Islay on a sunny February afternoon

Islay on a sunny February afternoon

Last year on the site, I spoke repeatedly about how keen I was to get to Islay and how determined I was to make it in 2013.

But, time slipped away and I didn’t manage to get my way to the whisky-fuelled region until February this year.

When I finally did, it was thrilling – seeing all of the distilleries I’ve heard so much about for years and meeting the characters and people that live on that special island will long sit in my memory in a positive light.

I wrote about my experiences here and now I’m onto a new plan: actually get to Islay for the famous Feis Ile festival. Every year, as I hear tales over Twitter and Facebook from friends who are up during the festival I become more determined to actually to take in the festival atmosphere – so, that’s the next plan. And hopefully I’ll see many of you there in 2015!

In the interim, I have turned my attention to a couple of those bottlings that I missed out on trying directly at the distilleries during the festival this year. I luckily have managed to get a hold of a couple of samples of two of the special Feis Ile bottlings  – Lagavulin and Caol Ila’s – and while they are pretty much sold out, I have no doubt that a few will be floating around at pubs and bars, or on one of your shelves, so thought I’d still share my thoughts on these two on the off-chance you see one somewhere and want to know more about what it’s like before committing to a dram.

Lagvulin Distillery. February 2014.

Lagvulin Distillery. February 2014.

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014: Distilled 1995; bottled 2014: 54.7%

(c): Melting brown sugar

(n): Cherry clafoutis, brown sugar, liquorice and a rubbery smoke – sweet, earthy and rich. With water: more oranges and an aspartame sweetness, almost like orange ice lollies.

(p): Freshly cut flower stems and a wonderful sweetness: both green and fresh, but fruity. More delicate notes than expected from the dark, dark colour. Slightly drying and peppery, but a mango and marzipan note make it complex. With water: slightly more buttery and cakey; sweetness increases.

(f): Aniseed balls; with water: dusty rubber (like basketballs, not that I’ve chewed on many of those)

In conclusion: a really lovely whisky that has so much going on – really want to keep going back to this one as think it’ll change in the glass quite a lot. Quite spicy but I did prefer the flavour profile without water despite that heat.


Caol Ila Feis Ile 2014: Distilled 2014; bottled 2014: 55.5%:

(c): Brass

(n): Lemon drops, smoked mackerel, vanilla sugar, warm rubber boots, freshly cut grass and a sticky marzipan note that really hits the back of the throat. With water: really mellows into a great balanced sweetness of pancakes with lemon sugar.

(p): Very citrussy: lemongrass, lime peel and some orange. Very peppery: hot, hot, hot at full strength. Vanilla, sea salt and grass too. With water: pepper really calms and the smoke eases itself into a deck chair; becomes very relaxed. It’s warming, sweet, citrussy – an excellent balance.

(f): Smoky strawberry foams; with water: smoky rubber.

In conclusion: Love this one – sweet, smoky, savoury. Just loads going on.