades on Flybe flight to Islay

Great views of Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin
2 hr queue for Lagavulin Festival bottle - worth the wait, met great people
10a.m. a wee dram of Lagavulin 16 to pass the time in the queue
Fabulous whisky and chocolate pairing at Bunnahabhain
Islay oysters - best I've ever tasted
Cocktail session with whisky ambassador David Sinclair
Jim McEwan's Masterclass at Bruichladdich. What a rock star that man is!
Delicious baked goods everywhere!
Jura Distillery day - awesome.
Honour system for tea and cake at Kildalton Cross
Beautiful views on the Mull of Oa
Awesome Ardbeg warehouse tasting with the one and only Mickey Heads
Running along Machir Bay
Caol Ila  tasting with Distillery Manager David Woods
Meeting Jean and Martine Donnay - creators of Gartbreck Distillery
Malting room at Kilchoman - serene and aromatic
I'm sitting  with a big smile of nostalgia on my face as I post these photos. Check back soon to read and see more about Feis Ile 2014 - never a distant memory!

GrapeScot Islay Whisky Tour September 2015

If you like what you see and fancy joining me on a  small group, very special tour to Islay next September 2015, drop me an email and I'll send you all the details.