...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fèis Ìle and Ardbeg Day

Once a year, in late May / early June, the Islay distilleries host a massive whisky and music (but mostly whisky) festival called Fèis Ìle.  This year it ran from 5/25 to 6/3 with distillery events from the 26th through the 2nd.  And along with all of the events, every distillery released a very limited whisky bottling in honor of the festival.

There are games and music and tours and demonstrations and classes, but the bloody lucky so-and-sos who attend Fèis Ìle mostly report back about the whisky bottlings.  The rest of us have to experience it secondhand.  We'll see those bottlings priced exorbitantly on UK retailer sites or in auctions starting this week.  I've developed a bit of bitter jealousy about such limited whisky, so I ignore the blogs' tasting notes and prefer to read about the drunken idiocy.

But this year, the Ardbeg distillery did something a little different.  Their honorary Fèis Ìle bottling came in a release at least 20 times the size of everyone else's.  13,000 bottles rather than 600 or so.  It was to mark Ardbeg's day (6/2) to host the festival.  And they named it Ardbeg Day.

AND they held events all around the world to allow folks an opportunity to try and buy it.  These events have games and eats but it's really just a big marketing ploy.  Yet there's free whisky involved, so I was willing to apply myself.

This past Saturday afternoon, I went to the Ardbeg Day release-fest at Hi Time Liquors (OMFG, this shop is awesome, go there now and leave your credit cards at home) in Costa Mesa.

There were pipers.

There was this guy.

There were all sorts of happy whisky lovers.  Some games to play and great food -- including Scotch eggs and mac&cheese made with Ardbeg 10yr.

Oh yeah, and there was whisky.  They were doing mini-pours of the 10yr, Uigeadail, Corryvreckan, and the brand new Day.  The pours were small (this isn't the cheapest whisky), but hypothetically one could go back for seconds (of Corryvreckan, hypothetically).

Some quick thoughts on the whiskys:

Ardbeg 10 year (46% ABV) - I did a report on this back in October, but I hope to do an updated review this month.  I'm a fan of this one -- and it's their only bottling that fits into my budget.  A lot of peat soot and lemons.  Love it.

Ardbeg Uigeadail (pronounced Oo-geh-dahl) - This was my first sip of Oogy.  I foresee another sip very soon.  This is Ardbeg's critical darling (especially with Jim Murray), and understandably so.  There's a nice honey sweet body holding a raging peat bonfire in check.  It weighs in at 54.2% ABV, so it's best enjoyed slowwwwwwly.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan (57.1% ABV) - I have deeply unclean feelings about this one; thoughts that would make the dead blush.  I do not back down from the praise I heaped on it three months ago.  What I'm saying is, I like it.  It's less immediately friendly than the Uigeadail, less sweet, more fresh tar and salt and seaweed and evil.  Me wants.

Ardbeg Day (56.7% ABV) - Since the Corry basically razes the palate, time is needed for recovery.  I hung out with cool people, chatted, hydrated, ate.  After nosing this thing for a half hour, I gave it a go.  It was honeyed like the Oogy, but a little fruitier, a bit salty and very more-ish.  It was pretty good, very bright.  But I may have gone back for seconds of the Darkness.

And, nope, I didn't buy a bottle of the Day as it was out of my budgeted price range.  Here's, more or less, how their pricing goes:
Ten Year - $50-$60
Uigeadail - $60-$70
Corryvreckan - $70-$80
Day - $80-$90

I recommend the Day to those who enjoy the Oog and the Ten.  Or if you need something with more levity than the Corry.  There are still some bottles out there at specialty retailers, but you'll need to do some hunting.

Good on Ardbeg for sharing the joy of Fèis Ìle with a wider audience via the larger release.  I know they didn't do it just out of their good little hearts.  There will be about a million dollar gross from this bottling.  But thanks anyway for the freebies!  I remain a devotee.