Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Feis Ile Whisky Festival: Special New Releases

So for whisky lovers, the real smoke freaks, it is almost like Christmas at the moment. It is Feis Ile, the Islay whisky festival!

So, I'm fairly certain that there are quite a few people out there who don't know what Feis Ile is... So, it's the annual whisky festival on Islay that features all the Islay distilleries, it's been running for thirty years and is a celebration of their wonderful produce and an opportunity to release and showcase new whiskies.

Each distillery has a specific day at the festival where they hold special events and release special bottlings. As well as all the whisky business there is other fun to be had, there are loads of concerts, fishing, bowling, dances, golf and so on to get involved in - it's pretty awesome.

Now for most of us getting to Islay for the festival is simply not feasible - HOWEVER, our own Lucienne is there right now, and is going to be telling you about her experience on Monday!

I hope to make a pilgrimage to that phenolic Jerusalem myself in the next few years, but until then must content myself with getting my hands on as many of the special Feis Ile bottles as possible. There are not many that will be widely available to those not attending this year and they are sure to sell out fast and so I want to let you know what's what and where what can be got.

Ardbeg Auriverdes

Every year Ardbeg's release causes a bit of a stir one way or another - their whiskies are hugely collectable, the marketing is impeccable and the whisky isn't half bad either. This year's release is called Auriverdes and is a tip of the metaphorical hat to the World Cup in Brazil this year.

The name Auriverdes translates to gold and green, describing the bottle and holy golden bounty within, but also is a homage to the Brazilian national team. The box also features Atlas (or someone I take to be Atlas having studied Classics at school don't'cha'know) it's pretty damn cool and I'm hoping against hope that some of the little scarves pictured get released, although early indications are that they aren't being sent out currently, sadly.

Onto the whisky in the bottle. This is a higher strength (49.9%) whisky that has not been chill-filtered or coloured and will likely be somewhere around 10yrs old, although no age statement will be released. The whisky has been matured in casks with heavily charred lids to impart some slightly heavier oak, toast, vanilla and coffee notes than you get on the standard 10yr.

This will be about £80 and you can get your first chance to taste and buy it on Ardbeg Day, an international day of celebrating which should by all rights be recognised as a national holiday. This year's Ardbeg Day is to have an underlying football theme and there are various events  throughout the world - you can find your nearest here.

You will be able to find Auriverdes at an Ardbeg Day event (31st May), on the Ardbeg website (31st May) and Master of Malt (20th June).

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014

Laproaig are another company that has made much of the opportunity Feis Ile provides. Cairdeas, meaning friendship, is released yearly for the Islay festival and is usually an opportunity for Laphroaig to experiment with some interesting wood finishes.

This year's Cairdeas has been matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks and then finished in Amontillado sherry hogsheads for a year. It is likely that this will be bottled just a little above 50% abv and should be a stunning dram with all the normal Laphroaig goodness, but with extra sweet nuttyness and complexity.

Cairdeas is only available to Friends of Laphroaig, this means that in order to purchase it you must have bought a bottle of Laproaig before and then registered the code in the booklet that comes in the whisky tube. This not only enables you to buy the Cairdeas, but also you receive discounts on future orders and are able to redeem loyalty points for every future bottle of Laphroaig you buy.

Furthermore, you are allotted your own square foot of peaty Islay soil to call your own and whenever you visit the distillery can collect rent in the form of a dram!

Cairdeas will be available on Laproaig's website to FoL members on 2nd June for £65.

Other Worthy Mentions

Of course the other distilleries will be making their own limited releases - Bruichladdich have released a new Octomore (an uber-uber, mentally peated malt), but this is so stupidly limited and so will all sell out at the festival.  Lagavulin also released a Feis Ile whisky, this will also not really be available for general sale, this also stands for Caol Ila, Bowmore and Kilchoman.

So, it is gutting not to be able to make it to Feis Ile and even worse is the fact that the BBC hasn't picked up the rights like Glastonbury so I can drink along with everyone else...
Never mind, there's always next year, and in the meantime you can hear all about the highlights of the event from Lucienne on Monday...


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