Archive for the ‘Feis Ile’ Category


Like I did last year, I’m going to be following blogs and tweets, living vicariously through Feis Ile festival-goers. Feis Ile is the Festival of Malt and Music, taking place the last week of May each year on the island of Islay in Scotland. As long as I’m following along, I figure I might as well post my findings here, providing an index for others who might be interested. I’ll update this post periodically throughout each day of the festival.

Feis Ile resources

Day 1 (May 22, 2010) – Lagavulin open day

  • WHISKYFUN by Serge – The first tasting report on a special festival bottling: Lagavulin. Sounds awesome!
  • whiskysamples.eu – Available for purchase (3cl sample): Lagavulin 1994/2010 (52.7%, OB for Feis Isle 2010, 528 Bts., European Oak ex Sherry Cask)
  • caskstrength.net via Twitter
    • Tweet: Sneak preview of the Bruichladdich 2010 Valinch. Cask No. 1667. Fresh Sherry butt. 1060 bottles. 57.5 vol.
    • Tweet: Bruichladdich Feis Ile Valinch 2010 notes:big raisin aroma,allspice,carrot cake. Great vanilla, nuts and toffee on palate. Awesome bottling.
  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – Upon arriving on the island in the afternoon, they managed to secure the last two bottles of the Lagavulin festival bottling! Tasting notes provided in the comments.
  • caskstrength.netDay 1 recap. Teaming up with The Whisky Guy, what a day of tasting they had! Check out the exclusive Lagavulin bottlings they tried out…

Day 2 (May 23, 2010) – Bruichladdich open day

  • WHISKYFUN by Serge – Following up on yesterday’s tasting notes, here’s the surrogate WF team thoughts on the new Lagavulin distillery only bottling. Update – This entry now includes notes for the Bruichladdich festival bottling.
  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – An interesting read, with an honest look at some of the pluses and minuses of Bruichladdich. I suspect Tony and Michelle are not the only ones with an opinion like this. Between their tasting notes and the Whiskyfun notes above, I’m not in any real hurry to get my hands on the 6 year old Bruichladdich festival bottling.
  • WhiskyCast – I just saw Mark Gillespie’s tweet about a special edition of WhiskyCast from Feis Ile. It looks like he might be doing a special episode each day of the festival. Check out episodes 254 and 255.
  • whiskysamples.eu – The Lagavulin distillery-only bottling reviewed above by Whiskyfun is now available as a sample. As is the Bruichladdich Festival bottling. I also see that the Lagavulin Festival bottling is already sold out!
  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – [Update] A late update from Tony and Michelle provides an inside look at the Laphroaig gathering on Sunday night.
  • caskstrength.net[Update x2] And here we have a late, late update from the team at caskstrength.net. An excellent post worth waiting for, however. Check out their reviews of three Laddies and a Port Charlotte. They liked the festival bottling more than the other reviewers, too, but perhaps there was some bias involved (something about having assisted in the bottling). 🙂

Day 3 (May 24, 2010) – Caol Ila open day

  • WhiskyCast – Episode 256, recorded at the Caol Ila distillery, has been posted. Go check it out. Or, better yet, just subscribe to the podcast already. 🙂
  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – While they were unable to get into the Caol Ila tasting master class, we get a nice description of the CI festival bottling. Sounds different, and intriguing…almost Laphroaig-like according to Tony.
  • whiskysamples.eu – The Caol Ila festival bottling has been added. 7 euros for a 3cl sample: Caol Ila 1999/2010 (61.9%, OB, Feis Ile 2010, cask #205646)
  • WHISKYFUN by Serge – Here’s the Whiskyfun review of the above CI festival bottling. Can’t wait to try my sample from whiskysamples! Also in the same post, check out the rave review of the Caol Ila Manager’s Choice. Lastly, a music recommendation for Hank Jones, an amazing Jazz pianist and class act who passed away last week. Definitely worth looking into, and cheers to Serge for including that recommendation.
  • caskstrength.net – [Update Posted on the 25th] Read along as the guys fight through their hangovers and compare three Caol Ilas.

Day 4 (May 25, 2010) – Laphroaig open day

Note about whiskysamples.eu: You can order the samples from whiskysamples.eu as they come available and select “ToGo” as your shipping country. This will result in your only being charged for the samples themselves. At the end of the festival, send an email to them letting them know you’re ready to complete your order, and they’ll charge you once for shipping. [Also, they have a few samples of the 2009 Laphroaig festival bottling available]

  • whiskysamples.eu – Available now: Laphroaig Cairdeas Master Edition for Feis Ile (57.3%). This is a vatting of 11 to 19 year old whiskies created by Master Blender Robert Hicks. I wish they’d ship this to Friends of Laphroaig in the U.S.!
  • WHISKYFUN by Serge – What do Malt Maniacs do while they’re on Islay for the festival? Only have one of the coolest whisky tastings ever! Check out their thoughts on ALL 9 of the Port Ellen annual releases.
  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – An update from Tony and Michelle on a couple of nice walks they discovered on day 3 of the festival. [Bookmarking for future reference when I get a chance to go there]
  • WhiskyCast – Episode 257 has been posted for Laphroaig day at Feis Ile. See what’s up with Distillery Manager John Campbell and Master Blender Robert Hicks.
  • Late update: Two new posts on Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog. First, coverage of the Whisky Tasting Ceilidh on Monday night. Second, we get a Day 4 overview from the Laphroaig distillery.

Day 5 (May 26, 2010) Bowmore open day

  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – Titled “Bowmore (err…lagavulin)”, we get some info on what was being offered at Bowmore, but Tony and Michelle actually headed off to Lagavulin for a tour. And what a tour it was (tastings right out of the casks)! Not only do I HAVE to go to Islay some day, but a Laga tour will definitely need to be part of the itinerary.
  • whiskysamples.eu – I don’t see any Bowmore posted yet, but you can now order a sample of Laphroaig 10 CS Batch 002 for €3.00.
  • WHISKYFUN by Serge – Not a review of Bowmore whisky, but an amusing article on Islay sausage. Make sure you click the “Lucky” link at the bottom of the post.
  • WHISKYFUN by Serge (Update) – A review of two non-festival Bowmore bottlings from the festival. But most impressive is the insider exclusive on a new distillery to be built next year. Get the scoop on the Auchenbowie distillery!

Day 6 (May 27, 2010) Jura/Kilchoman open day

  • caskstrength.net had to leave the festival early, but they provide a post with an overview of (and commentary on) the festival bottlings, including a preview of the Ardbeg bottling coming this Saturday.
  • Jura Picture of the Day – The Jura Pic of the Day web site provided a teaser for those planning to attend their open day today.
  • WHISKYFUN by Serge – An update to the May 27th post, with tasting notes on the Kilchoman Feis Ile bottle. Finally – A pure bourbon cask release (no finishing), and I can’t get it. Doh!
  • Isle of Jura (official web site) – Their Feis Ile page has been updated with a virtual tasting session of three vintage limited edition Jura whiskies. Also, if you’re a Diurach, the three winners of signed bottles are announced in the video.
  • Richard Paterson – I guess “The Nose” is helping folks at the festival pick out casks to be used in a distillery-only Jura bottling. Now that would be cool!
  • WhiskyCast – It’s a two episode day, covering both Kilchoman and Jura. Talk about full festival coverage!
  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog [Update] – Two new posts for Day 6, covering a trip to Kilchoman and a couple of walks in the area.

Day 7 (May 28, 2010) Bunnahabhain open day

Note: New Tony and Michelle links added to Day 6.

  • whiskysamples.eu – The Kilchoman single cask Feis Ile release has been posted. This was a very limited festival release of 258 bottles.
  • whiskysamples.eu – The Bunnahabhain festival bottling, an 18 year old, is also now posted.
  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – Reports from the festival seem to be dying down. The whiskyfun crew has abandoned the island. Fortunately, Tony and Michelle are continuing with their great coverage.

Day 8 (May 29, 2010) Ardbeg open day

  • Tony and Michelle’s 2010 Islay Festival Blog – They didn’t get the Ardbeg festival bottling, but it turns out it “only” cost £125. Half of what people had been saying it would cost. Somebody won a 4.5 liter Rollercoaster bottle. Cool!

More to come…


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Following on the heels of my Laphroaig 10 CS Batch 001 post, I’m trying another 30 ml Laphroaig sample from whiskysamples.eu. This one was specially bottled for Feis Ile 2009 (5000 bottles total), with post-festival sales only through the Friends of Laphroaig online store for £40. I’m talking about the Laphroaig Cairdeas [car-chase] 12 year, bottled at 57.5% ABV. This “Cairdeas” bottling is not to be confused with the 2008 Cairdeas, also bottled specially for the Feis Ile festival, which was an 8 year expression.

John Campbell, distillery manager at Laphroaig, chose the bottling this year for the first time (last year, Robert Hicks, the master distiller, chose the Cairdeas casks). John chose a single vintage 12 year that has been matured in Maker’s Mark bourbon casks, bottled straight from the cask with simple barrier filtering. He states on the Laphroaig web site that to his tastes, this is “nearly a perfect expression of Laphroaig of this maturity.


On the nose, this Laphroaig is kind of fruity, like the 15 year. However, the fruit is toned down a bit compared to the 15, and there seems to be citrus on this one, on top of apples and pears. There is a very noticeable fresh wood smell similar to what I noted on the  Laphroaig 10 CS. There’s also some peat smoke, but I’m not really getting the tar that comes with the 10 year Laphroaigs.

On the palate, it’s still got some fruit going, as well as more noticeable peat. There’s also a stronger pepper here than I noticed with even the 10 CS. At full strength, it’s prickly on the tongue, but it doesn’t hit you right away with “heat” like the 10 CS. Wow…this is a very enjoyable sensation. Adding a little water, it’s not quite as prickly, but the pepper remains, thankfully.

On the finish, it’s drying on the tongue, and then a nice strong peat smoke comes up through the nostrils. Here’s where it got really interesting. I could swear this is kind of a coal smoke similar to what I get with Caol Ila. Wow! I didn’t see that one coming. It lasts for quite some time. Quite nice.


I’ve only had this one 30 ml sample, but I’m going to go ahead and rank this as my second favorite Laphroaig after the 30 year. I think it takes the best elements of the 10 CS and 15 year, and adds a new twist at the end. It’s great at full strength or watered down. Based on my Caol Ila comparison, where I did some theoretical ratings (Laph 15 = 90; Laph 30 = 93), I’d put this one at 91 points. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that this isn’t available in the United States. If you have a chance to purchase a bottle of Cairdeas 12, and you like Islay malts, I would highly recommend going for it.

Other opinions

It appears that I like this one a bit more than others who have reviewed it so far. Everybody below agrees that it’s good, but they seem to pull up short of calling it great.

  • WhiskyNotes – Ruben tastes the 2009 Cairdeas 12 and proclaims it to be a major improvement over last year’s 8 year festival bottling. He gives this one 88 points, vs 82 for last year’s Cairdeas. He still rates the 10 CS Batch 001 just ahead of this one, though.
  • WhiskyFun – Another by proxy report via the Lindores boys. They like the Cairdeas 12 slightly more than the 10 CS Batch 001, giving it an 89/100 rating, versus 88 for the 10 CS.
  • Caskstrength.net/TWE Blog – Co-report from the Feis Ile festival with notes on the Cairdeas 12. No rating, but more agreement that this is a big improvement from last year.
  • KingFisher Blog – 88 points for Cairdeas 12 vs. 92 points for 10 CS Batch 001. I wonder if, in these head-to-head comparisons, the Cairdeas 12 ends up feeling a little light at the end compared to the 10 CS, thus losing out. I tried them on consecutive nights, but not head-to-head in the same night.

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Feis Ile 2009

Feis Ile the Islay Festival of Malt and Music – started this past weekend.  I’ve been following the action through Blogs and Tweets, and thought I’d post links to some of the more interesting sources I’ve found:

Feis Ile Web Site

Here’s a link to the Festival Events page on the official Feis Ile site.  You can see the main events taking place each day, giving you an idea of what people will be blogging/tweeting about and when.

The Islay Blog

The Islay Blog is posting detailed festival events at the beginning of each day, as well as additional information and videos.

  • Saturday event schedule, including a link to a PDF with an overview of the whole week.
  • Sunday event schedule, and diary of day one events
  • Monday event schedule
    • Monday Diary of Monday events (Caol Ila open day), with video. [Update]
  • Tuesday Diary – Laphroaig open day. [Update]
  • Wednesday Diary – Bowmore open day. [Update]
  • Kilchoman Auction – Info, video and links related to the auctioning off of the first bottle of Kilchoman scotch whisky for £5,400 on Thursday. [Update]
  • Friday event schedule [Update 5/29]
  • Saturday diary – Ardbeg and Port Ellen [Update 5/30]

Caskstrength.net and The Whisky Exchange Blog

The gang at Caskstrength.net has teamed up with Tim Forbes from The Whisky Exchange Blog to attend Feis Ile and provide a single report daily, posted on both sites.

  • Day One pre-festival report
  • Day Two report – Check out their Lagavulin tasting notes, including the Feis Ile bottling!
  • Day Three report – A bunch of Bruichladdich tasting notes in this one, including one bottled that day.
  • Day Four report – Oh, man…I really want to get my hands on that Festival Caol Ila sherry cask bottling. [Update]
  • Day Five report – Great tasting notes on a bunch of Ardbegs and Laphroaigs, including the Laph 30, which I’m going to open a bottle of in 10 days! [Update]
  • Day Six report – Bowmore, and inside access at Port Ellen maltings! [Update]
  • Day Seven report – The gang got to compare Laph 15 to 18, and original 10 CS to the new CS Batch 1 [Update 5/29]
  • Day Eight report – Notes on Kilchoman nearly 3 year, Octomore 2004 sherry cask, and a 31 year Bunnahabhain [Update 5/31]
  • Day Nine report – More Ardbeg goodness! [Update 6/1]
  • Day Ten report – “Aftermath”.  Recap of the festival, including “best of…” awards.  Good read. [Update 6/2]
Whisky Fun

The Whisky Fun crew is posting tasting notes and ratings by proxy from a Belgian team led by Luc Timmermans.  Luc is the one responsible for the whiskysamples web site (see “A taste of Feis Ile” below).

  • Tasting notes for the Lagavulin, Caol Ila and Bruichladdich special Feis Ile bottlings.  These are available only from the distillery during the festival. Will somebody like The Whisky Exchange get their hands on some bottles and make them available at a reasonable price?  I sure hope so.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for that Caol Ila cask strength.
  • Tasting notes for Laphroaig Cairdeas 12 and 10 CS Batch 1.
  • Tasting notes for the Bowmore Feis Ile 9 year, plus some bonus “Work In Progress” tasting notes. [Update 5/30]
  • Tasting notes, for Ardbeg Feis Ile plus Bunnahabhain “Moine”. [Update 5/30]

Edinburgh Whisky Blog [Added 5/31]

Chris and Lucas were unable to make it to Feis Ile, but they do have Paula Arthur, who did attend, providing guest blog posts. She kept a detailed travelogue of her adventure,including pictures and tasting notes.


IslayBlog.com – Armin has some Feis Ile stuff in his Weekly Islay Blogging Roundup. Keep an eye out for his roundup next week, as it’s sure to have a lot more interesting Feis Ile updates.  Follow Armin on Twitter for additional, real-time updates:  @islayblog.

Laphroaig Direct

John Campbell, distillery manager at Laphroaig, and Margy McCoy from Friends of Laphroaig, are now on Twitter and posting updates during festival week: @Laphroigwhisky and @MargyMcCoy.

Spirit of Islay

Spirit of Islay – I’m not sure how I missed this before now, but Gordon from the great Spirit of Islay web site has been posting updates from Feis Ile as well.  Great stuff. [Update 5/29]

A taste of Feis Ile – Check out the Whisky Samples web site, where you can order 30ml samples of the special Feis Ile bottlings.  As of this writing, the Lagavulin and Caol Ila are sold out (I just missed them…argh!), but you can still get Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Ardbeg, Bowmore and Bunnahabhain. [Update 5/29]

Jura Bonus – Ok, they’re not at Feis Ile, but check out the Dubber and Clutch blog as they take a special trip to Jura with their Flip video camera, sampling new Jura expressions, and taking video shots during their inside tour of the distillery.  You can also follow along with them on Twitter:  @twhisky.  [Update] It looks like Dubber and Clutch did manage to sneak over to Feis Ile.


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