The sunshiney-ness continues! Day four on Islay dawned as delightfully as the previous three, and we headed back south for Laphroaig’s Fèis Ìle open day!
This morning dawned exceptionally brightly. And exceptionally early. At 4:30 this morning I was woken up by the sunlight streaming through the windows of our MoM-Whisky Lounge villa out on the Rhinns. But really that’s no complaining – the glorious weather, even if it does cause very early starts, has been the defining theme of Fèis Ìle 2018. And it continued unabated today as we basked on the island’s south coast for Laphroaig Day!
We hopped out the car at 9am sharp in an already balmy 18C warmth. We were at Laphroaig super early to squeeze in a Q&A interview with John Campbell, the brand’s distillery manager, before the ribbon was officially cut at 10:30. Devoted friends of Laphroaig were already queueing to gain entry into one of the most hotly anticipated days on the island. And it didn’t disappoint.
John was on great form, ushering us up to the distillery’s floor maltings for our quick-fire chat (keep an eye on the blog and social for the results!) before we stretched out in the sun on the patch of grass between the distillery and the shore, making the most of both the sun and the relative peace and quiet before the hubbub built, the dram devotees arrived in full force, and the day got under way.
And proceedings got off to a right rollicking start – en route in, guests were met with a tasting glass, a handy holder and a welcome dram – none other than the 51.8% Laphroaig Cairdeas 2018, the festival bottling! The liquid was initially matured in first-fill bourbon Fino Cask finish – we LOVE that everyone had a taste of the oftentimes tricky to source festival botting to get them in the spirit of things! Also cunning? The Laphroaig-branded metal water bottle, thoroughly eco-friendly and uber sensible. David Attenborough would be thrilled.
We poked our nose into the stillhouse before chilling out where the hub of the action really was for the day – out in the courtyard space, down towards the shoreline and the pier. We say hub – we really mean primary relaxation space. Laphroaig fans stretched out on every available patch of grass, sunning themselves were treated to music from The McNeill Sisters, The Coaltown Daisies and the Reely Jiggered. There were some sing-along classics and folkiness galore, all in-keeping with the sunshiney sense of zen.
And the whisky? The Filling Station was where the magic happened. On the purchase of a ticket (and the promise of drams), Fèis-goers could enter whisky wonderland. Yes, there were drams (25-year-old and a 2002 mystery single cask numbered 6930 were particular highlights) but we particularly enjoyed the Whisky Olympics-type set up. Curling with bungs? Oh yes. Stacking the highest tower possible from peat cuttings in a race against the clock? Game on. And what really got our competitiveness/anger flowing? A whisky bottle hoopla of epic proportions. The prizes? More drams!
We also met Dan, the rather wonderful bartender, who had Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and a cask-matured concoction that tasted simultaneously of strawberries, barbecued peaches and roadworks. A triumph in cocktail form.
After all the fun of the fair we headed back outside into the sunshine to soak up more of the rays and, of course, the music. There were more fun things here, too – including the chance to get creative and personalise your own Laphproaig wooden coaster on the most incredible stave-built table top we’ve ever seen. But what defined Laphroaig Day for me? The vibe of pure relaxation and contentment. Great drams, gorgeous environment, fabulous company and feel-good tunes? I’ll take that for a Tuesday*!
Not content with the Laphroaig Day alone, we also whizzed back to Port Ellen to meet Elixir Distiller’s Oliver Chilton and get the latest on the company’s plans to build a fourth distillery along the south coast. We chatted, saw the site (it’s BEAUTIFUL) but were sworn to secrecy. For now. More to follow in due course…
All that was left to do was don our glad rags for a trip back to Lagavulin for a night of more tunes with Diageo’s Nick Morgan, Whisky Magazine’s Rob Allanson and Atom Brands’ Sam Simmons, no less. It’s party time! Or so we thought, as we settled into “depressing” (Nick’s words, not ours!) renditions of Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Johnny Cash (originally penned by Trent Reznor – you know the one), Nick Cave and more. Still, the various Lagavulin and Port Ellen drams were certainly uplifting!
Somehow it’s already Day Four of Fèis Ìle 2018. Yes friends, we may be at the mid-way point but there’s still a whole bundle of action to come, kicking off with today’s adventures at the Laphroaig Distillery…
Proceedings will kick off first thing with an early-doors interview with Laphroaig distillery manager John Campbell. Then we’ll be taking in the sights and sounds (and general all-round excitement of the open day) – and it’s sure to be action packed.
The afternoon brings a sneak peek at what Elixir Distillers has planned for its new whisky production site on Islay (and it’s TOP secret. But, be sure, we will spill the beans as soon as we can).
Then (and this is a real treat) in the evening we’ll be popping back along the coast to Lagavulin for an evening of music and merriment with Dr. Nick Morgan and co.
It’s a busy one, and the sun is forecast to shine again. So dose up on sunscreen, spritz that midge spray and come and find us for your t-shirts, drams and general all-round merriment!