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Tag: Feis Ile

Win a trip to Islay during Fèis Ìle 2022 with Bunnahabhain!

We’re giving you and a plus-one the chance to head to Islay and to enjoy some Fèis Ìle 2022 festivities with the wonderful folk at Bunnahabhain Distillery. You don’t want…

We’re giving you and a plus-one the chance to head to Islay and to enjoy some Fèis Ìle 2022 festivities with the wonderful folk at Bunnahabhain Distillery. You don’t want to miss out.

Spending the last two years not attending Fèis Ìle in person has been hard for us whisky lovers. We miss the sights, the sounds, the smells. Frankly, you’ll have to forgive some of us here at MoM Towers who have been experiencing some slight withdrawal symptoms. Jake has taken to standing underneath a sprinkler while blasting Celtic tunes. I’m making travel arrangements for ferries and flights and then cancelling all of them at the last minute. I think I even saw Sam scribbling his own label on a mock TBWC exclusive bottle. It was very clearly bourbon. The poor soul.

There’s only one cure for all of this. We simply must go next year. We have to experience the island, the food, the music, the wilderness and, of course, the whisky. We’re sure you’re of a similar mindset. This is why we came up with a brilliant idea. Why don’t we send a couple of you to the island while the festival is going on behalf of us and our friends over at Bunnahabhain Distillery

That’s right, it’s competition time. And this one is a doozy. We’re jetting you off to Scotland for three nights from 2-5 June 2022 to enjoy an array of activities and boozy delights. And it’s all happening while Fèis Ìle 2022 is taking place (27 May – 4 June). Want to know exactly what you could win? Of course you do. Here’s the list in full:

Win a trip to Fèis Ìle 2022 with Bunnahabhain!

Fancy heading here? Enter now!

The grand prize

-Flights from a UK airport to Scotland, and onward travel to Islay (flights and ferry)
-Accommodation at the cottage at Bowmore from the 2nd to the 5th June 2022 with breakfast included.
-Complimentary evening meal, with a tutored tasting from someone at the distillery
-A morning masterclass with master blender Julieann Fernandez and distillery manager Andrew Brown
-As well as a backstage pass to have a chat with them after the tasting
-Two tickets for the incredibly popular dramming sessions at Warehouse 9
-Two tickets for the Bunnahabhain at Sea boat trip
-Two tickets for one complimentary lunch at the Bunnahabhain Distillery
-A complimentary Fèis Ìle bottling of whisky
-£25 allowance per person per day

It’s worth saying at this point that, if the much-feared does happen and Fèis Ìle is postponed, the dates and details of the trip will be adjusted to match. For full details check the T&Cs, as always.

Win a trip to Fèis Ìle 2022 with Bunnahabhain!

Whisky-soaked adventure awaits!

“How do I enter?! Tell meeeeeee!!!”

Simple. Just purchase a bottle of whisky from this range of Bunnahabhain delights for a chance to win. You can buy as many bottles as you want from the following selection, which includes some great special offers, and even if you don’t win you’ll still have a terrific bottle of whisky to call your own. We do look after you.

You have until 30 June to enter, so don’t hang around. The chance to win a trip of a lifetime doesn’t come around often, so when it does you really want to take it. Best of luck everyone!

MoM Bunnahabhain Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01pm 16 June to 23:59 30 June 2021. Date and important travel restrictions apply. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Postal route available. See full T&Cs for details. 

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Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 6: Bowmore

It’s Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 6: Bowmore time! Today, we’re taking a look at all the online excitement going on at the distillery while Millie Milliken delves…

It’s Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 6: Bowmore time! Today, we’re taking a look at all the online excitement going on at the distillery while Millie Milliken delves into the dark art of mixing smoke with sherry.

For the sixth day of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021, we’re heading to the west coast of the island to visit Bowmore, the home of some of Scotland’s most revered whiskies. You can’t be there in person but you can get into the spirit of things by visiting some of the online events below, watching our video from Feis Ile 2019, listening to our Islay memories Spotify playlist and, of course, drinking some tasty Bowmore single malts. And we’ve got Millie Milliken below finding out how distillers balance smoke with sherry casks. What a line-up!

What’s going on today:

Visit the Bowmore Feis Ile page for the full itinerary.

11:30am A Warm Welcome – opening event

12:30pm Bowmore Distillers Art tour – learn how the whisky is made

1:30pm Cook along with Pete McKenna – top Scottish chef shows you how it’s done.

5pm Our Island Home – join the team for a tour of Islay

6pm Malting with the Manager – distillery manager David Turner talks about how malt affects the flavour of the whisky.  

7pm Live tasting – panel including master of spirits Iain McCallum, David Turner and others taste and discuss some fine Bowmore malts. 

There will also be a festival bottling. Sign up here to enter the ballot for a chance to buy it. 


Bowmore distillery on a glorious summer’s day

Smoke and sherry 101

What happens when you bring the flavours of smoke and sherry together in a whisky? Turns out, quite a lot. Millie Milliken spoke to the people in the know about how to marry the two together harmoniously.

As far as alliterative double acts in whisky production go, smoke and sherry is an intriguing one. Peat levels, sherry origin, barley strain, ageing time and cask wood all play their parts when it comes to that final liquid – be it Bowmore 15 Year Old, Talisker 2010 Distillers Edition or Ardbeg Uigeadail.

“Most of our expressions are a combination of bourbon and sherry casks,” David Miles, Bowmore’s brand ambassador, tells me. It is the 15 year old though that really stands out when it comes to smoke and sherry. “We do something different there. We do 12 years maturation in bourbon barrels then transfer everything to sherry casks for the final three years.” That final three years, Miles says, transforms the smokiness into something that more resembles cinder toffee.

It ain’t cheap though, he points out, but the reward for the whisky maker of having more opportunity to play around – and the added layer of flavour – make it worth it.

For Jason Clark, Talisker brand ambassador, he sees the addition of aging in sherry casks as “a subtle seasoning to enhance complexity without dominating our signature distillery character”.

Easier said than done. So, what key elements of the whisky making process do makers need to focus on when it comes to balancing the two?

Bowmore's floor malting

Bowmore’s floor malting

For peat’s sake

Peat, the source of the smoke, can come in many forms. “Mainland peat does have a more woody quality to it when you burn it, whereas Islay peat is more heather and seaweed,” explains Miles. When it comes to Bowmore, the team combines the two types of peat. They also have the advantage of having their own floor malting meaning they can peat about 30% of their Laureate barley using Islay peat, while what they bring in from the mainland (Concerto barley) will be peated using mainland peat.

Over at Talisker, the team uses a mixture of both peated and non-peated barley. “This means that the smoke is a layer of flavour and aroma amongst many others rather than being the dominant character,” explains Clark.

Get your fill

Sherry cask is, it goes without saying, a key factor too. For Bowmore, it’s nearly always Oloroso sherry casks (with a couple of exceptions) which are sourced from a ‘seasoning bodega’ in Jerez and have been used by the brand for over 20 years.

Talisker tends to use refill casks, “for a gentle maturation process that allows our distillery character to shine through, particularly the savoury salt, the spicy pepper and that classic maritime smoke,” says Clark.

And while the type of sherry, whether its super sweet like a PX or bone dry like an Amontillado, plays its part, so does the wood the barrels are made of. Something Miles is keen to impress: “More often than not, those flavours are probably more to do with the fact that it is European oak being used,” he explains of the dried fruit and spice notes of Bowmore’s sherry cask bottlings. “Lots of sherry casks are made with American oak and that will give you very different flavours. We as an industry just tend to talk about ‘sherry cask’, but we should probably be paying attention to the subspecies of oaks.”

Bowmore 15

Bowmore’s magnificent sherry-soaked 15 Year Old

Age is but a number… or is it?

While the time spent in barrel gives flavour, it can also taketh away. Miles points out that around the 16-18 year mark, the peat influence in Bowmore starts to decline. This fact is true for nearly all peated whisky, meaning everything past those years will mainly be coming from the wood.

When it comes to that Bowmore 15 Year Old, then, it is just at that tipping point: “because the smoke has started to decline it allows that sweetness to come through”.

For Clark, while the casks bring those wonderful winter spice and dry nuttiness notes to the liquid, In some instances, the influence of sherry can be overdone. Balance, he says, is key.

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Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 3: Bruichladdich 

For Day 3 of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021, we’re celebrating 20 years of the rebirth of Bruichladdich and looking in detail at its special Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Fèis Ìle…

For Day 3 of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021, we’re celebrating 20 years of the rebirth of Bruichladdich and looking in detail at its special Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Fèis Ìle 2021 bottling. 

We’re at Day 3 of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 and the next stop of our whistle tour around the Inner Hebrides is Bruichladdich. This distillery inspires some serious loyalty among whisky fans since it was revived by Jim McEwan, Mark Reynier et al in 2001. So this the 20th anniversary of the new Bruichladdich, and also its 140th anniversary as the distillery was originally founded in 1881. So many anniversaries. 

Today, it’s famed for doing things just a little bit differently such as experimenting with different types of barley – something Reynier has taken even further with his new venture Waterford in Ireland. But that’s another story. It’s also unusual on Islay for making unpeated whisky but it’s no stranger to smoke either, saving the peat for the Port Charlotte and Octomore brands. 

We try something special from the distillery below, but first here’s a look at the fun going on at the distillery today. And to get you in the island mood, don’t forget to listen to our Islay memories playlist on Spotify and watch our interview above with head distiller Adam Hannett from Fèis Ìle 2019.  Oh, and be sure to check out our daily deals! We’ve got discounts on Octomore 10 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)Port Charlotte 14 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)Bruichladdich Scottish Barley – The Classic Laddie and Bruichladdich 1985/32 – Hidden Glory.

What’s going on today

Well, it’s all a bit mysterious, but seeing as this year marks 20 years of the revived distillery, it’s sure to be a lot of fun. Bruichladdich is promising “one big virtual party to celebrate a whole swathe of anniversaries.” The event is called Times Travellers and you need to register here to find out more. But we do know there are two special bottles: a 10-anniversary cask-aged Botanist gin and a special 57% ABV bottling called Laddie Origins which we’re looking at in detail below. 3,000 bottles have been filled. Both are only available via a ballot from the Bruichladdich site. 

Bruichladdich Feis Ile 2021 - 30th May 2021 Poster Announcement

What is going on at Bruichladdich?

Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Fèis Ìle 2021 release

Here’s a bit of fun. We’ve been sent a sample of 2021’s Laddie Origins alongside six samples that go into this special expression. We aren’t allowed to say exactly what’s in the samples but will say that there’s an interesting mixture of casks, ages, barley types and even distillation techniques. We can’t say anymore. All will be made clear at Adam Hannett’s masterclass which is taking place at 2pm. It’s all booked up but we’ll update when we are allowed. 

So without further ado here’s what we thought:

Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Fèis Ìle 2021 tasting notes

ABV: 57%

Colour: Mid-gold.

Nose: Sweet-smelling, heavy on the toffee, with porridge-like cereal notes, ginger biscuits, baked apple, dried fruit and orange peel.

Palate: Lots of peppery alcohol but this is smooth considering the high ABV, creamy texture with salted caramel. Second sip and a drop of water brings out cloves, cardamom, citrus peel, fruitcake and some brazil nuts. 

Finish: Honey and lingering baking spices.

Overall: Deliciously complex. Needs a drop of water to be fully appreciated but this is a magnificent whisky. 

Now we’re going to taste through six mystery samples. Yeah, it’s all a bit of a mystery at Bruichladdich at the moment.

Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Feis Ile 2021

Delicious and mysterious

Sample no. 1:

ABV: 57.1%

Colour: Very pale gold

Nose: Vanilla, fresh, lemon peel, clean and fruity.

Palate: Lots of spice, creamy vanilla texture, toasted almonds.

Finish: Toasted nuts with more vanilla and black pepper. 

Sample no. 2:

ABV: 58.4%

Colour: Pale gold

Nose: Touch of cheese rind, vanilla, and waxy notes, with white peaches.

Palate: Peppery, creamy texture, that waxy note persists. There’s a nutty almond flavour here too.

Finish: Creamy, quite short. 

Sample no. 3

ABV: 59.8%

Colour: Gold

Nose: Very fruity, peaches, apples and orange peel, there’s a herbal note here too, plus vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon. 

Palate: Wow, super spicy! Hot chillies and then all the baking spices but particularly cardamom, some wood tannin here too and then fruity green apple and pears.

Finish: Creamy vanilla.

Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Feis Ile 2021 - glass

It’s a fine drop

Sample no. 4:

ABV: 60.9% 

Colour: Pale green gold

Nose: Toffee, vanilla, waxy notes, touch of burnt caramel, fresh peaches, lemon peel.

Palate: Custard tarts dusted with cinnamon, sweet and fruity, has a nice refreshing citrus fruit lift to it. Lovely mixture of sweetness and spice. 

Finish: Peppery and spicy. 

Sample no. 5:

ABV: 61.5%

Colour: Pale green gold

Nose: Burnt caramel, more custard, cinnamon and other baking spices, 

Palate: Lively, lots of fruity new make character backed up with a delicious creaminess, spices present but less prominent than in other samples. 

Finish: That dark toffee note returns on the finish.

Sample no. 6

ABV: 69.3%

Colour: Deep gold gold

Nose: Highly aromatic, spicy/ herbal quality, camphor perhaps, and then lots of toffee, coffee and chocolate.

Palate: Salted caramel and milk chocolate, hedonistic sweetness here, mingling with big spices, both hot and mellow. Citrus fruit here too keeping it all nice and fresh. 

Finish: Sweet mocha coffee with a shot of rum in it.

Well that’s the Laddie Origins and some, though not all of its component parts. All will be revealed at around 3pm today, Sunday 30 May. Go to Bruichladdich’s website for more information, or we’ll update when we can.

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The Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

It’s the Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin! To mark the occasion we’ve got news on the distillery’s activities, an exclusive bottling, and the story of how…

It’s the Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin! To mark the occasion we’ve got news on the distillery’s activities, an exclusive bottling, and the story of how the Smoky Cokey cocktail won over the hearts and minds of the whisky-drinking public.

It’s Day 2 of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 and we’re virtually stopping by the legendary Lagavulin. It’s known for its picturesque distillery, celebrity fan base, and an array of intense, rich, and smoky drams that have won numerous accolades over the last two centuries or so. Lagavulin is  a fundamental part of Islay’s whisky heritage and attracts a huge number of visitors each year, not just at festival time. And while we can’t be there in person today, there’s still plenty happening at the distillery…

What’s going on today

Today it’s Lagavulin day and to celebrate from 7pm the Lagavulin Distillery warehouse will play host to an evening of performances by Scottish singers, Joy and Andrew Dunlop and the Niall Kirkpatrick Ceilidh Band. Attendees, who can tune in to the virtual event via the Lagavulin Facebook page, will witness an adventure on Islay’s surrounding sea, a hike around the island showcasing its scenery, and a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of warehouse manager Iain McArthur, as well an exclusive first look at the festival bottling. Speaking of which…

The distillery exclusive to look out for is:

Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2021 – 13 Year Old. A bottling matured in refill American oak casks and finished in high char Port-seasoned casks, there’s just 6,000 of these being released with an ABV of 54.4% at £160 per 70cl. They’re available to purchase at Lagavulin Distillery and online on malts.com from 1 June with a pre-sale for subscribers at 2pm (BST) 31 May. 

Meanwhile, we’ve got a trio of daily deals to snap up. Lagavulin 16 Year OldLagavulin 8 Year Old, and Lagavulin 2005 ( bottled 2020 ) – Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish Distillers Edition are now all on sale. And while you’re reading be sure to check out our 2019 interview with former distillery manager Colin Gordon and our Islay memories playlist on Spotify to get you in the festival mood!

The Smoky Cokey: an unlikely success

Mixing booze with cola is nothing new. People have long paired rum or Jack Daniel’s with the classic fizzy drink. But a single malt like Lagavulin? 

Yes, we’re looking back at the surprising story of how Smoky Cokey became a fixture of Fèis. For those unfamiliar with it, the Smoky Cokey is essentially a Highball made with Lagavulin (8 or 16 Year Old, dealer’s choice) and cola. Given the whisky’s status as a serious drinker’s dram, a purist’s choice, it’s not a combination that you would ever expect to see. It sounds almost sacrilegious, like the kind of drink that would cause Nick Offerman to stare at you sternly if he saw you order one, reducing you to a blubbering mess begging for forgiveness for your transgression. 

Most people agree that the Smoky Cokey originated from an experiment Dave Broom conducted in his excellent 2014 book, Whisky: The Manual. In a quest to find the perfect mixer for each Scotch, he tried numerous different whiskies with drinks like green tea, soda, and cola, finding the latter paired perfectly with Lagavulin. It was a bold statement and a big deal. One of the most respected whisky writers in the world has just backed the strangest of horses. And people were forced to consider that he may just have a point.

Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

You might not think to mix this beauty, but don’t be afraid to experiment!

Colin Dunn: cocktail pioneer

Diageo whisky ambassador Colin Dunn is probably the other figure most associated with the serve. He has been a regular at Feis Ile since 2000, which means he’s had plenty of festivals to prepare for. Every year he looks for something fresh to bring. He’d already begun experimenting with serving Lagavulin with food  and thought that mixing it would be the logical next step. After reading Whisky: The Manual, he had the ideal serve to test this theory.

While at Lagavulin Distillery with guests prior to the festival, Dunn did something of a trial run. He popped 35ml of Lagavulin 16 Year Old in a Martini glass and topped it up with cola he’d allow to turn semi-flat to lose some of the bubbles. He put them on a silver tray, went out to Lagavulin pier, and gave the cocktail to his guests. “The first gentleman said ‘wow, what do you have in this, Punt E Mes?’ That opened my eyes to its potential and how receptive people can be if they don’t know what they’re getting,” recalls Dunn. 

Sensing an opportunity, he enlisted the help of Alessandro Palazzi of Duke’s fame to help create a menu of Lagavulin drinks to demonstrate its mixing potential. “Introducing Lagavulin in cocktails was a big challenge back then. People wanted it neat. Acoustic. But Alessandro and I wanted it to make it electric,” he says. Their menu included a Negroni in which Lagavulin replaced the gin, a smoky Old Fashioned with Tabasco, and a Smoky Cokey, as it came to be known. 

Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

One of the first places the drink was served was this pier

It took a while to take off

The reception was good, if a touch slow. When Dunn would go to bars and order the Smoky Cokey, many would insist on serving the cola and Lagavulin separately. But word spread, and in an age where playing with whisky was becoming increasingly popular it soon developed something of a cult following. Over the last few years its reputation has continued to grow and it’s now a common sight at Lagavulin Day. 

Which raises the question, why does it work? Dunn believes that cola’s slight bitterness, minerality, and sweet notes work in harmony with earthy, damp, and muscular whisky. Compared to a traditional whiskey and coke, usually made with bourbon or Jack Daniel’s, Lagavulin adds a layer of complexity and intensity as well as some savoury qualities to balance the sweet vanilla and spice of the soda. It’s an unlikely success and yet it totally makes sense. It’s Daphne and Niles. And like any good marriage, it becomes a thing of its own instead of two other things just plopped together. It’s sacrile-cious, and for every purist that’s outraged by it, there are many new drinkers who adore it. Dunn wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“Scotch is about innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship,” Dunn says. “Distilleries like Lagavulin have been evolving since its creation. Whisky is not supposed to stand still. You simply don’t know if something will work until you’ve tried it. I can tell you now the team who worked at the distillery absolutely loved it, as did some of their parents and grandparents who had worked at the distillery and made Lagavulin decades ago. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you. It works because thousands of people tell me it works”.

Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

Happy Lagavulin Day, folks!

Making whisky accessible

The unlikely duo now represents something of a triumph for broadening horizons and reconsidering the stuffy and backward notions that Scotch whisky, and in particular Islay whisky, can’t be playful and fun. We should celebrate the Smoky Cokey’s ability to make a powerful and occasionally challenging dram accessible to those new to Scotch.

And it’s so delightfully simple. You truly only need Lagavulin and cola to make it. A wedge of lime or orange would work nicely as a garnish, and if you’re a true maverick you can go all out and ice cream to make a Floaty Smoky Cokey. But other than that there’s really no rules. You can use Lagavulin 8 or 16 Year Old, you can play with different premium colas and you can adjust the measurements as you see fit.

Dunn says to experiment and see what works for you. “My suggestion is to get a glass of Lagavulin 16 and then make a Smoky Cokey in another glass. Nose the straight whisky, then nose the cocktail. Take a sip of each, but don’t just swallow, give them a moment to compare the two flavours. Then you can adjust based on what you like”. Personally, I find the below works well.

However you make it, it’s the perfect drink to toast a remarkable distillery. Slàinte mhath!

Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

It’s easy, it’s tasty and it’s the perfect way to toast the festival!

How to make a Smokey Cokey

35ml of Lagavulin 8 Year Old or 16 Year Old
A bottle of high quality (or just your favourite) cola
Wedge of lime

Add the Lagavulin to a glass (again, go fancy or as simple as you like) filled with lots of ice and then top with cola. Stir, then add a wedge of lime if desired. Enjoy.

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Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 1: Ardnahoe

It’s Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 day 1. And we begin over a week of Islay whisky fun with a look at the island’s newest  producer, Ardnahoe. We find…

It’s Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 day 1. And we begin over a week of Islay whisky fun with a look at the island’s newest  producer, Ardnahoe. We find out what’s going on at the distillery and take a look at  how difficult it can be to even reach the island.

Islay’s newest working distillery was built by indie bottler Hunter Laing and began distilling in 2019. We visited for the launch and had a particularly scary descent onto the island (though the old hands took it in their stride) so we thought we’d ask some industry types to share their own interesting journeys to Islay. But first, we take a look at what kind of online excitement the Laing family has waiting for you at Ardnahoe. And don’t forget to listen to our Islay memories playlist on Spotify to get you in the mood.

What’s going on today

Events will take place on 28 May. The distillery will be running a virtual operator’s tour at 11am hosted by Stuart Hughes, then a Kill Devil rum cocktail session with rum expert Emily, followed by at 7pm the main event: a live tasting of rare Kinship single malts and the Ardnahoe new make. Tasting kits are available. Go here for more information. Below we have an interview we did with Andrew Laing back in 2019.

Islay travel stories

For an island that’s only 20 miles off the coast of mainland Scotland, Islay can be surprisingly hard to get to. Whether you’re flying in or taking the ferry, your journey may well be disrupted by the rapidly-changing weather. You might not reach the island at all. We’ve all had experiences of product launches on Islay being rerouted at the last minute. So we thought we’d ask some whisky veterans to share their stories of travel misadventures on Islay and Jura. 

Pay the ferryman

The traditional way to get to the island is via a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry or CalMac as it’s affectionately known. Though Paul Gordon from Ardnahoe hasn’t had much luck with this great Scottish institution “with the service consistently disrupted.” He puts the blame squarely at the feet of “Scotgov and Transport Scotland who have underinvested in the fleet and when they invested they built one large boat instead of smaller more flexible vessels.”

Meanwhile Felipe Schrieberg, drinks writer and co-founder of Rhythm and Booze project, warned: “Woe betide the poor soul that manages to book the Islay ferry far in advance but then proceeds to arrive even a minute late than the cutoff point for check in. Your assured spot then becomes meaningless, and in the purgatory of ‘standby’ you’ll have to wait most of the day before a berth miraculously frees up.” He went on to tell us that leaving the island can be no easier: “Our ferry, the last of the day, was cancelled due to bad weather which meant that rather than spend a pleasant night in our apartment we had to dash at midnight to wait all night in the standby queue to get on the first ferry the next day.”

Jura whisky distillery

On a clear day, there’s lots to see on Jura

Misty mountain hop

During Feis Ile 2019, Master of Malt’s own Laura Carl “spent a day on Jura without actually seeing Jura.” She explained: “It was an ABYSMAL day, grey, overcast, on and off rain. We were waiting to get the ferry over to Jura and it didn’t look too bad. We exited the ferry on Jura and started to climb, the higher we got, the further the mist descended upon us. It was so bad that we could only see about a foot in front of the car with fog lights on. It was honestly like driving through soup.”

Meanwhile Rachel McCormack’s, author of Chasing the Dram, problems started long before she even got to the island on the bus ride from Glasgow: “The driver turned up 20 mins late with bloodshot eyes, stinking of booze and didn’t seem to be entirely sure how traffic lights in Glasgow worked, but did manage to get us all up past the Rest and Be Thankful and down to Inveraray without incident. At Tarbert he phoned the ferry company and blamed Glasgow roadworks visible only to himself for the delay so the ferry had to wait for us.”

Nicholas Morgan, author of A Long Stride, and former head of whisky outreach at Diageo, is a veteran of Islay visits. He told me about one attempt to visit Lagavulin for the ceilidh: “We never got there; the Islay curse of low clouds and almost zero visibility.  Delayed take off, three white-knuckle ride attempts at landing (I swear I saw a very adjacent sheep’s arse as we lifted rapidly from the third) and off we headed to Glasgow, much to the relief of many on the flight.  I was told later that Iain McArthur had been standing out on the pier at Lagavulin with one of the cruise people, who, hearing the sound of a plane through the mist said ‘that’ll be Dr Nick heading in for the ceilidh’.  Iain listened carefully and said, ‘no, that’ll be Dr Nick heading back to London’”.

Ardbeg Distillery on Islay

Looks like there storm brewing over Ardbeg

And I said what about breakfast at Wetherspoons

Morgan isn’t the only one whose plans have been disrupted by the weather. Joel Harrison’s, from World’s Best Spirits, journey to the launch of Ardbeg An Oa was repeatedly delayed because of fog: “Eventually we boarded the small plane, and the flight took off. 20 mins later we were circling Islay, waiting to land. But the dreaded fog had returned. Informed by our captain that he was waiting for a break in the low-level cloud, it took an hour before he finally announced he had a gap and that he was going for it.” 

He continued: “The cloud was low, the expectation high. As we descended, from my window seat I could see nothing but the reflection of the fear in my own eyes staring back at me. Finally, the cloud broke. We were so low to the ground that I swear I was able to look a fisherman in the eye. Immediately, the engines roared once again, and we started to lift. No dice. This wasn’t to be our landing.” 

Eventually, the group had to head to a hotel in Glasgow, where the samples had to be hastily sent by Glenmorangie. “That day, instead of a slap-up seafood platter, I had breakfast, lunch and my dinner in the ’Spoons at Glasgow airport,” Harrison said.

Here comes the sun

It’s not all bad though, Christopher Coates from Whisky Magazine has been much luckier with his visits to the island:  “I’ve only ever had sunshine, clear skies and calm seas for my crossings to Islay. But I’ll never forget my first time: I had to get up at 5am to make the 7am Kennacraig-Port Ellen ferry and, shortly after boarding, fell asleep in the top-deck lounge. After what felt like only a few seconds of shut-eye, I was awoken by the sounds of some very excitable German visitors whooping and yelling out on the observation deck. The early morning mist had cleared and they’d just spotted the whitewashed buildings of Ardbeg. I went outside and cheered along with them. It was the start of a very good day.”

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Welcome to The Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 celebration!

The world’s most famous whisky festival is returning in virtual form from 28 May-6 June 2021 and we’ve got plans of our own to mark the occasion. Here’s a rundown…

The world’s most famous whisky festival is returning in virtual form from 28 May-6 June 2021 and we’ve got plans of our own to mark the occasion. Here’s a rundown of what to expect from The MoM Islay Festival celebration.

In previous years we’d currently be packing our bags and bracing ourselves for the awkward journey to the Queen of the Hebrides to spend 10 days in the company of whisky, music and wildlife fans at The Islay Festival of Music and Malt, or Fèis Ìle.

Islay online

For the second year running, however, we’re stuck at home and left with the task of celebrating Islay’s spirit, culture and beauty from afar. But we’re going to champion what we’ve got rather than curse what we’ve lost by putting together ten days of festival-based content for you to enjoy alongside the virtual event itself.

Following the schedule of the festival, we’ll post a new feature on our blog for each distillery. From the origins of the Smoky Cokey to the tales of trains, planes and ferries, we’ll have an original tale for every brand to enrich your festival experience. We’ll also let you know what each brand is up to on its designated day and what distillery exclusives to look out for. 

Alongside this, there will be daily Islay whisky deals as well as cocktail and food recipes to enjoy and even an Islay memories playlist on Spotify to get you in the festival mood while you read. All part of the plan to bring the magic of Islay to you.

Below is a timetable for each distillery day, be sure to add the following dates to your diary. Check out the festival website for a full breakdown of what each distillery will be up to, and bear in mind that event times and links could be subject to change.

So, come and join us on the Master of Malt blog every day with a dram in hand and a song in your heart to toast whisky’s most iconic celebration. Slàinte mhath!

The Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021

Wish we were here

Our Islay schedule

-Day One: Ardnahoe (Friday 28th)
-Day Two: Lagavulin (Saturday 29th)
-Day Three: Bruichladdich (Sunday 30th)
-Day Four: Caol Ila (Monday 31st)
-Day Five: Laphroaig (Tuesday 1st)
-Day Six: Bowmore (Wednesday 2nd)
-Day Seven: Kilchoman (Thursday 3rd)
-Day Eight: Bunnahabhain (Friday 4th)
-Day Nine: Ardbeg (Saturday 5th)
-Day Ten: Jura (Sunday 6th)

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The Nightcap: 22 January

In the Nightcap this week we cover the cancellation of some of our favourite whisky festivals (boo!), plenty of great work from The Drinks Trust (yay!) and the US Supreme…

In the Nightcap this week we cover the cancellation of some of our favourite whisky festivals (boo!), plenty of great work from The Drinks Trust (yay!) and the US Supreme Court’s verdict on a parody dog toy that upset Jack Daniel’s (???).

Hello again everyone. We hope you’re all staying safe and managing the seemingly endless lockdown ok. We found a useful way of doing that is to appreciate those small moments of joy we can overlook. Like hearing a new song you love or making yourself a plate of delicious carbohydrates to inhale. Plus, there’s vaccines and dogs and all kinds of exciting and wondrous things happening in the world of booze to enjoy. Which is why we do The Nightcap. This industry never fails to amaze. Did you ever think you’d see Fatboy Slim, pre-French Revolution Cognac, pirate-themed whisky, CBD gin and the US Supreme Court in one article?

On the blog this week, we introduced our solution to the blandness of the season with Try January! Then, we looked forward to a different but still delightful Burns Night by checking out the most exciting virtual events taking place and recommending some cracking whiskies to enjoy on the night. We also had our fill of tasty cocktails, from a classic gin-based pre-Prohibition serve to serves that can transport you across the world. Expressions that caught our eye included a terrific dram from Aberlour was our New Arrival of the Week, a non-alcoholic spirit inspired by the historical distinction of London Dry gin and a selection of bargain white wines.

Now, on to The Nightcap!

On The Nightcap this week: Fèis Ìle,

It’s heartbreaking to know we won’t be going back again, but safety is the priority.

Fèis Ìle and Campbeltown Malts Festival cancelled

In unsurprising, but still terribly sad news, there will be no Fèis Ìle or Campbeltown Malts Festival this year. Much like in 2020, the organisers of the two internationally-renowned events were moved to axe them in the face of huge uncertainty over the impact of coronavirus restrictions. Planning a programme, buying/selling tickets and booking accommodation in advance as normal hasn’t been possible due to the ongoing curbs on travel, social gatherings and events. Virtual versions of  both festivals will take place instead. Springbank Distillery announced last night on Instagram that the Campbeltown distilleries felt it was the only option, “as the UK is currently in the midst of lockdown restrictions and it is unlikely that mass gatherings will be allowed by May”. Islay’s hugely popular music and malt festival released a similar statement. “With deep regret, we announce that this year’s festival is cancelled. We have discussed this with our distillery partners, and we have come to this decision together,”. The organisers went on to say, “We know you won’t like hearing this news. We don’t like saying it. But please just keep Islay in your hearts for a little longer: hold on to the love of the island, the music, the whisky and the company, and the embraces when we see you again will be all the sweeter.”

On The Nightcap this week: Arrrrrrrdbeg

It’s a most fitting tribute. Arrr!

Ardbeg reveals new whisky: Arrrrrrrdbeg

There can’t be many jobs that reward you with leaving presents as cool as the drinks industry provides. Just ask Mickey Heads. As regular Nightcap readers will know, the well-regarded distillery manager announced his retirement last year from his role at Ardbeg (although he will be continuing in his role as chairman of the Ardbeg Committee). So the Islay-based distillery has created a new whisky to celebrate his time there. How cool is that? The new whisky is a pirate-themed expression called Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg (hell yeah) and is the distillery’s first-ever whisky matured in ex-rye casks. The brand’s tasting notes describe flavours such as gunpowder, smoked banana, rye bread, sweet vanilla toffee, an aniseed breeze, Brazil nuts and gentle smoke. Sounds delicious. But, sadly, this is an Ardbeg Committee exclusive bottling. That means if you want to get your hands on a bottle you’ll have to head on over to the Ardbeg website and join the committee before it is released in the UK on the 2 February 2021. Members are due to receive an email that morning with a link giving them the chance to buy a bottle. Dr Bill Lumsden, director of whisky creation at Ardbeg, described the dram as a “perfectly peaty parting gift” and thanked Heads for his time there, commenting: “Working with Mickey has been an absolute joy. He’s somebody with a genuine passion for Ardbeg and we hope that this bottling will take pride of place in his collection. He’s presided over many momentous Ardbegs over the years, but this ‘end of an era’ edition is a special one”. You can still pick up all kinds of tasty Ardbeg whisky from us, however, and raise a glass of that to the man who led Ardbeg to three IWC ‘Distillery of the Year’ titles in a row and was named Distillery Manager of the Year 2014 instead. Slange var! 

On The Nightcap this week: Fèis Ìle,

The Drinks Trust welcomes Troy Christensen, Jaega Wise, Ian Burrell and Becky Paskin.

The Drinks Trust welcomes new chair and patrons

We got some good news courtesy of The Drinks Trust this week as it appointed a new chair of its board of trustees, Troy Christensen and welcomed three new patrons, Ian Burrell, Becky Paskin and Jaega Wise. Christensen, who first joined the charity in 2018,  brings 15 years’ experience in the drinks trade with Constellation Brands and as CEO of Accolade Wines from 2011 until 2013. He was appointed CEO of Enotria Wine Cellars in June 2014 and oversaw the acquisition of Coe Vintners in 2015. “This remarkable charity has represented and defended employees of the wine and spirits industry for over a hundred years. After the unbelievable challenges 2020 presented to our industry through the impact of Covid and government policy, this is a very relevant time for The Drinks Trust,” he commented. Helping Christensen and co. to raise awareness and increase the charity’s reach and impact are new patrons Ian Burrell, rum ambassador; Becky Paskin, spirits journalist and co-founder of Our Whisky; and Jaega Wise, TV and radio presenter and head brewer at the Wild Card Brewery. They will join existing patrons Matthew Rhys, Jancis Robinson MW OBE and Olly Smith as well as Founder Patron, Tom Yusef who said, “The help and time from our new patrons to further our causes whilst helping The Drinks Trust to reach new audiences is greatly appreciated. We are excited to be working with such dynamic and inspirational people in the drinks industry”.

On The Nightcap this week: rare Macallan

This beauty is sure to fetch an eye-popping price

World’s most expensive whisky tipped to set new records

The second half of an incredible collection of whisky will go under the hammer next month in a sale that is set to enter the record books. From 12-22 February 2021, over 1,900 bottles of the rarest single malts in existence, will feature in the sale hosted by Whisky Auctioneer. Leading the auction is The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60 Year Old, which is expected to beat the current world record hammer price of £1.2m, which is held by a Macallan from the same original bottling batch. Other standout whiskies include The Balvenie 1937 50 Year Old, Bowmore’s legendary 1964 vintage and a 1921 private cask bottling of Dallas Dhu which has not been seen on the secondary market for over 25 years. The Perfect Collection Part Two, which initially launched last April, was postponed following a major cyber attack. Part one took place in February 2020, fetching a total hammer price of £3.2million as Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-dollar bottle. The collection was amassed by late American businessman and philanthropist, Richard Gooding and is one of the largest and most significant ever to go to public auction. “Mr Gooding’s Collection is nothing short of extraordinary and we are honoured and delighted to bring it to auction,” says Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Collectors, investors and whisky lovers alike will have their interest sparked by the truly astonishing array of whiskies on offer”. 

On The Nightcap this week: rare Cognac

Want to own Cognac distilled when Napoleon was eight years old? Now you can.

Pre-French Revolution Cognac goes under the hammer

We got quite excited last year at getting hold of some 1895 Cognac from Hermitage but new lots going up on Whisky.Auction on Sunday 31 January make that venerable liquid look positively sprightly. The collection belonging to Jacques Hardy, from a well-known Cognac family, contains bottles from 1802 and 1777. The last one a pre-Revolutionary vintage distilled when Napoleon was just an eight-year-old boy with big dreams. It boggles the mind that you might be able to taste such a piece of history. The grapes came from Domaine de la Vie in Grand Champagne and after distillation, the liquid spent around 100 years in oak before being transferred to a demijohn and finally bottled in 1936. It was given to Jacques’ uncle, James Hardy, on his wedding day by his new family-in-law. Much better than new linens. It’s one of only five such bottles in existence. Sukhinder Singh from Whisky. Auction commented: “I am pleased to have tried this around 10 years ago when it was available at The Lanesborough Hotel in London. What a privilege it was to taste such old liquid that was still fresh and full of life with the lingering rancio flavour that you find in pre-phylloxera Cognac.” The rest of the collection is equally mind-blowing as alongside the 1777 and 1802, there’s an 1812, a 1906 and a mere baby, the 1914. The bottles are being sold as individual lots, and the auction will go live on Sunday 31 January 2021, running for ten days until Tuesday 9 February. Happy bidding!

On The Nightcap this week: The Drinks Trust,

The money goes to a great cause, so do check it out

Fatboy Slim signed prints up for auction for The Drinks Trust

How’s your living room looking? A bit bare, perhaps? What you need are some gorgeous limited edition prints which have just gone on sale called A Shot in Time. These five pictures celebrate five emotions associated with hospitality: togetherness, happiness, resilience, family and, not forgetting, shenanigans. Remember shenanigans? The creator of these prints is drinks photographer Addie Chinn. Each one costs £50, is A3 size and part of a limited run of only 50. Best of all, all the profits go to The Drinks Trust, to raise essential funding to those needing critical social, medical and financial help for them and their families in the hospitality sector.  Go to Our Future Proof Website to buy yours. But that’s not all! Mr Fatboy Slim himself, Norman Cook, has signed and captioned a set of prints which will be auctioned at Whisky.Auction of 31 January 4pm. It’s all happening there this week. Follow @OurFutureProof for more information. 

On The Nightcap this week: spaniels

It’s not a story of Jack Daniel’s getting into a fight with actual dogs, but it’s no less ridiculous.

And finally… Bad Spaniels beat Jack Daniels

In a long-running legal battle between a small dog, VIP Products, and a big animal, Brown Forman, it looks like the little dog will, at last, have its day. It all started with the launch of a dog chew toy called Bad Spaniels that looked a lot like a bottle of Jack Daniels, with the words ‘Old No. 7 Tennessee sour mash whiskey’ replaced with ‘The Old No.2 on your Tennessee carpet’. Clever! Following cease and desist letters from the whiskey firm, VIP products sued Jack Daniel’s in 2014. Initially, a court found that the toy did infringe on Jack Daniel’s trademarks but then in 2020 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favour of Bad Spaniels. The big boys at JD weren’t done yet, so they petitioned the Supreme Court but this month the highest court in the US declined to hear the case. So it looks like, finally, the spaniel has won. Moral of the story: don’t get in a fight with a dog over a chew toy. Not only will you lose, but you’ll be left looking foolish.  

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New Arrival of the Week: Bunnahabhain 15 Year Old 2003 Amontillado Cask Finish

This week’s New Arrival from Bunnahabhain was originally a distillery-only expression but we’ve snaffled the lot so it’s now available only from Master of Malt. But probably not for long….

This week’s New Arrival from Bunnahabhain was originally a distillery-only expression but we’ve snaffled the lot so it’s now available only from Master of Malt. But probably not for long.

The gap left by the cancellation of Fèis Ìle left a huge hole in the life of many whisky lovers. Islay fans are a particularly fanatical bunch and the Covid crisis has meant that this year most won’t get their yearly island fix which also means that they won’t be able to buy certain releases that are only available from distillery doors. Well, our buyers have seen an opportunity by bringing Islay to you in the form of this former distillery-only release from Bunnahabhain which is now only available from Master of Malt.

It’s a 15 year old release that was distilled in February 2003 and filled into refill hogsheads. Then in 2016 it was transferred into amontillado hogsheads for a further two years ageing before it was bottled at cask strength, 57.4% ABV.  1710 bottles have been produced. The flavour is rich with dried fruit and chocolate without a trace of smoke. It’s very different from the typical Islay dram.

You might not be able to go to Bunnahabhain, but we can bring a little bit of Bunnahabhain to you

Bunnahabhain is something of an anomaly on the island in producing mainly unpeated for its single malt. This didn’t used to be the case. The distillery was built between 1881 and 1883 by the Islay Distillery Company. The name means ‘Mouth of the river’ in Gaelic; the river in question being the Margadale. According to Moss & Hume in The Making of Scotch Whisky, when it was built it was the largest distillery on the island with a capacity to produce 200,000 gallons (900,000 litres approximately) a year of highly-flavoured whisky for blending. Its owners merged in 1887 with Glenrothes to become Highland Distilleries Ltd. 

In 1963, production was doubled but the style changed with the closure of its maltings. From now on malt came unpeated from the mainland. Most of this new lighter Bunnahabhain went into Cutty Sark blended whisky. In 1999, Highland Distilleries was acquired by the Edrington Group which then sold Bunnahbhin to Burn Stewart Distillers in 2003. Bunnahabhain new owners kept the light style for the single malt but also used the distillery to make heavily peated malt for the Black Bottle blended whisky. Burn Stewart in turn was bought by South African spirits conglomerate Distill in 2014. It can be hard to keep up with who owns what in Scotch whisky.

The set-up consists of two large onion-shaped wash stills and two smaller pear-shaped spirits stills. Washbacks are traditional Oregon pine. Production now stands at 2.5 million litres a year. A little peated single malt is released under the Mòine label but ours is in the classic post-1963 Bunnahabhain style. Very nice it is too though perhaps not for real Islay headbangers. 

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Toasty oak and caramelised nuts, with dusty cocoa, earthy vanilla pod and jammy berries.

Palate: Plump raisin and melted dark chocolate, with mocha, dark treacle and oily nuts alongside forest berries.

Finish: Chocolate-covered raisins linger.

Bunnahabhain 15 Year Old 2003 Amontillado Cask Finish is only available from Master of Malt.

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Join our Islay celebrations on Instagram Live!

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of…

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of interviews with the island’s distilleries that features tastings, chats and Q&As.

This is usually the time of year where we would pack our travel bags, camera kit and 10-litre bottles of midge insect repellent to head north to the beautiful Scottish island of Islay to revel in one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the whisky calendar. The week-and-a-bit from 22-30 May was sure to provide all the whisky-dipped merriment you could shake Dave Worthington’s pipe at.

But we have no intention of letting this period pass by without some recognition of an island that is home to some of Scotch whisky’s finest distilleries. Which is why we’ve put together the next best thing. Through the wonderful medium of Instagram Live, we’ve created our own virtual festival by teaming up with the island’s distilleries (and the fab folk at Jura, of course). We’ve put together a programme of tastings, chats and Q&As with your questions, comments and tasting notes to keep the Islay spirit alive and your tasting glass full from the comfort of your own home.

We thoroughly hope you enjoy our virtual Islay celebration. The schedule for the Instagram Live shows is listed below, complete with accompanying dram. Don’t forget, you can always embrace the Islay spirit whenever you like with Drinks by the Dram’s Islay Whisky Tasting Set! Why not order one for you and a pal and set up your own Zoom tasting?

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old

Day One

Who’s joining us? The Character of Islay Whisky Company and its head of whisky, Sam Simmons for a tasting. What a way to kick off proceedings!

What whisky will we be tasting? Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old, Green Isle, Grace Île and Fiona Macleod.

When is it? Friday 22 May at 7:30pm

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Lagavulin will be joining us on day two

Day Two

Who’s joining us? Lagavulin and its distillery manager Colin Gordon for an evening dram and a chat. Grab a tasting glass and get your questions ready for Colin!

What whisky will we be tasting? Lagavulin 8Lagavulin 16.

When is it? Saturday 23 May at 8:30pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Head distiller Adam Hannett will join us for a tasting and Q&A

Day Three

Who’s joining us? Bruichladdich and its head distiller Adam Hannett for a tasting and Q&A. Bruichladdich also has its own Laddie Lock-In, while its ballot system to decide who can get their hands on its alternative festival bottling, Port Charlotte 16, has now concluded.

What whisky will we be tasting? The Classic Laddie.

When is it? Sunday 24 May at 6pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Caol Ila Distillery, as seen from the skies.

Day Four

Who’s joining us? Caol Ila and its distillery manager for an evening dram and a chat with Pierrick Guillaume.

What whisky will we be tasting? Caol Ila 12.

When is it? Monday 25 May at 8:15pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

We’ll be spending lunchtime with Laphroaig

Day Five

Who’s joining us? Laphroaig for a lunchtime taste and learn session with distillery manager John Campbell. It will also be hosting its own celebration, #LaphroaigLive from 18:15pm.

What whisky will we be tasting? Laphroaig 10.

When is it? Tuesday 26 May at 1pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery who will join us on day six

Day Six

Who’s joining us? Bowmore for another lunchtime Live, with time with distillery manager, David Turner. We’ll have a chat about all things whisky, so ready your questions!

What whisky will we be tasting? Bowmore 12.

When is it? Wednesday 27 May at 1pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills will stop by to kick-off our Thursday with a bang

Day Seven

Who’s joining us? Kilchoman and its founder Anthony Wills will be kicking off the day with us. The distillery also has quite the online festival Programme, complete with live tastings and a distillery tour.

What whisky will we be tasting? Kilchoman Machir Bay, Loch Gorm 2020, the new Am Burach, 100% Islay 9th Edition, and the official Festival Bottling!

When is it? Thursday 28 May at 10.30am.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà

Day Eight

Who’s joining us? Bunnahabhain and its global brand director, Derek Scott, who will host a tasting with a very delicious dram, usually distillery-exclusive dram (it will also host its own 8pm tasting, ‘Fèis at home‘). 

What whisky will we be tasting? Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà, Bunnahabhain 25-Year-Old, and the very exciting Bunnahabhain 2003 Amontillado Finish, which is usually only available from the distillery.

When is it? Friday 29 May at 5pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The scenic Jura Distillery makes delicious and subtle smoky whisky

Who’s joining us? Jura and Whyte & Mackay’s Gregg Glass, who will be online with us for an evening tasting. 

What whisky will we be tasting? Jura 10 Year Old.

When is it? Friday 29 May evening.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The stunning Ardbeg Distillery at night

Day Nine

Who’s joining us? Ardbeg and Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for Ardbeg (and sister distillery Glenmorangie) ,for an Ardbeg Day tasting. You can also join the distillery at 7pm on Facebook for its first-ever online Ardbeg Day!

What whisky will we be tasting? Ardbeg 10An Oa and Blaaack. 

When is it? Saturday 30 May at 3pm.


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Fèis Ìle 2020 officially cancelled

We’re sorry to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals around the country will not take place this year as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads.  We sadly received confirmation…

We’re sorry to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals around the country will not take place this year as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads. 

We sadly received confirmation today that Fèis Ìle 2020 has been cancelled. The organisers released the following statement in The Ileach, an independent newspaper for Islay and Jura, “Following Scottish Government guidelines, with deep regret, we announce that Fèis Ìle 2020 has been cancelled. We are devastated to have to announce this. We love our festival and welcoming people from around the world. We have considered the impact on islanders, local businesses and visitors alike.” 

The statement continued: “We have made this decision after lengthy discussions between the committee and our distillery partners, and have concluded no other option was viable. Please continue to support our island and we look forward to seeing you for Fèis Ìle 2021. To those who have bought tickets direct from Fèis Ìle, you will be contacted by our volunteers in the next 14 days. Please be patient and we will be in touch. Thank you”.

Fèis Ìle 2020

The coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately, made the Fèis Ìle 2020 inevitable

The directors of the Islay Festival of Malt & Music had organised an emergency meeting to discuss the status of this year’s Fèis Ìle (scheduled for 22-30 May) according to WhiskyCast and in light of current events the news, while devastating, it’s no surprise this decision was made. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously called for the cancellation of events with 500 more people in order to free up emergency services workers, while UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned the British public to avoid pubs, clubs and social venues in a bid to mitigate the impact of coronavirus. At the moment, we don’t know whether this will mean no special Fèis Ìle 2020 expressions from Islay’s distilleries.

The news follows a number of closures and cancellations across the industry. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2020 that was due to take place from 29 April -4 May has also been cancelled. “In response to the escalating situation with Covid-19, the board of directors have decided that this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is cancelled as a preventative measure,” said James Campbell, chairman of the festival. “We very much regret the inconvenience that this will cause our visitors, event providers, members, partners and local communities, and trust that everyone will fully understand why we have had to make this decision.”

In addition, organisers of the Campbeltown Malts Festival have announced the cancellation of their event scheduled for 19-22 May, while The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has released a list (that will be updated daily) of Scotch whisky distilleries that have closed or suspended tours.

Fèis Ìle 2020

The island is home to some of the world’s most famous and beloved distilleries

A number of other events have been postponed, including Whisky Live London and its sister festival Gin Live London. It was announced this week that both events will go ahead “later in the year”, according to the organisers. The Wine & Spirits Show, set to take place in London next month, has also been postponed, while Think Spirits has confirmed that its event will no longer take place on April 28th and instead has been pushed back to the 15th September 2020 at the same venue, St Mary’s, Marylebone.   

It’s an awful shame. The festival’s blend of open events, music and merriment makes it a bucket-list trip for whisky-lovers everywhere and it’s an occasion we at Master of Malt love to visit and cover for the blog. Ultimately, public safety must take precedent, however. There will be plenty of time to enjoy delicious whisky in each others’ company in the future. For now, you can still get the best Islay and others have to offer straight to your home as we remain open for business. For more information on that, this handy blog post should answer any questions.

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