The final day of Feis Ile 2013 was of course Ardbog Day! Although thoroughly shattered, we nonetheless dragged ourselves down to the Kildalton coast with dogged enthusiasm!
(The good thing about Ardbeg of course is that they have Ardbeg there. Mmm… Ardbeg.)
We spent much of the day relaxing in the luxuriant surroundings of Seaview Cottage, where caskstrength.net’s Joel and Neil had been staying since coming over from Jura earlier in the week. Don’t be fooled into thinking our week was winding down however, for one mighty adventure still remained!
Not a bad view from up here.
As ever, our little friend Peaty managed to run off whilst we were at the distillery too…
As the evening drew in Master of Malt’s dynamic duo, conquerors of Cnoc Rhaonastil, prepared the SS Malt for her maiden voyage. Originally this was meant to take place on Loch Finlaggan, home of Finlaggan Castle where the Lords of the Isles were installed.
Preparations get underway…
Ar, she be sea worthy alright.
This was to be a nod to Ardbeg’s Lord of the Isles bottling but instead of exploring the relative safety of the loch we decided to tackle the ocean instead! After the Tales of the Sea on Bunnahabhain Day, we had caught the bug! (Plus the loch did seem a bit far away..)
“I could tell you tales that would bend your bones…”
Being Skipper has its perks.
After exploring the bay, the SS Malt ventured a little further out…
…and a little further out..
…aaand a little further out…
…right, so they’re definitely fish food then. Bugger.
With surprisingly strong currents, Corryvreckan-style swirling waves and jagged rocks to negotiate, the crew would have to be on their toes. I admit now that I may have exaggerated the dangers involved with climbing the Fairy Hill but the slightest error here could have genuinely led to disaster as the vessel was swept out to sea. I mean, imagine if one of the oars were to be washed away, for example!
The SS Malt’s experienced Skipper seemed totally unfazed by these frightening developments however.
A look of confidence… or possibly ignorance… or simply resigned acceptance of his terrible and inevitable fate?
When we found a place that was perfect to drop anchor we thought just how good it would have been to have an anchor. Fortunately, the ‘Gear Pouch’ had been filled with essential supplies.
Our first dram was Ardbeg’s festival bottling from 2010, the year before Master of Malt’s first official trip to Feis Ile. It was taken from a single second-fill bourbon barrel and only 228 bottles were released back then with samples still being available through our Drinks By The Dram service.
Tasting note for Ardbeg 1995 Single Cask 2761 – Feis Ile 2010 – 53.3% abv
Nose: Slightly sweaty with sweet smoke before citrus emerges, especially lemon and lime, along with gingerbread, ripe banana and fudge.
Palate: Smoky and fragrant with red chilli and more fudge below the surface.
Finish: Wood smoke, espresso and banana bread. The smoke, which is subtle at points, really stays with you.
Overall: A tremendous fruity, fudge-y Ardbeg with smoke running throughout, starting sweet and subtle and ending with almost cigar-like notes.
This be a fine dram I tells ya.
Aged in a combination of bourbon as well as some Manzanilla sherry casks, this is a limited release especially for Ardbog Day, which was celebrated around the world, not just here at Fèis Ìle.
Tasting note for Ardbog – 52.1%:
Nose: Sea salt and brine with some dark fruit and barbecue. Maple syrup, plum, orange, mint and more herbal notes and just a touch of tomato vine. White coffee.
Palate: Probably the biggest part, it feels like all the moisture is being sucked out of your mouth at first but in a good way. Salt crusted raisins, rich nuttiness and even a hint of pickled onion. Sounds odd but it’s great!
Finish: The finish slides away with chilli and paprika.
Overall: Tremendous and right up my street especially. The question of which has been the best release of the festival is difficult but the general consensus with us is that the 18 year old Lagavulin is the pick of the bunch. I can also tell you, if you haven’t guessed already, that this one was my personal favourite.
Despite their seemingly hopeless situation, the crew of the SS Malt was able to successfully negotiate their way back into the bay, where they were welcomed by a friendly water dwelling mammal.
The next day it would be time to leave Islay and head back to the office but we’ve certainly had one hell of a tour!