Thursday, June 7, 2018

Fèis Ìle 2018 - Goodbye, Farewell

Down on the beach at Bunnahabhain.

The annual Fèis Ìle took place last week and saw the world descend on the famous whisky producing Hebredian island of Islay for eight days of events, whisky and music. Matt was amongst them and here is his final report.


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Thursday evening presented a moment that I had been dreading. That moment when you realise that something good is almost over. In reality, it had been slowly creeping up on my during the day that had seen me visit Islay's two newest distilleries - the soon-to-be completed Ardnahoe and Kilchoman, which became the island's eighth distillery in 2005.

But then it hit - I only had one night and part of one day left on the fabled whisky island. A huge, and I mean HUGE, seafood feast courtesy of Amanda from The Whisky Lounge and some excellent drinks and chat meant that the night went quickly. Too quickly. Next thing, it was Friday morning.

Friday is always the traditional open day for the Bunnahabhain distillery in the far north east of the island. Last year, the memory was of the stunning views across the Sound of Islay and the isle of Jura with its famous Paps. The good weather had returned after the blip on Thursday and the distillery was looking resplendent in the Spring sunshine as we walked down the steep hill.

Barrels waiting to be filled.

Bunnahabhain is almost as inaccessible as a distillery can get. It sits below a rocky crag at the end of a four mile long single track road. As you drive along the road the scenery is breathtaking but you do wonder how on earth the large tankers or grain trucks negotiate the narrow lane and its impressive potholes.

The open day had a wonderfully relaxed feel and the scene was made even more glorious by the presence of The Flying Dutchman, a tall ship that was moored to the end of the pier. A walk along the pebble beach and then around the bottom of the rocky cliff was very enjoyable, especially in the warm sun and with a dram in hand.

All aboard the Flying Dutchman.

And then it was time to leave. Time to head back to the airport and on to my next port of call. Again, I was to miss out on the finale of Feis Ile - Ardbeg Day on Saturday, which signals the end of the festivities. While gutted to not be at what looked like a fantastic event, it left me with time to reflect on the week that I had just experienced.

Islay is great place and a 'must visit' location for any whisky lover. It comes alive even more during the festival and the vibrancy is infectious. My week was highly enjoyable, despite missing the first and last days. Some great whiskies were sampled and old friends were bumped in to. New friends were made and the distilleries seemed to thrive on the extra attention.

Thank you Islay and Feis Ile. I hope to see you again next year.

- Matt.

Goodbye Feis Ile