Meet The Islay Festival 2017 Special Whisky ReleasesBy Stephanie Moreno
This year marks the 33rd year of the Fèis Ìle, or Islay Festival. Held on the last weekend of May and into June, this festival celebrates music, and more importantly, malt. With Islay being home to eight single malt distilleries and counting (look forward to Ardnahoe and Gartbreck in 2018), Islay is already a bit of a Disneyland for peat heads who visit from around the world. This festival takes it to the next level.
The distilleries will have events during the festival ranging from live music, tours, whisky tastings, and master classes, with Master Distillers and Brand Ambassadors holding court. Special bottlings are also typically released by the island’s distilleries which are highly sought after by those who attend the fest. Some of these whiskies make it outside of Islay, but many are sold only at the distillery on their open day. Jura, which is just a short ferry ride away also takes part in the week with their own events and Islay Festival bottling.
Here’s a list of the bottles to be sampled and sold during the fest.
The Ardbeg Distillery
LAGAVULIN OPEN DAY: Saturday 27th of May
Lagavulin will be releasing their Fèis Ìle bottling at 10am the morning of the 27th to kick off their open day. This year’s Lagavulin bottling for the 2017 Fèis Ìle is a 16 year-old whisky. It has been finished in Moscatel wine casks, a sweet fortified wine. These casks are typically what their sister distillery, Caol Ila, uses for its Distillers Edition releases. 6000 bottles were produced and bottled at a cask strength of 55.8% ABV.
BRUICHLADDICH OPEN DAY: Sunday 28th of May
Bruichladdich’s Fèis Ìle bottling is a Port Charlotte bottling by the name of Transparency. This bottle addresses the recent controversy surrounding the EU regulation on what age information can be listed on the bottle and in marketing materials of Scotch whisky. 1,000 bottles were produced. Expect to see it available at whisky auctions shortly after the fest. Customers can choose to input the batch code found on their bottle into a form on their website. The cask recipe will then be provided. For this single malt, 12 barrels have been utilized with seven different types of Bruichladdich whiskies. 100% Scottish barley was used and all barrels were aged on Islay. As is the case with all their whisky, there has been no color added nor is it chill-filtered. Transparency is bottled at 56.4% ABV.
If you can’t be there, Bruichladdich will be live streaming a Master Class, hosted by their Head Distiller Adam Hannett. The live stream starts at 11am BST (British Summer Time).
CAOL ILA OPEN DAY: Monday 29th of May
The festival bottling for Caol Ila will be available beginning at 10am on their Open Day. The Caol Ila 12 Year Fèis Ìle 2017 is a 12 Year single malt which finishes its maturation in Amoroso sherry casks. These sherry casks are typically used for Talisker’s Distillers Edition releases with Caol Ila’s versions typically using Moscatel wine to finish their product. 1500 bottles were produced.
LAPHROAIG OPEN DAY: Tuesday 30th of May
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 Cask Strength Quarter Cask Edition. Released in honor of the 2017 Fèis Ìle celebration and for “Friends of Laphroaig”, this year’s bottling was fully matured in American oak quarter-casks (125 liters). The single malt is non chill-filtered and bottled at cask-strength of 57.2% ABV.
BOWMORE OPEN DAY: Wednesday 31st of May
Bowmore actually releases three bottlings in celebration of the event. They will be on offer to purchase on the morning of their Open Day and will also be presented in three master classes that day. Unfortunately, these bottles are hard to come by outside of whisky auctions if you can’t make it to the fest.
Bowmore Fèis Ìle 2017 Oloroso Sherry and Bordeaux Wine Casks
Bowmore Vintage Fèis Ìle 2017 Edition (26 Year Port Cask)
Bowmore Fill-Your-Own Release (Oloroso Sherry Puncheon)
The most widely available bottling is their Oloroso sherry and Bordeaux wine cask release. 1000 bottles were made and will retail on their open day for £60 ($77).
For their Vintage Fèis Ìle release 200 bottles were produced. It was aged for 26 years in an ex-port cask and will retail for £350 ($450).
Their fill-your-own release was distilled on 13 January 1998 and matured in a first-fill sherry puncheon. This 19 year-old whisky will retail for £130 ($167).
KILCHOMAN OPEN DAY: Thursday 1st of June
Kilchoman produced their 100% Islay Fèis Ìle 2017 in celebration of the fest. It is made from 100% barley which was grown and malted on the island. It is a vatting of two casks: one bourbon barrel filled July 2008 and one Oloroso Sherry Butt filled October 2009. They only produced 877 bottles, and will only sell one per customer at the distillery on Kilchoman’s Open Day. This is a cask strength whisky of 58% ABV.
Kilchoman 100% Islay Fèis Ìle 2017
JURA OPEN DAY: Thursday 1st of June
Jura Tastival 2017 is the limited edition bottling created for the Fèis Ìle. This single malt is a blending of whiskies aged in first-fill American oak bourbon casks, ex-bourbon casks, and Graham’s Ruby Port pipes. This single malt is non chill-filtered and bottled at cask strength. It is the first limited release overseen by new Distillery Manager Graham Logan who replaced Willie Cochrane upon his retirement in September 2016.
BUNNAHABHAIN OPEN DAY: Friday 2nd of June
Bunnahabhain releases two whiskies in honor of the Fèis Ìle. Their first bottling was fully matured in American oak. Distilled on 24th of November 1997 and bottled on 3 March 2017. There were 528 bottles produced. This whiskey is non chill-filtered and bottled with no color added. 52.2% ABV.
For their Moine Port Pipe finish, it was distilled on the 1st of December 2004 and bottled on the 8th of March 2017. The name is derived from the Gaelic “Moine” which translates to “peat” as well as it finishing its maturation in port pipes. Only 1596 bottles were produced with the ABV coming in at 55.6%. This whisky was bottled at natural color and was not chill-filtered.
ARDBEG OPEN DAY: Saturday 3rd of June
Ardbeg Kelpie is this year’s expression from the legendary Dr. Bill Lumsden. It is shrouded in mystery, much like the shape-shifting kelpie, the Scottish water spirit which Robert Burns once wrote about in his poems. So far, we know that “virgin oak casks sourced from the Adyghe Republic, on the coast of the Black Sea region” were used in the maturation process of this no-age-statement whisky. The whisky aged in the Black Sea oak is then married with signature Ardbeg aged in ex-bourbon barrels. It is bottled at 46% ABV. Expect a wider release two weeks after the fest.
DOUGLAS LAING FÈIS ÌLE BOTTLINGS
Additionally, Douglas Laing has released a couple of Islay whiskies in celebration of this year’s fest. Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2017 is a blended malt made with single malts from Islay distilleries Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila, and now shuttered Port Ellen. No color is added and the blended malt is not chill-filtered. This whisky is finished in sherry casks and bottled at 48% ABV. The packaging contains 300 photos of Big Peat fans that were submitted via a social media contest earlier this year. 1,600 bottles are available globally.
They’ve also released the Provenance Caol Ila 6 Year for the Islay Festival. Provenance is the collection from Douglas Laing which showcases small batch whiskies and often single cask bottlings, which this one is. These whiskies aren’t chill-filtered and have not had any color added. In keeping with the high ABV tradition of these releases, this release comes in at 50.6% ABV. It was distilled in 2010 at Caol Ila and bottled after aging in a refill hogshead cask.
If you can’t make it to the fest, we recommend you have a dram from the distilleries listed above. Bonus points if you can do all eight days!
Ready to head over to Scotland for Islay Festival 2017?