In this special issue of Tales From The Isle - available with a choice of two covers - we visit both Kilchoman and Jura distilleries! Which cover will you choose? The Kill-choman option, which can be found to the right here (click on it to enlarge… if you dare…) features an ordinary farm scene (from films). After all, all sorts of exciting, terrifying, and actually quite horrendous and messed up stuff always happens on farms (in films). That's why I never stay overnight at a farm unless I've personally witnessed the one, single chainsaw that can always be found on a farm (in films) being grafted onto Bruce Campbell's arm well before bedtime.
The Jura cover, meanwhile... Well that comes from a chilling personal experience...
Before we head off to Jura though (for a tale from another isle entirely), let's take a look at Kilchoman's cracker of a festival bottling...
Kilchoman Feis Ile 2014 – 58.7% abv
Bottled at cask strength, we're told that this was matured in two first-fill bourbon casks for over 5 years before a 3 month finishing period in a Fino Sherry butt. Although the bottle says distilled July '09, bottled May '14, which is less than a total of 5 years. Typo somewhere? Who knows, but once you've tasted it you probably won't care. 525 bottles have been released.
Tasting Note for Kilchoman Feis Ile 2014
Nose: Bourbon spice, green wood, caramelised apple - approachable at full strength, absolutely packed full of flavour - some shells and that Fino Sherry coming through too. Chuck in a big spoonful of Ambrosia custard and/or rice pudding and we're about there. Fantastic.
Palate: Huge and coastal at first, tangy citrus, plenty of peat coming through now, drying Sherry. Late hit of wood spices.
Finish: Quite clean, first hints of smoke.
Overall: Is this ambrosia? It's pretty bloody good that's for sure. The nose makes me smile in the same wholesome way as when you unwrap fish and chips, but the Fino Sherry keeps it on its toes and by the finish it's become a clean whisky supported with gentle waves of peat. Yep, fair to say we all loved this one.
"Are you the farmer?"
George commandeers @MaverickDrinks Michael's favourite vehicle.
I was quite excited to visit the Isle of Jura, having not made it out there last year and I'd also booked onto a special tasting led by moustachioed Master Blender Richard Paterson (or R. Patz for short - although, probably not to his face). Ominously, this tasting was to take place in the dark. We were also running very late. Again. The tasting was already well under way by the time we'd paid the ferrym'n and made it to Craighouse.
It's important to pay the ferryman (even Chris de Burgh pays him eventually).
Mind the deer...
As mentioned, the tasting with R. Patz was taking place in total, pitch black darkness - I therefore had to wait until there was an opportunity, when the warehouse doors were opened just a short way as part of the event, before I could enter to take my place. I ventured forwards, moving ever deeper into the darkest reaches of the building... A bit like this, in fact (or even this I suppose, if you're of a more light-hearted, British disposition).
"How much do I really know about this R. Patz fellow?" I thought to myself, still moving forwards and further away from the natural light. Straining my eyes now, I got to thinking: "Wasn't he in those Twilight movies? But that would make him a... [in best Anthony Hopkins voice:] a vampyr, nosferatu... feeding on the blood of the living". And I'd only gone and willingly marched the delicious receptacle that is my living body - something I'm quite attached to - right into his lair! Shit!
Sadly, as far as I knew, this guy wasn't going to be at the tasting.
"Surely I'm worrying about nothing though", I thought. I mean, I don't believe in all this nonsense - do I? Plus I'd spoken to R. Patz before - in the daylight at that - before he was escorted off to avoid a horde of screaming young whisky fans. But this daylight thing... Don't they move around at day in Twilight? Hell, even Bram Stoker's Dracula only preferred the dark because it made him more powerful. And that moustache... the more I think about it, it's perfect grooming would allow it to perfectly conceal two fangs... *Gulp*
Why don't I carry a cross on me at all times? Why didn't I have more of that garlic bread last night? Oh god, why oh why did I leave Alex outside? She must know about these things, she's
My feet were still moving forward, although I'm not sure it was my mind telling them to do so anymore. "Hello!" I said. "How are you?" No reply. What if all the others at this tasting had already perished? Or worse?! It was then that my leg bumped into something. My trembling hands confirmed that it was a chair and slowly the shadowy silhouettes of other Jura Tastival-goers emerged from the darkness. Finally, I then heard Richard describing the palate of Jura Prophecy. How wrong I'd been just moments before, being all superstitious.
Jura Tastival 2014 – 44% abv
The festival bottling from Jura is a limited release of 3,000 bottles of whisky that have experienced 7 (!) finishes. After in initial maturation in American oak bourbon casks, it's moved into Jupilles, Les Bertanges, Limousin, Tronçais, Allier and Vosges casks before being married in Sherry butts. I think. It's hard to keep track of all that, and the label simply tells us that it's a "cryptic concoction".
Tasting Note for Jura Tastival 2014
Nose: Fragrant and nutty with red apple, salted pecan and very rich Manuka honey. Dates, peaches, a little fizzy (slightly cakey) Lucozade. Barley, semolina and some polished mahogany.
Palate: Dark, nutty and very sweet also. Caramel, some herbal honey and reduced apricot juice.
Finish: Brazil nut skin, banana, frangipine and apple cores.
Overall: Ambitious this, obviously, but it does seem to have worked. Not to everybody's taste but well worth trying if you can get your hands on some.
As well as the Tastival and Prophecy bottlings, Richard Paterson led the class through a sensory (deprivation) experience in the dark that included three scents (dirt fragrance, fish sauce, cinnamon) and seven food items (bakewell tart lollipop, espresso marshmallow, apricot pate, dark chocolate with salt and seaweed, white chocolate balls filled with liquid Sauternes, seaweed crisps, smoked almonds). Once the doors were opened a little wider I could see what we were dealing with...
So that's where we they were all sitting!
The full 'Dramming In The Dark' kit.
And here's R. Patz himself, stepping out into the sunlight.
We even made it home in the Master of Malt Mobile without incident today!
It probably has something to do with the new driver.