After a moderately late night (an early morning for some in!), Fèis Ìle dawned on a fairly sedate note. The evening before we’d joined our good friends at The Whisky Lounge over at their Ellister abode for pizza, Negronis, drams, and a marvellously good time (although no hot tubbage this year). It was rather helpful, then, that we didn’t need to be in Bowmore until late morning! (Serious kudos to all of you who camped out in the legendary queue for the super-rare Bowmore bottling. We gather the line started at 10am yesterday when we were all sunning ourselves over at Laphroaig!)
Bowmore’s Open Day is always a lot of fun, and this year was no different. The distillery knows how to do it responsibly too though, handing out separate wrist bands to designated drivers (in fetching orange) and non-drivers (complete with dram tokens!) as people arrived on-site. Today, I can confirm I was NOT the Des, and swiftly made my way to the dram tent to suss out the bar. And I was not disappointed! Bowmore No.1 set the scene, with Bowmore 10 providing a tasty follow-up a little while later, both complimentary, with a whole haul of other drams on offer, too. Great stuff!
Did you grab a dram and t-shirt from us at Bowmore? We were swamped! If you’re in possession of either (hopefully both!) we want to see you in your shirt, and hear what you think about our All Islay Blended Malt, made with our pals at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Drop us a line on social or leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
Back to the distillery day! Next on the agenda was checking out all the fun of the Fèis, and Bowmore was pretty much rammed. There was a coopering demo, which pulled in the crowds…
…a kind of cask bung shuffleboard-type challenge (we were rubbish).
You could also engrave a bung, which seemed far more sensible to us! (Not sore losers at all…)
And if that wasn’t enough of a souvenir, you could even get a group snap taken against a green screen! Who knows what those Bowmore folks might put in the background…
After a super speedy prance about (and dance, the music was ace again!) we met distillery manager David Turner for a catch-up and a taste of both festival bottlings* (yep, folks – we got to sample both the highly sought after 1995 vintage, 55.2% ABV 23 year old sherried single cask, of which there are just 325 bottles, and the delectable 15 year old 51.7% ABV bourbon cask release). You can check out Turner’s assessment of them both right here!
We also put some of your questions to him – the Q&A vid will be out on the blog and the old socialz ASAP post-Fèis!
From the oldest warehouse to the newest distillery
The arrival of a new distillery on Islay doesn’t just mean more whisky. It means an even more tightly-packed Fèis schedule, too! After a quick bite (our Laura especially loved the paella on offer at Bowmore!) we packed the film kit into the car and hurtled up the island to Ardnahoe.
The distillery, founded by family-owned company Hunter Laing, only started production six months ago, and officially opened its doors in April (Henry even stopped by for a visit!). So 2019 is the team’s first Fèis Ìle! Nothing quite beats the excitement of visiting a distillery for the first time, and if it’s brand-spanking new, the thrill is somehow even more intense. And Ardnahoe lived up to the hype!
We were met with a goodie bag (hello drams!) and, with the sun just about still out, we made the most of the views. This distillery is in a seriously spectacular location (and Islay is so stunning it’s easy to get blasé). But the scenery across the Sound of Islay and across to the Paps of Jura is genuinely astonishing. We highly recommend popping over for a dram on the open-air terrace!
We quizzed Hunter Laing export director Andrew Laing with your questions on plans for the distillery, and then had a good nose around. The still house makes the most of that incredible view – sadly it was raining by the time we popped our noses in; we’re desperate to return on a sunny day!
After chilling in the bar, taking in the gift shop, and checking out the obligatory Fèis Ìle band, it was about time to head back to Port Ellen for an evening in. Cheese and drams are on the agenda. But we may head up to the Loch Indaal for a dram if we’re feeling adventurous enough to brave the rain. Cheers to both Bowmore and Ardnahoe for a mega Islay day!
Whatever you’re up to this evening, enjoy – and see you at Kilchoman tomorrow!
*Apparently there’s a mystery third bottling?! Let us know if you’ve spotted it in the wild!