Tag Archives: Lagavulin

Feis Ile 2016

Islay 2
The secret fishermen pools near Port Ellen, Islay

Nick Morgan serenaded us with a whimsical rendition of ‘Riders in the storm’. The Paps of Jura broke through wispy clouds across the Sound of Ila. A festival edition of Caol Ila in hand. How extraordinary. Even more impressive was the Australian gentleman in the crowd who had made the pilgrimage every year for the last eight years…such is the pull of Feis Ile.

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Lagavulin Day in the distillery’s 200th year
Islay 7
Cooperage demonstration, Lagavulin Distillery

My first ever Islay whisky festival coincided with the 200th anniversary of Lagavulin. A 3 hour queue for the festival bottling was avoided. I made a promise to myself not to get caught up in the buying frenzy and to instead focus on soaking up the atmosphere of this very special occasion. I loved the cooperage display and speaking to enthusiasts from all over the world. So many good stories and so many happy faces. The drams flowed freely from the distillery but also amongst the whisky geeks. Sample bottles emerged from clunking bags and eyebrows raised with interest at each new arrival.

Islay 11
The Yellow Submarine arrives at Bruichladdich!

At Bruichladdich, the locals came out in force. We were treated to a wonderful performance from the pipeband and a dram of ‘Yellow Submarine’. I took an impromptu tour of the distillery and got acquainted with ‘Ugly Betty’, the Lomond still used for The Botanist gin. The highlight of the day was sampling a 23 year old rare malt Port Ellen which appeared out of nowhere from a friend of a friend. Serendipity and the stuff you can’t plan is the part I enjoy the most about these gatherings of the faithful!

With hitch-hiking proving to be the best way around the island, I headed for Port Ellen maltings. A fascinating peek at the inside of drum maltings and the wonderful smell of peat smoke roaring through the kilns. It proved to be a welcome addition to the distillery events and added an element of  education to the festival experience.

Islay 1
Beautiful Islay, Port Ellen

I wish I could have stayed for the full eight days but a four day trip had to suffice. I have no doubt I will be back as Islay is whisky Mecca and the Feis Ile is whisky Hajj. To all the Ilachs dedicated to organising such a remarkable festival, I raise a dram to you.  Lang may yer lum reek Feis Ile!

Islay 9
Camping whisky enthusiasts

The Whisky Meditation

All set for the whisky meditation
All set for the whisky meditation

A hidden gem nestled in the lowlands of Scotland is the Tibetan Monastery of Samye Ling. In this wonderful centre for world peace and health, full of happy Buddhist monks, you can learn all about mindfulness and meditation. By focusing your mind on the present you will heighten your sensory experience. This technique is often applied to the consumption of a raisin, a piece of chocolate or a cup of tea, but what about a dram of whisky? I chose a Lagavulin 12-year-old to give it a try.

The tranquil surroundings of Samye Ling Tibetan Monastary near Lockerbie
The tranquil surroundings of Samye Ling Tibetan monastery near Lockerbie

Sit down on a meditation mat and cushion in a quiet, candlelit room and set the timer for 20 minutes. Let the first chimes ring as you relax yourself with a couple of deep breaths:

POURING

Focus all of your attention on the bottle. The shape, colour and the candle light reflected in the glass. Imagine it is the first time you have seen a bottle of whisky and stare at it with wonder. Slowly move your hand towards the bottle. Feel the cool glass against your fingertips. Open the bottle and enjoy the sound as it ‘pops’! Slowly pour your dram, and focus all of your attention on the ‘glugging’ sound and the motion of the liquid.

SEEING

Swirl the liquid around the glass and raise it to the light. Take your time to really see it. Watch as the oily tears move down the sides. Give it another swirl and look for bubbles forming a halo around the whisky. With care turn the glass and see how the light and shadows change.

NOSING

Raise the glass to your nose and with gentle inhalations drink in the aromas and fragrances of the spirit. Be open to it all and try not to focus on one particular flavour for too long or try to put names to individual aromas. Notice how certain smells may trigger sensations in the mouth or associations in the memory. If you mind begins to wander gently bring it back to the current experience of nosing this whisky. Inhale more deeply and spend a good few minutes enjoying the unique aromas. Close your eyes.

TASTING

Slowly raise the glass to your lips and notice how your mouth prepares itself for the arrival of the whisky. You will no doubt be salivating by now! Moment by moment, be alive to all the sensations as the liquid stimulates the tongue. Let it roll around the mouth. Hold it there for a while. What flavours and sensations do you experience? and how do these change over time?

SWALLOWING

When you feel ready, swallow the liquid down. Feel the warming sensation as the whisky glides down your throat and into your stomach. See if you can follow it down all the way. Notice the tingling in the spine and the feeling of happiness. You may also experience a sensation of a warm fuzzy glow and sense of well-being. Now slowly breath in to see what vapours remain. Give in to the magic of the whisky.

The above steps can then be repeated with the addition of water.

I found the whisky meditation to be an enlightening experience. I hope you do too if you give it a try.

Sláinte and Namaste!