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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Jake Mountain

Fèis Ìle 2019: Day Eight, Ardbeg

The carnival finale of Fèis Ìle was at Ardbeg today! We caught up with Mickey Heads and got stuck into all the tropical fun and games. Also, don’t miss our special…

The carnival finale of Fèis Ìle was at Ardbeg today! We caught up with Mickey Heads and got stuck into all the tropical fun and games. Also, don’t miss our special Deal of the Day: Save 15% on Ardbeg 10 Warehouse Pack, Ardbeg Uigeadail and Ardbeg Corryvreckan until midnight tonight!

The theme for this year’s Ardbeg Day was built around their Drum festival release, matured initially in ex-bourbon casks before being “rested” in ex-rum casks (a first for the distillery). It made for a tropical-tastic event with live steel drum bands, a carnival atmosphere and plenty of fun as always!

We also spoke to distillery manager – and “drum major” for the day – Mickey Heads about the Islay and Caribbean flavour fusion that is Ardbeg Drum (which is available on the site now!)

It wasn’t all plain sailing for us today though! As the MoM team left the house – sans Kristy, who was already en route to Spice (Girls) up her life – we discovered a flat tyre! Not what you need when you’re on your way to a distillery day on the other side of the island!

Could the person who answered the hire car’s emergency number understand that the likelihood of them “being there in a minute” from the mainland was fairly low? Could we get hold of anybody from either a taxi firm or the local tyre fitters on an Ardbeg Day Saturday? No. Could we find a neighbour with a hand pump and then reach somewhere that stocked puncture repair spray sealant? Yes. On to Ardbeg!

Welcome to Ardbeg Day!

Once inside, many familiar sites could be found from bars to the pizza van we’ve visited almost every day, and live music from the trailer of a lorry. Ardbeg always go all out with their theme for the year, though, so all the distillery workers were in fancy dress with maracas and huge smiles, and the place was full of games including a pineapple shy and everybody’s favourite 2018 sensation: hoopla! (The first time we saw it this year!) They even managed to make the sun come out, and it really did feel tropical compared to the rest of the week. Of course, there was still space for Iain Spink’s famous Arbroath smokies, and the queue for those went right around the lawn.

It’s not just the staff who took it seriously (by not taking themselves too seriously) though, the number of appropriately colourful shirts on display was impressive. Not least from the Jesteśmy Boat City Whisky Club from Łódź, who were out in force all week, as they are every year!

We’ve seen these “unpaid whisky soldiers” every day and they were getting into the carnival spirit today!

If you’ve been following any of our social channels, or perhaps been on our shiny new Father’s Day page, you should also be aware that we’ve been offering a special Ardbeg Deal of the Day!

Save 15% on Ardbeg 10 Warehouse Pack, Ardbeg Uigeadail and Ardbeg Corryvreckan until midnight tonight, and check back for more Daily Deals in the lead up to Father’s Day!

And so, another action-packed Fèis Ìle has come to an end. It’s been an amazing week and we’ve loved meeting so many friends, old and new, throughout. Also, keep your eyes peeled for all the Q&A interview videos where we put your questions to distillery managers each day, which we’ll start publishing soon!

Better end on the last distillery doggos of the week.

The one on the right has little protective booties.

Until next time Islay!

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Fèis Ìle 2019: Day Seven, Bunnahabhain and Jura

Time for some unpeated fun at Bunnahabhain’s and Jura’s open days – and some peated fun too, because why not?! – as well as more boats, dogs and rain! We…

Time for some unpeated fun at Bunnahabhain’s and Jura’s open days – and some peated fun too, because why not?! – as well as more boats, dogs and rain! We had a blast.

It’s been a busy day at Fèis Ìle, with the team getting down to Bunnahabhain nice and early before splitting up so we could be at Jura’s open day too! We’ve also lost Kristy. She loves whisky, of course, and was gutted to miss the fun that’s yet to come tomorrow, but like many of us she has other passions. In her case that takes the form of a musical group called the Spice Girls, and even a cancelled flight wasn’t going to stand between her and their gig in Manchester tomorrow night!

Godspeed Kristy, we miss you already!

Grey sky at day, whisky maker’s delight. Or something like that.

Before we delve into today, however, there’s the (not) small matter of last night’s activities. After the blog post went live we headed back over to Ardnahoe for Hunter Laing‘s Kinship Collection evening with the one and only Jim McEwan. Those who’ve been following our Instagram stories may already know that we found the range – which is made up of a Bruichladdich 27 year old, Bunnahabhain 30, Caol Ila 40, Bowmore 30 (all soap and violets as you may hope/fear, depending on your tastes), Ardbeg 26 and Laphroaig 18 – very impressive indeed.

Kinship Collection

A very special tasting of Hunter Laing’s Kinship Collection of Islay malts

Friday morning at Bunnahabhain then brought rain. More rain! Last year was glorious sunshine throughout the festival, *BUT* this year the grey skies are actually welcome. As mentioned earlier in the week water sources had been getting worryingly low across the island, with some distilleries having to cease production, so it’s all for the greater good! (We are all whisky fans, after all!)

Cue taking cover in the distillery’s office, where we caught up with distillery manager Andrew Brown and Distell International master blender Dr. Kirstie McCallum. Kirstie talked us through the first two festival bottlings, which you can check out riiight… here:

Another place it doesn’t rain is in the cabin of a tall ship, and we were back on the Flying Dutchman for the first official tasting of the day. Some great drams, memorable yarns and even a couple of songs later, and it was time to split up. Well, once we managed to get off of the ship. Some of us took longer than others negotiating the (admittedly treacherous) soaking wet ladder up to the pier as the ship lurched up and down.

Kristy, Laura and Kenny then headed off to Jura, while I was able to enjoy the Bunnah Warehouse No. 9 Experience. Which was a bit good. 5 cracking casks – an ex-bourbon 6 year old, Manzanilla 10 year old, Palo Cortado 11, Pedro Ximénez 12 and a peated Mòine 15 – all available as hand-filled 20cl distillery exclusives. I impulse bought a PX shortly after, but would have happily taken any of the sherry cask options off their hands. It was also great fun, Colin (affectionately known as ‘Butthead’, or so I’m told), I salute you!*

Colin Bunnahabhain

“It’s all about the dram!” It is, you know.

Meanwhile, over in Jura, the team attended a tasting with blender and whisky maker Gregg Glass, taking in its new make, a couple of 21 year-olds from its Tide and Time series (keep an eye out for the fruity, ex-peated Jura cask Tide on the site soon…) and a distillery exclusive peated sherry cask number with a big charcoal finish.

Jura Time Tide whisky

Time ‘n’ Tide

As with last year, this wasn’t any ordinary tasting though. There were atomisers, scents trapped in bubbles, popcorn pairings and even prizes! We didn’t win anything, but photographic evidence suggests we were quite taken by the chocolate and honey scented bubbles.

Jura Gregg Glass bubbles

So bubbles.

My final masterclass of the day (the awesome folks at Bunnahabhain looked after us extremely well) was a chocolate and whisky pairing event with Kirstie and Julieann Fernandez that afforded an opportunity to taste the distillery’s third festival release. A 1988 Champagne cask, which was ridiculous in the best way possible. Think Champagne, actual Champagne, but a spirit – with people who don’t like Champagne loving it. Notes of brioche, melon, zesty real lemonade, cashew, green apple skin, some toffee – a weird note that I’ve somehow categorised as ‘silver birch’ in my brain over the years – just great, unique stuff. Hats off to those who queued up overnight and managed to bag one.

We got tees and drams into some new friends’ hands too, of course!

So, what have I missed? Ah, yes. A distillery poochie, of course! Apparently we can’t do one of these without one. Did I start this? It no longer matters, the whisky people need their doggos and who am I to deny them?! Meet Alfie. This pic came from @Belsnickel222 with the message “We will accept this one in the blog.” As will we my friend, as will we.

good boy

A Bunnah good boy.

Another awesome day on Islay and some more much needed water for the distilleries. They have enough now though, right…? Fingers crossed for some clear skies as we head to Ardbeg‘s Caribbean flavoured day tomorrow!

*“Is this available in the shop?!”

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Fèis Ìle 2018 Day Three: Caol Ila

As Monday at Fèis Ìle draws to a close, we look back at the Caol Ila distillery open day. Greetings traveller, With Annie sadly heading back to the mainland, and…

As Monday at Fèis Ìle draws to a close, we look back at the Caol Ila distillery open day.

Greetings traveller,

With Annie sadly heading back to the mainland, and Kristy having only just joined us on Islay this evening, it falls to yours truly to fill you in on all the action from Caol Ila day! Following, as it does each year, the lively festivities of Bruichladdich’s open day, Mondays at Caol Ila have always been a somewhat calmer affair by comparison in our experience. For many, however, who may have thrown themselves into all the delicious whisky proceedings with gusto, shall we say, this is often welcome! The difference between 2014 and 2018 seemed nevertheless clear to me: the distillery has succeeded in creating far greater buzz with more going on (live bands, food vans, whiskies, cocktails, stands) within a more focused area (the main courtyard).

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Midleton Very Rare 2017 and Cask Circle – own a bottle or a cask!

Midleton Very Rare 2017 launches in Ireland The distillery also launches The Midleton Very Rare Cask Circle, its new cask ownership club Jake tastes Midleton Very Rare from every decade,…

  • Midleton Very Rare 2017 launches in Ireland
  • The distillery also launches The Midleton Very Rare Cask Circle, its new cask ownership club
  • Jake tastes Midleton Very Rare from every decade, including some of these newly available whiskeys
  • Lots of Irish whiskey to talk about here, as well as a bit of a sign off from yours truly, but feel free to skip ahead to the 2017 release, or to find out about more the Cask Circle

    First off, a bit of housekeeping. Yes, I’m still alive! You’ll no doubt have noticed a plethora of posts from our awesome new content team hitting the blog lately. It’s a team made up of our new editor Kristiane Sherry, fellow new faces at MoM Towers Annie Hayes and Adam O’Connell, and the one and only Sam Smith (he of Tom Hanks’ Big fandom and aversion to flying).

    You’ll notice that my name didn’t feature on that there list. Ooh, mysterious. Suffice to say that I’m still busy doing all sorts at MoM Towers. Emphasis on the busy – that’s how I’m keeping (especially with national present day fast approaching!*). I may chip in with very occasional blog posts going forward (so what’s new, exactly?), but it does rather feel like a passing of the torch moment as I’m typing this. Fitting, then, that this is a post about Irish whiskey, which you may have noticed over the years is one of my favourite topics (see older posts such as Irish Whiskey – Everything You Need To Know! as well as the more recent Spotlight on… Redbreast and interview with Master Blender Billy Leighton).

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    The Macallan Whisky Trolley & Cheese Pairing in Oblix at The Shard

    With World Whisky Day around the corner, The Macallan have announced their latest collaboration with Oblix bar and restaurant on the 32nd floor of The Shard in London.   Walking…

    With World Whisky Day around the corner, The Macallan have announced their latest collaboration with Oblix bar and restaurant on the 32nd floor of The Shard in London.
     
    Walking through the dark corridors of Oblix, having just been through The Shard’s airport-style security and then thrown up 32 floors in 15 seconds, is like being inside a Goa’uld mothership from Stargate. Once you turn the corner to enter the bar, however, everything opens up and panoramic views of London are revealed. On a bright day the effect as you emerge must be fantastic, but even on a particularly grey Thursday afternoon there’s reassurance that you’re still on earth and haven’t actually been kidnapped by symbiotic ancient aliens. Enough nonsense from me though – on to the whisky!

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    Highland Park Valkyrie & New Viking Soul Packaging

    Highland Park launches new Viking Soul packaging for their 10 Year Old, 12 Year Old and 18 Year Old core range New Highland Park Valkyrie, made with around 50% fully…

  • Highland Park launches new Viking Soul packaging for their 10 Year Old, 12 Year Old and 18 Year Old core range
  • New Highland Park Valkyrie, made with around 50% fully peated stock, to replace Highland Park Dark Origins
  • 100% bourbon cask matured Highland Park FULL VOLUME to replace Highland Park 15 Year Old
  • At a global launch that took place in Denmark, Highland Park recently introduced new packaging that will be rolled out across their core range, their new brand positioning as “The Orkney single malt with Viking Soul” and further special editions. Nods to Norse mythology have, of course, been commonplace from the distillery for many years, but now that they’ve gone ‘full Viking’ let’s delve a little deeper into what it’s all about and what (if anything) this all means for the celebrated distillery’s beloved whisky.

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    Introducing the Spirit of Yorkshire Whisky Distillery!

    Exciting new English whisky distillery Spirit of Yorkshire opens to the public this Easter, but they’ve been quietly working under the radar and laying down casks for the last few…

    Exciting new English whisky distillery Spirit of Yorkshire opens to the public this Easter, but they’ve been quietly working under the radar and laying down casks for the last few months. We headed to the Yorkshire Wolds earlier this week to find out the full details.
     
    Yorkshire. God’s own county. Also, now the location of a new independent single malt whisky distillery! Since we visited St George’s Distillery back in 2009 a number of projects have popped up all over England, which I’ll run through at the end of this post, but today we’re getting all excited about Spirit of Yorkshire!

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    Visiting the Reopened Jameson Distillery Bow St. in Dublin

    Jameson has reopened its Bow St. brand home in Dublin – formerly known as The Old Jameson Distillery – following an €11m redevelopment. We sent Jake over to Ireland for…

    Jameson has reopened its Bow St. brand home in Dublin – formerly known as The Old Jameson Distillery – following an €11m redevelopment. We sent Jake over to Ireland for the lowdown on the new multi-sensory experience and masterclasses.
     
    First covered here on the blog during our interview with Irish Distillers Master Blender Billy Leighton a month ago, Jameson’s Bow St. brand home in Smithfield, Dublin has recently reopened following an ambitious €11m redevelopment. Now fully up and running, I paid them a visit last week.
     
    Located on the site of John Jameson’s original 1780 Irish whisky distillery, a Jameson visitor centre in Dublin was first opened back in 1997. By the summer of 2016 a significant refurb was required to bring the experience up to date and handle greater numbers of visitors (over-subscription and delays had become a real problem, by their own admission), but what they’ve achieved since September is pretty damn impressive.

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    The Result of Battle of the Blends Challenge No. 2!

    Discover who has come out on top in Whisky Mag’s second Battle of the Blends in association with Master of Malt: is it Neil ‘General Mashtun’ Ridley or George ‘Aegir’…

    Discover who has come out on top in Whisky Mag’s second Battle of the Blends in association with Master of Malt: is it Neil ‘General Mashtun’ Ridley or George ‘Aegir’ Keeble…?
     

    Back in January we told you all about Battle of the Blends Challenge No. 2, another battle for the ages that you could help settle in the most delicious way possible!

    The fates of reigning champion Neil ‘General Mashtun’ Ridley and Soho Whisky Club’s George ‘Aegir’ Keeble were in your hands and now it’s time to find out who has claimed all glory…

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    Roe & Co Irish Whiskey and an interview with Brand Ambassador Peter O’Connor

    The launch of new Irish whiskey Roe & Co also sees Diageo return to Irish whiskey and the George Roe name return to bottles, plus there’s a new distillery in…

    The launch of new Irish whiskey Roe & Co also sees Diageo return to Irish whiskey and the George Roe name return to bottles, plus there’s a new distillery in the works! We spoke to Roe & Co brand ambassador Peter O’Connor to get the full lowdown.
     
    There are at least four stories in one here so let’s take a quick look at each before we get a bit more detail in our interview with brand ambassador Peter O’Connor. The new release Roe & Co Irish whiskey – available now – is a blend of single malt and grain Irish whiskeys matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks, with a high proportion of those being first-fill. Priced at around the £30 mark it’s bottled at 45% abv, non-chill filtered and aimed at the ‘premium’ market with cocktails very much in mind (as we’ll hear from Peter shortly). Diageo, of course, owned Bushmills for years from 2005 onwards but agreed to sell it to Casa Cuevo towards the end of 2014, which has meant they haven’t had a stake in Irish whiskey – the fastest growing spirits category in the world – for the last couple of years.

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