Feis Ile 2019 begins in a matter of days. Just in time, my own insular & obscure view of Feis Ile 2018 finally comes to a close with Ardbeg Day – for me the highlight Open Day of last year’s festival.
The day started out very murky indeed. An hour later, the distillery bay was bathed in sunshine under clear blue skies.
I’m happy to admit that on paper, I thought Ardbeg’s ‘groovey’ hippy theme looked naff, but then I’d never been to an Ardbeg day before. It didn’t stop me sporting my most colourful attire however. Owned by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, the entire Ardbeg festival team pulled off this ‘groovey day’ with grace & gusto. I’m sure you read dozens of exclusively-positive happy-clappy reports about it at the time.
What most didn’t mention were the deliberately underplayed, non-bookable masterclasses being sold by an incognito Micky Heads, disguised & fully clad in appropriately-themed disco attire. Those too focused on queueing for the Feis Ile bottling missed the opportunity to signup to one of three ‘potluck’ masterclasses [for £25 – cheap as chips]. I managed to get a place on the fabulous Excise House Tasting [more on that in Part 2], though I hear all three tastings were equally impressive.
Also of note were the immaculately dressed, modern/retro-clad hippy-styled staff, freely pouring Ardbeg’s Grooves festival bottling from 4.5 litre Rehoboam-sized bottles – that’s three Magnums – all day long. That’s one sure way to offer your guests a try before they buy option whilst removing the need for yet another queue, served & executed with maximum festival spirit.
In contrast to Lagavulin and Caol ila who offered no Feis Ile options whatsoever and Bunnahabhain who’s festival drams were on pour for £10 & £20 respectively, Ardbeg’s themed & lucky dip bars were offering vintage classics ranging from £2 to £4.
Ardbeg Day offered a family-friendly atmosphere throughout the distillery grounds with three Space Hoppers proving insufficient in hindsight – who would have thought?! All the traditional games proved very popular. Amazingly, I won a bottle of Ardbeg 10 [the last bottle as it turned out], by sliding a bung along a table-top onto a painted flower – left handed! Happy days!
To the Dram Bar!!
- C: Fruity & winey. Good nose and arrival (87/88), with an unexpectedly short iffy finish.
Scores 84 points overall.
Kelpie – not disimilar to Nessie perhaps?
- N: There’s no peaty quality quite like Ardbeg – vegetal polished barley-sweet with a light meatiness in this case.
- T: Runs through onto the palate as expected,…
- F: ,… continuing dry, vegetal and smoky.
- C: Shares a distillate-led character in keeping with the revered standard 10yo.
Scores 86 points
- N: A nose that improves all the time. Strong on abv yet with a light sheeny barley style – a little sweet, yeasty and fairly farmy. Also of note, soot and fruity onions (another Ardbeg character trait in my obscure book].
- T: Light bitter citrus with a vibrant chew.
- F: A touch of vanilla to the smoke, only a slight vegetal quality now, onion-y vinegar and suggestions of a fishy coastal finish.
- C: Pretty good as it is, but one that vastly improves with time & water.
Scores 87 points
I rarely win prizes, but today, Ardbeg Day was also my day.
- N: Sweeter and saltier than the Kelpie.
- T: A salty chewy rounded mouthful.
- F: More bitter on the finish whilst maintaining its vegetal herbal quality throughout.
- C: As excellent and dependable as always. I’ll have a full review of my bottle win in due course.
Scores 88 points
Ardbeg Day  Ob. [12000 bts] 56.7% WB88.39
- N: Popcorn, lemonade and fruit-sweet-savoury >sweaty peat.
- T: Dirty rounded vegetal – Caol Ila-like.
- F: Vegetal sweet barley, the smoke unobtrusive.
- C: This one receives mixed reviews, but I think it’s a pretty fabulous big bruiser with good form.
Scores 88 points
In part 2, we follow Mick Heads for a tasting in his back garden.