A thumbs up to Bowmore who provided a try-before-you-buy sample of their 15yo Feis Ile bottling for all attendees, though by the time we tried it, the shop may have sold out. As I’m sure you all heard & read many times over at the time, ‘the expensive one’ [212 bottles], was gone by 3am the night before. I was told first hand by a queuer [10 short of a golden ticket], that flippers/enthusiasts/collectors/fans [select as appropriate], queued from 7pm the night before, for one. Once you had the ticket, you then had to queue for the bottle. Apparently someone bought the ticket part for a whopping £800 [WB].
Weather-wise, the freakish heatwave continued in earnest, creating a scene more in keeping with Swanage in August that Islay in early June. Food-wise, the pizza stand [their first appearance of the week], proved the most popular non-whisky related queue. Despite the reoccurring sound engineering problems [repeated ad infinitum at Bunnahabhain], the hired band was again, really good. The Swissky Mafia were there too, in good spirits as always.
I was welcomed to the festival with Bowmore No.1. Is that wise?
- N: A musty/sweaty suet-y/barley maltiness [mildly oily/peaty & bone dry], with dried violets & orange slices, dried tamarind, sage & onion stuffing and savoury creamy vanilla sponge. Admittedly it reads well, though overall it’s a little innocuous.
- T: Starts with strange soft meaty<< plastics, some fizz and then some kind of a development [if you can call it that], around a smoky/oily murkiness which almost grinds to a halt albeit for some smokey dry citrus on the turn.
- F: A mildly smoked barley finish with a hollow conclusion.
- C: As expected.
Scores 79 points
Bowmore 15yo  Ob. 43% [1ltr] WB83.17
There’s a 14yo as standard, but travel retailers get an extra year.
- N: This is nicely gutsy, a touch bourbon-wood-grain-y & resinous and with sweet brine. It’s possibly even softer on ppm than the No.1.
- T: A little sharp & spirity moving to murky resinous briny peat.
- F: Sustained coppery peaty/briny barley spirit. The barley speaks true. Vegetal dry greenish barley conclusion.
- C: Very fair presentation if somewhat unmoving. Let’s move onto the festival bottling.
Scores 83 points
Let’s see what all the fuss is about, enough for people to buy cases of the stuff before even trying the sample of it.
Compared to the expensive one [WB], this Feis Ile bottling is a much larger & affordable batch of 3,000 bottles – a 15-year-old vatting of five first-fill oloroso puncheons, bottled at 52.5% abv and available for £85.
- N: A mix of waxed fruit juices, some plastics, earthy/floral/umami tones, bitter sweet butterscotch-y medicinal< herbal [mint/dill/oregano] notes, black pepper-y shoe polish, smoked [lean] ham,… I’d never have guessed it was so oloroso-based, but it certainly isn’t bourbon cask-matured either.
- T: Nice arrival with nothing overly blatant coming from those first-fill oloroso casks. As on the nose, there’s more of the same with regards to the fruitiness & smokiness with herbal action on the turn. Alongside this unusual profile, there’s a nice pace and form throughout.
- F: All the usual coastal/islay suspects before a spirity/grape seed/tannic conclusion.
- C: An unusual one in that it isn’t an instant pleaser. That’s just fine in my book.
Scores 85 points
Check out Bruichladdich collector, David Larsen’s unique review of the Feis Ile bottling: