Hello Fisherman’s Retreat … we’re back!

9.02pm, Saturday 5th November, Kentraw Farmhouse, Near Bruicladdich, Isle of Islay, Scotland

Evening folks, it’s Guy Fawkes or bonfire night, and we’re on one of the jewels in Scotland’s Whisky crown – the Isle of Islay. We’ve seen the fireworks going off across the water at Port Charlotte, and we’re heading for an early night. Why? Because we’re sightseeing tomorrow and have an early start at the Laphroaig Distillery.

But before we get to that, let’s rewind to last night’s tasting at our Yalumba fortress in England’s North West – the Magnall clan stronghold – Fisherman’s Retreat. Now we usually have just the wine tasting event, but last night we had a special ‘added extra’. Hervey senior – laird of the Magnall Clan – has a long standing relationship with the Bruichladdich Distillery (not two miles down the road from where I’m writing this right now), and one of their house specialities is ‘finishing’ the Whisky in the barrels that have been used previously for aging great wines of the world. They have whiskys like the Octomore Orpheus 2.2 released in 2009 that was ‘finished’ in Chateau Petrus barrels.

And what we did was send some of our octave barrels used for ageing Octavius Shiraz over to Fisherman’s Retreat, and they’ve taken them to the distillery and worked with the Head Distiller Jim McEwan to select a suitable Whisky for ‘finishing’ in the Octaves. A parcel of Whisky distilled in 2001 from grain grown on Islay itself was put into the barrels 12 months ago, and they’ve sat quietly in Bruichladdich’s bonded warehouse here on Islay since. Last night, at Fisherman’s after the last wine of the evening – the 2004 Octavius – stretched its long, lush and velvety legs, this experimental Whisky was shown for the first time.

All I can say is that, as a total Whisky novice, it’s really aromatic in a smoky sweet vanilla grainy way, but laced with a touch of cinnamon or something. Palate? Smooooooooth. Have a look at the photo for colour, and with any luck, down the track somewhere – we might see this Bruichladdich spirit aged in Octavius octaves under its own label. Popular opinion from the folks at the tasting was a big solid thumbs up – so watch this space.


Ok, off to an early night – first one this week – and I’ll make sure I get some nice photos of this absolutely gorgeous windswept rugged Scottish corner of the world. See ya tomorrow.

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