August 13, 2014

Laphroaig at the Feis (Book early)!

As I write this, there are 622968 Friends of Laphroaig - folks who have purchased at least one bottle of Laphroaig and signed up to be a friend, which comes with a lifetime lease of a square foot of land at the distillery, and many other fun perks. Based on how quickly the Laphroaig events at the annual whisky festival were sold out, it's just possible that most of these Friends attended Feis Ile 2014! That's a bit of a "tongue in cheek" comment, but is testament to the huge popularity of this soon to be 200 year old Islay distillery.
Laphroaig means "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay" in Gaelic, and the name is apt. Nestled in a gorgeous spot on the south coast of Islay, Laphroaig is where some of the smokiest whiskies on Islay are produced, and where generous drams of many whisky expressions were poured on Laphroaig Day.
Months before the festival, I somehow missed the fact that events were open for reservation - probably because I had never bothered to sign up as a FOL. Silly me! Events I wanted to attend included a Burns Supper, a blind tasting, cask strength whisky tasting with John Campbell, and a Laphroaig expedition. Nobody, but nobody, cancels out of Laphroaig events, probably because if you drink Laphroaig every day you never get sick! In any event, no amount of emailing and begging got me into any of these fine functions but, having learned my lesson, we trotted off to Laphroaig Day anyway to see what would transpire.
First up, the weather was glorious. Off to a good start!
Second, the FOL bar was serving up shots of the following expressions.........
Laphroaig Select - matured in American oak (not ex-bourbon), sherry casks, Oloroso sherry butts, 1/4 casks and PX sherry casks. A cornucopia of sweet, dry, fruit and smoke.
10 year old original - cask strength version of the beloved Laphroaig 10. Powerful, medicinal, smoky.
Quarter Cask - a perennial favourite and possibly the best value Laphroaig in our fair Province. Matured in ex Bourbon casks, then small American oak 1/4 casks. Laphroaig with toffee.
Triple Wood - the 1/4 cask with added maturation in oloroso casks. Think smoky, peaty, dark toffee, dried fruits, nuts, smoky, oily, spicy, smoky, sweet, smoky. I like it a lot.
18 year old. Heavenly, elegant Laphroaig. Matures very nicely to advanced years.
Cairdeas (Friendship) 2014. The annual Friends of Laphroaig bottling, which does double duty as the festival bottle. Laphroaig finished in Amontillado sherry casks for a year. The finishing casks come through loud and clear and provide a fruit flavour spectrum from citrus to dried, as well as a lot of nutty character. The Laphroaig smokiness is more subdued in this one, but I loved the whole package. A very nice dram!
Third, the music by the Simon Moran Trio was jolly!
Fourth, I snagged the last signed bottle of Laphroaig Cairdeas (by Distillery Manager, John Campbell), which I'm opening later on this evening for a birthday dram.
Fifth, I had my interview with Jean Donnay of the new Gartbreck Distillery. (I know I keep referring to this, and that interview will appear eventually)!
Sixth, some Christmas gifts were purchased in the Laphroaig shop.
Soaps, lotions, marmalade, scarves -& Scotch!
Seventh, we managed to fit in an outing to the beautiful and inspiring 1300 year old Kildalton Cross,
Imposing Kildalton Cross

Simply leave money in the  blue box for hot drinks and baked goods.
Beautiful moors around Kildalton
Very jaggy nettles!

and a walk on the Mull of Oa,
Mull of Oa

as well as a chat with a fellow working at the Port Ellen malt storage and filling station,
Demand for malted barley on Islay outstrips local supply
a quick bite at the White Hart Hotel,
the whisky menu
Silent Port Ellen Distillery next to Port Ellen Malting works
and a get together with the rest of the family at Lagavulin Malt Mill for a wee local ceilidh! As they say in Scotland - "jings", which, roughly translated in this case, means "that's a lot of stuff to pack into one day". And it was.

GrapeScot Islay Tour 2015

I'll be back at Laphroaig as part of the GrapeScot Islay Whisky Tour, August 2015. Drop me a line if you'd like to receive the details of a grand experience there, and at all the other great distilleries on this beautiful Hebridean island. For more on Laphroaig distillery, you can read my post from my previous visit.
Next up will be my visit to the neighbouring island of Jura, home to a fine distillery (also on the tour), and one that hosted a grand day during the whisky festival. Check back soon or, better still, sign up above for email updates. You'll only receive an email when a new story is posted.
SlĂ inte!