Our time on Islay was filled primarily going up and down the nine distilleries (yes, I’m including Jura, smart ass) and sampling the various wares each had on offer.
But unbeknownst to few there are a host of other tastings that happen on the island during the Festival. One such tasting was the one organised by Douglas Laing called Favourite of the Feis.
Conducted by Jan Beckers, the affable Belgian, they put on a good show and it’s always a fun to try some non-Islay whiskies while on the island. You know, just to get some perspective.
Fine. It’s just an excuse to drink more whisky. But you already knew that.
We trudged up the road from our cottage in Bowmore to the Gaellic School where the tasting was happening and were greeted by Caroline, Douglas Laing’s event coordinator and all round great gal. After taking over an entire table we sat down to see what the fuss was all about.
Big Peat / Feis Ile 2016 Limited Edition / 48%
Nose: Light. Quite delicate. Touch of peat. Hard boiled sweets. Hint of lime. Melon rind. Red berries. Touch of honey. Vanilla.
Palate: Quite oaky. Spicy. That melon again. Hint of smoke. Hint of peat. Some citrus. Vanilla. Green berries. Garam masala.
Finish: Long. Oily. Touch of spice.
Overall Score: 6.7
1999 Bowmore 16 / Old Particular / 48.3%
Nose: Quite fruity. Like an assorted fruit basket. In an orchard. An orange orchard. Cinnamon. Granny Smith apples. Freshly grated coconut. Young leather. Caramel. Feels like a solid bourbon cask in play here. Parma violets. Super nose.
Palate: Very creamy. Lovely mouthfeel. Hibiscus. Quite buttery. Hint of all-spice. Very mild peat. Clove. Really liking this little gem.
Finish: Long. Floral. Touch of spice.
Overall Score: 8.5
Rock Oyster / Cask Strength / 57.4%
Nose: Very spirity. Almost raw. Lots of lime. Wet wood. Buttery. Green leaves. But overwhelmingly spirity. Don’t like it.
Palate: Oaky. Cookie dough. Citrus. Touch of nuts. But that spirit feels far too turpentine-ish for me to take it seriously.
Finish: Longs. Spicy. Longer with a touch of water. Sweeter too.
Overall Score: 6.2
Aultmore 7 Years / Provenance / 46%
Nose: Sherry. Cigar leaf. Wet wood. Or wool. Take your pick. Blood oranges. Afternoon grass. Green tea. Milk chocolate. Wet clay. And now a sniff of some decay. Can’t put my finger on it. Cask about to go bad?
Palate: Very sweet. Milk chocolate. Nuts. Cinnamon. Oak. Quite oily. Soft delivery. But that nagging cask…
Finish: Medium. Roasted coffee beans. Touch of spice. Tobacco.
Overall Score: 6.7
Strathclyde 10 Years / Old Particular / 50.9%
Nose: Burnt caramel. Woody. Oranges. Rose water. Burnt toast. Fudge. Toffee. Butterscotch. Cream coffee liqueur. Like Baileys. I like it. Maybe because I like Baileys.
Palate: Soft. Well rounded. Nice delivery. Butterscotch. Quality Street toffee. Cinnamon. Touch of oak. Creamy caramel. Cadbury plain. Lovely!
Finish: Long. Oily. Touch of spice. Really like this one!
Overall Score: 7.9
Bruichladdich 26 Years / XOP / 52.1%
Nose: Lemon. Lime. All kinds of citrus. Sweet sugarcane. Assorted dinner greens. Quote herbaceous. Morning dew on freshly cut grass. Gets sweeter over time. Toffee. Canadian maple syrup. Brittle sugar candy. Soft fruits. Touch floral. Looks like they saved the best for the last.
Palate: Drying. Touch of oak. Milk chocolate. Garden greens. Melon rind. But now with just a hint of something bitter. Not in a bad way. This is quality stuff.
Finish: Beautiful. Long. Touch of spice.
Overall Score: 8.6
Seems like they saved the best for the last. Good call. Great evening overall with a surprise thrown in the end which I’ll talk about later. The Douglas Laing gang is a good bunch to have a tasting with. Lots of individual attention and care for everyone. Makes for a fun evening. Throw in a couple of stunners and you’re set.