Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whisky Review: Slyrs Pedro Ximénez Finish

Slyrs is a whisky distillery in a region not traditionally associated with single malts: Bavaria

Founded in 1999 by Florian Stetter, a German brewer, the distillery was originally part of a brewery, but now occupies its own purpose-built space. Despite the fact that the distillery has been around for over a decade, all of their whiskies are still bottled between three and four years old and are bottled by vintage, much like Kilchoman.

This particular whisky was aged in new American oak barrels for three years, then transferred to ex-PX sherry butts for nine months. The whisky is then proofed down to 46% for bottling.

Thanks to Ian of PDXWhisky for picking up a bottle during his travels and letting me sample this whisky.

Slyrs PX Sherry Edition Nº 1

Nose: sweet raisins, very light malt, toasted grain, molasses, fruit cake/baking spices, creamy brown sugar. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes creamier and the raisins become less sweet, a lot more new make grain comes out, there's some lemongrass hand soap, and a touch of coffee/mocha.

Taste: malt and sherry have blended almost seamlessly, it's lightly sweet up front - fading to bittersweet across the palate, a bit floral at the back with some sour apples and very light oak. After dilution, there's a strong note of burnt sugar, the raisins become more bittersweet, the sour apple note becomes stronger, and there is some emerging pepper and honey.

Finish: light sherry and malt, raisins, sour apples, bittersweet tannins

This is what it is - a young single malt with an aggressive cask finish. The PX sherry, as it is wont to do, has almost completely dominated the malt. Given the new make notes that popped out with water, that might not be a bad thing, but you have to like that style of whisky for this one to do the trick. I can appreciate it to a degree, but it's not something I would want to drink a whole bottle of. Now if this had been lightly peated or smoked, it'd be another matter...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Scotland 2013: Bowmore Distillery Tour and Loch Indaal

I once again woke bright and early - I didn't have a ton of miles to cover before my first appointment in Bowmore, but I didn't want to dawdle either. I ate breakfast and said goodbye to Joy before leaving the Askernish, then headed north.

The gorgeous view from my room in Port Ellen
The bulk of the Port Ellen maltings was hard to miss on my way out of town. It's unmistakably an industrial site now - the remnants of the old distillery are completely dwarfed by the maltings.

Though I had never tried a Port Ellen before, the almost constant talk about the place meant that viewing it still produced a certain cognitive dissonance. The place is apparently very special, yet there's little if anything romantic about it as it currently exists.

In the interest of time, I took the more direct A-road route to Bowmore. It was a lovely ride, since the sun was out and the wind wasn't blowing too hard. I had heard from locals that it was a bit of a wavy road, since it was built across an enormous peat bog, so the road has a tendency to sink in places. This was less noticeable on a bike than on a car, but it could still be seen from certain points. While I didn't get to see any peat cutting in progress, I did see areas that had been cut before.

It didn't take too long to roll into Bowmore, where I found myself with some time to kill. Though the wind made it a bit chilly, it was still very nice to just sit outside and soak up the sun.

The tasting sessions at Bowmore are at 12:15, which is a little inconvenient since I wasn't quite hungry enough to have lunch beforehand. So I dived into an hour of whisky tasting (notes later).

After the tasting wrapped up, I went on a tour of the distillery. Katrina first led us into the malt barns, where Bowmore produces about 40% of the malt it uses. Bowmore contracts with a dedicated set of 16 farms for their malt, with the other 60% being malted by a commercial malting plant. The maltsters own the farms, which ensures traceability - if something is wrong with a batch of malt, it can be more easily traced to either something wrong with the maltings or a particular farm. This gives them more control over their malting process than distillers that simply buy malt on spec.

The malt was being turned while we were there, which looked like an arduous process, even with an electric malt aerator, which needs to be done every four hours, over three floors, for four to seven days.

From there we walked up to the kiln, where a batch of malt was being dried with hot air. The peating had already been done for this batch, which takes about fifteen hours, then hot air is used to finish it off over forty-five hours, giving malt that has about 25 PPM phenol content. Bowmore used to use about eight tons of peat a week for their maltings, but now consumes two to three tons.

Bowmore's kiln has a device, which can be seen at the back, which periodically turns the drying malt so that it is evenly heated. I'm sure the employees appreciate not having to do it by hand, especially when the malt is being peated.

From there we passed by the mash tun, which is a single large copper-topped affair. The large wooden cylinder above is the grist bin, where ground malt is stored before being fed into the mash tun.

Next was the room with Bowmore's washbacks. These are all traditional Oregon pine. A first while I was on Islay, the room actually smelled very, very good - honey, wood, yeast, spicy, caramel, and maple syrup. It was quite striking and rather surprising.

The fermentation is fairly short, at about 50 hours, with the wash coming out at 7.5-8% ABV. This is then pumped into the still room next door. Each 40k liter washback is split evenly between the two 31k liter wash stills, giving a fairly low charge.

Note the lyne arm going through the roof
Bowmore's wash stills are fairly standard, with flat lyne arms. This gives them a fairly neutral profile, though the lower charge will increase copper contact. The spirit stills are relatively narrow and tall, with slightly (5º and 10º, respectively) rising lyne arms. This will generate more reflux and give more copper contact, producing a lighter spirit. However, the 14.7k liter stills are charged almost to capacity, which will reduce copper contact. Combined with Bowmore's lower peating levels, the new make spirit is lighter and more delicate than that produced at the Kildalton distilleries. 

Through a quirk of architecture, one of Bowmore's stills is actually situated outside, which means that the flow of water has to be adjusted more frequently to account for the weather (temperature, wind, rain) affecting the amount of cooling.

Bowmore's spirit is filled mostly into first- and second-fill ex-bourbon casks, with a smaller number going into ex-sherry, ex-port, and other ex-wine casks. All of the distillery's output goes into single malts - none is sold for blending.

We got to peek at the warehouse, but not actually go inside. There was also a fill your own cask, which sounded tasty, but the price was just too steep for me.

I left Bowmore with some of the same feelings with which I left Laphroaig. Bowmore is caught between the old ways of doing things, as exemplified by their floor maltings, and the new ways, which will be necessary if they want to continue expanding production. They currently operate five days a week and are considering moving to seven. However, they already use all of the output from their floor maltings, so any more will have to come from the commercial supplier, diluting whatever special character the floor maltings give them.

After the tour had wrapped up, I discovered that I had made a bit of a mistake: between the tasting and the tour, I had passed lunch time and the restaurants in town had mostly closed down for the lull between lunch and dinner. I wasn't in a dire state, but I also knew that I needed to get the rest of the way around Loch Indaal before nightfall. While it was a fairly short hop to Bruichladdich, where I would be staying the night, I needed to overshoot the mark a bit to go to Port Charlotte, where I was hoping to find facilities to do some laundry. So, as I would do all too often, I ate a granola bar, gritted my teeth, and kept moving.

The Paps of Jura, visible from across the north end of Loch Indaal
The ride around Loch Indaal was simply beautiful. The terrain was mostly flat, there wasn't a ton of traffic, and the water was very pretty. I made pretty good time, despite the lack of food. Luckily the Anchorage B&B, where I was going to stay the night, was right on the main road. The owners were out when I stopped by earlier in the afternoon, so I pressed on to Port Charlotte. It was only a couple more miles down the road from Bruichladdich. I got a bit confused looking for the Port Mor Centre, but eventually found my way there. It is a combination community center and camp ground, which also happens to have publicly accessible laundry facilities. I eventually worked out what I needed to do and plonked down to get some clean clothes. If I had been smart, I would have eaten while I was there, but I was so focused on getting the laundry done that I didn't think about it.

After everything was clean and dry, I packed up again and poked down the road looking for somewhere to eat. It was getting late-ish, so I was lucky enough to find a reasonably priced restaurant that was still open. I tucked in a very filling bowl of mac & cheese, which went a long way towards making me feel restored. After settling my bill, I made my way back to Bruichladdich in the fading light and finally checked in to the B&B. After a shower I tucked into bed early, knowing that I had a full day ahead of me. Little did I know that my plans weren't going to work out quite the way I hoped they would.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Experimental Whisky: Blending Glenmorangie

After retasting Glemorangie's line of cask finished whiskies earlier this year, I had a bit left over in each bottle. Since my feeling was that many of the finishes had overwhelmed the malt, I wondered if blending them together with Glenmorangie Original, which is aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks, would provide some more balance. So I made a few test blends up, let them sit in my liquor cabinet for a month or two, then tried them.

1:1 Glenmorangie Original/Nectar d'Or

Nose: beautiful interplay of floral/malt/honey, integrated wine, burnt sugar/maple syrup undertones, light vanilla. After adding a few drops of water, it became richer and more integrated, with more wood and honey.

Taste: the flavors of each whisky have layered rather than blending together - bittersweet wine over malt fades into American and French oak tannins, slightly abrasive at the back, French oak spices throughout, giving way to American at the back. After dilution, the tannins back off, it becomes maltier and more integrated, floral and tropical fruit notes come out with pepper emerging at the back, more wine and vanilla towards the finish.

Finish: American oak, rather tannic, lightly malty, hints of wine

Nectar d'Or is already my favorite of the Glenmorangie cask finishes, as the sauternes seems to be more in balance with the malt than the sherry or port finishes. This blend brings more of the Original characteristics - malt, honey, floral notes, and American oak - into the mix. I'd really enjoy trying this same blend with Astar instead of Original, to pump it up even more.

1:1 Glenmorangie Original/Lasanta

Nose: tempered sherry blended with sweet malt, subtle vanilla and raisins, brown sugar, hints of honey. After adding a few drops of water, the sherry becomes more integrated and lighter, with more malt-focus, and it's a lot sweeter.

Taste: balance it tilted towards malt over sherry, but it's a bit thin, there's some green fruit and raisins, without a lot of tannins. Dilution didn't produce any significant change.

Finish: bitter sherry and oak tannins

While the blend did help to dial back the sherry, there's something about the casks Glenmorangie picks that fundamentally don't agree with me. The sherry just seems kind of off in comparison to other whiskies I've tried. Lasanta seems like a loss.

1:1 Glenmorange Nectar d'Or/Lasanta

Nose: sherry and sauternes wrap around each other, berries and tropical fruits (mango), French oak, vanilla, floral. After adding a few drops of water, there is more balance/integration with a shift towards the sauternes, more floral and malt notes, plus a bit of orange peel.

Taste: sherry dominates the sauternes, American and French oak dance around the sherry, underlying malt and sauternes sweetness throughout while remaining off-dry overall, lots of creamy vanilla. After dilution, it becomes sweeter, the balance shifts towards the sauternes up front, jammy sherry returns near the middle, oak is even less prominent, cacao comes in early, thinner but retaining a respectable body, peppery at the back.

Finish: creamy malt and vanilla, a touch of tannic oak and cacao

This was what I made with the very last of those whiskies, just on a whim. It was the unexpected winner, with the two cask finishes perfectly complimenting each other. This makes me wish that Glenmorangie would decide to make a vatting of whiskies matured in bourbon, sherry, and sauternes casks - I have a feeling it'd be excellent. I highly recommend trying this blend if you have these two whiskies at home.

Overall I'd call this a successful experiment. It's always fun to get surprising results.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Whisky Review: Provenance Bladnoch 13 Year 1991/2004

I really enjoyed the G&M 1988/2002 Bladnoch I tried earlier this year. So I jumped on this bottle from McGibbon's Provenance line when I saw it for sale at Ultimate Wine Shop (it helped that they also had a bunch of madeira that I really wanted).

This whisky would have been distilled only a few years before Bladnoch was closed by DLC, the forerunner to today's behemoth Diageo, as 'surplus to requirements'. Though the distillery has since been revived by the Armstrong brothers, this was an opportunity to try a piece of whisky history.

Provenance Bladnoch 13 Year 1991/2004

Nose: ethereally fruity (blackberry), chocolate, a hint of vanilla, malt and grain (almost bourbon corn notes), light oak, rice, a little vegetal/herbal.

Taste: vague fruitiness, malty sweetness and bourbon grain notes up front, prickles of pepper and oak, thicker malt sweetness, a little vanilla, baking spices, something yeasty in the middle, chocolate at the back.

Finish: light oak, malt, chocolate, a little pepper, overripe fruit, a little vanilla

Early in the bottle I had a bad feeling that this whisky was betrayed by substandard casks - it had notes of cardboard that I associate with tired oak that don't have much left to give. This mucked up what would otherwise have been a pleasant, if unremarkable whisky.

However, after about six months of being open, the air had really helped it. The cardboard had disappeared, replaced by light but inoffensive oak, and the chocolate and fruit notes got a lot stronger, making it seem almost sherried. Much like the Tobermory 10 Year I had earlier this year, it seemed like it just took some slogging to get to the good parts. Again, I'm a bit torn about recommending this whisky - it's really nice now, but you have to be willing to either work your way through the less pleasant end of the bottle or wait for it to properly aerate after opening. The price tag is also a bit on the high side for its age, but there aren't a lot of options when it comes to Bladnoch in the United States. Your call.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Whisky Review: Arran Port Cask Finish

Only a few years ago, the Isle of Arran Distillery was (in)famous for its vast range of cask finished whiskies. As a relatively new distillery, this was a reasonable strategy - their single malts were only so old and cask finishes were a way to embellish younger stock.

Since then, the distillery has significantly pulled back to a core of cask finishes that they believe work best with their spirit. Each expression starts with whisky that has spent at least 8 years in ex-bourbon barrels before it is transferred to ex-wine casks. The finishing period varies significantly, from months to years, as the spirit soaks up new flavors. Thus there isn't a defined 'age' for the whisky - it is adjusted depending on how the spirit is maturing. All of Arran's cask finished whiskies are bottled at 50% ABV without chill filtration.

Arran Port Cask Finish

Nose: a layer of port floating over malt, chocolate raisins, a little vanilla, red berries, a bit of floral soap, mineral/flinty. After adding a few drops of water, there are brighter fruits, fudge-ier port/wine notes, and something purple.

Taste: rather hot throughout, somewhat thin up front, richer wine and oak mid-palate, gets malty at the back - becoming sweeter and woodier with time. After dilution, the heat diminishes a lot, there is more chocolate with integrated oak, the malt gets tucked inside the wine, and a hefty dose of black pepper comes out.

Finish: light port and wood influence, malty

While I really enjoyed this whisky, I feel like its appeal is somewhat circumscribed. The alcoholic heat of the undiluted palate can be rather off-putting, though only a small amount of water is necessary for the spirit to hit its stride. While it may just be that I got a rougher batch (bottled 10/8/10), it felt like this might be better at 48% or even 46%, which would make it much more approachable.

With that said, I think Arran has a good thing going here. The port is present without being dominant, with the oak tannins providing a nice counterpoint to the sweeter wine notes, and the chocolate notes trend towards dark rather than milk, so it's not quite the dessert malt that you might expect. Just make sure to give it a try before buying a bottle to be sure that it's going to jibe with your tastes. As a plus, if you live in Oregon, this whisky is only $49 right now, which makes it a pretty good deal in this day and age.

This makes me look forward to trying the other Arran cask finishes to see how they do with the distillery's malt.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Whisky Review: Glenkinchie 12 Year

Glenkiniche is one of the few remaining Lowland malt distilleries and the only one remaining in Diageo's portfolio after their forerunner, DLC, axed a number of Lowland distilleries in the 1980s and 1990s. They may have decided to consolidate their Lowland resources into Glenkinchie because, unlike so many other distilleries, it was located near a large city. The distillery is only a 15 miles drive from the center of Edinburgh, which makes it very convenient for visitors. For that reason, Diageo has made the visitor center at Glenkinchie very comprehensive, as it may be the only one of their distilleries that many people traveling to Scotland have an opportunity to see.

I'll defer to Malt Madness for the history of Glenkinchie, which seems to be both complicated and disputed.

Glenkinchie 12 Year

Nose: rather floral (grows with time), vegetal notes, vanilla, a bit of creamy perfumed sherry and cacao, malt, gentle caramel. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes more malt-focused but flatter, with some cinnamon bark and black pepper coming out, there are fewer floral/perfume notes, more vanilla and fruit come out, and the sherry is lighter.

Taste: a strong attack - initially sweet with big pepper/ginger coming in with a sour sherried tinge mid-palate, perfume/floral notes come in near the back alongside bitter tannic oak and cacao, with creamy malt riding under everything. After dilution, the pepper retreats significantly to reveal more vegetal malt sweetness, there is less floral character but the sourness remains, and some vanilla pops out up front.

Finish: sour and bitter vegetal/herbal notes that seem strangely off (decomposed grass clippings?), malt, black pepper, oak, a bit of sherry, perfume. After dilution, the vegetal off notes just get worse and it gets a strange metallic aftertaste.

It may just be my palate, but this whisky just seems wrong. The nose is decent, if unremarkable. The taste doesn't do much for me, but isn't patently offensive. The finish is where it all falls apart - 'decomposed grass clippings' is not a phrase that should be describing a whisky being sold for actual money. I know Diageo doesn't particularly care about its single malts, as most of what Glenkinchie produces will simply go into blends, but this one seems downright shameful. There's no sense of care or quality in its construction, just something slapped together. Unless something is fundamentally wrong at the distillery, there's no reason to be putting out such a bad product.

I was very glad to only have a 200 mL bottle of this whisky as I could barely even make it through that much, though it also let me suffer through it enough times to be sure that it wasn't just a singular impression. With that said, people clearly do buy this whisky, so it must have something to recommend it to others. I'll just state that you should probably try some before buying a bottle, in case you respond the same way to it that I did.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scotland 2013: Lagavulin and Ardbeg Distillery Tours

It was a slightly damp morning when I got up. After wolfing down breakfast, I hopped on my bike and zipped down the road towards my 10:30 appointment at Lagavulin, aided by the stiff west wind at my back. I made there with a few minutes to spare and eventually found a railing where I could lock up my bike. I turned out that I was going to get a nearly private tour, as only two more people were scheduled and they barely arrived in time. Sadly I was told that pictures wouldn't be allowed inside the distillery - a policy that varied widely from place to place and never seemed to have coherent rationals.

Delivering malt to the distillery
Justina took us into the old malt barn, which now serves as storage space for the distillery. Lagavulin did its own malting up until the 1970s, but now gets malt exclusively from Port Ellen at 38 PPM spec. They consume on average 125 tons of malt per week, less than half of what their sister distillery Caol Ila uses. We learned that the Port Ellen malt process takes 2-3 days vs. 9-10 when done by hand. The mechanical malting process involved smoking the barley with peat for ~16 hours, then the malt is checked for phenol content and separated out for their various customers - this suggests that there is a significant amount of variability, even in what is supposed to be an industrial process. Some comes out with a high enough phenol content to satisfy Ardbeg (55 PPM), while some is low enough for Bowmore (25 PPM) - Port Ellen doesn't actually use different processes for the different malts they sell to the various distilleries.

Lagavulin's water source is so peaty that it's brown by the time it gets to the distillery
Lagavulin uses a single large (21,000 L) mash tun, which they can charge four times at day when running full tilt. The larch washbacks are roughly the same size, which are rotated roughly every five hours to give them a bit of time to clean things out before the next mash is cycled in. Their fermentation is fairly standard - commercial yeast, 55 hour fermentation ending around 8% ABV. Given that much of Lagavulin's process up to this point appears to be relatively 'standard', I'm going to chalk a lot of its unique character up to its stills (one of the few pictures I was able to get of the inside of the distillery).

Lagavulin has two pairs of wash and spirit stills, which are built such that they will largely concentrate the constituents of the wash rather than separating them, like many other stills. They are short, squat, and bulbous, with steeply descending lyne arms. Lagavulin also loads their stills nearly to capacity and uses a fairly short foreshots cut (72-70%) - this is also a much lower maximum proof due to the lack of reflux - with a fairly broad spirit cut (70-62%) that dips down into what many other distilleries would consider feints. These features and procedures mean that there is very little reflux or copper contact during distillation, which produces a spirit that has significant amount of both foreshots (fruity esters) and feints (phenols, fusel oils). This gives Lagavulin a significant depth and breadth of character, but also usually requires that it be aged for a fairly long time to really hit its stride, since the esters and fusel oils need time and oxygen to covert into more pleasantly flavored compounds.

The docks that used to service the distillery before roll-on ferry service became available
Lagavulin is one of the few large distilleries with sufficiently large demand for their single malt whiskies that very little of their output goes into blends - 95/5 seems to be the split I see quoted most often. As an interesting side-note, Justina mentioned that production at Lagavulin had ramped up during the late 90s, which means that stock should be hitting the right age for their standard 16 year old whisky now or in the near future. Perhaps part of the reason why Diageo has decided to hold down prices on an in-demand bottle? Though it doesn't explain the sky-high prices of the cask strength 12 year old and PX-finished Distillers Edition 'special releases' that they put out every year.

After the tour wrapped up, I trooped down to one of Lagavulin's warehouses for a very special tasting. That will be a post of its own, but suffice it to say that it was an experience.

Somewhat tipsy after half a dozen cask strength drams (I repeatedly told people that part of the reason I was biking was that that way I was only a threat to myself), I set off further down the road towards Ardbeg, the last of the Kildalton distilleries on my itinerary.

Ardbeg's pagodas peeked out from the gently rolling hills, opening up to another pretty bay, which gave the distillery its name (Ardbeg means 'small promontory'). The distillery is a maze of buildings, all put up at different phases of its life.

The first order of business was getting some food into myself. Thankfully Ardbeg has a nice cafe inside their visitor center, which was rebuilt from one of their old malting kilns. After a pleasant lunch and a chat with a local couple who used to live in the PNW, I set off with a small group for our tour of the distillery.

Neil led us into what used to be one of Ardbeg's malt bins, which are now no long used. We began with a bit of history, describing the ups and downs in the distillery's fortunes. We spent some time discussing recent history - the rescue of the distillery from outright ruin in 1997 when Glenmorangie purchased it and the changes wrought since Glenmorangie was brought into the LVMH fold in 2004. From there we walked through the old malt bins.

After talking about the difficulties and near tragedies of working in the old kilns and malt bins, Neil made was I thought was the most incisive point of the whole tour - that "there are no stories" attached to the newer, more efficient equipment. Old methods were significantly more labor intensive and produced much more batch variation - for instance, peating used to be assessed 'organoleptically', i.e. by tasting the malt to decide when it was done - but the new equipment has largely removed the human element from the production process. Malt is now purchased at spec (55 PPM) from Port Ellen, delivered to the malt bins by truck, then fed into the mill and mashed automatically. Speaking of their mash tun, Ardbeg is in the peculiar situation of having left their old cast iron mash tun in place, then inserted a new stainless steel one inside it.

This bothered me a little bit - if you're going to upgrade to stainless steel, then just do it, don't try to hide behind the old façade - but ultimately it's a quibble. However, one nice feature of the new mash tun is that it automatically cleans itself - distillery workers no longer have to climbing inside to wash it out by hand.

Ardbeg does keep one piece of tradition by using wooden washbacks. These are about the same size as Lagavulin's at 23,500 liters. Fermentation has become shorter by about ten hours since the early 2000s, coming down to a more 'standard' 55 hours with a strength of 8% ABV. I do have to wonder if this change has been part of why Ardbeg's spirit has become less complex - there's less time for the yeast to develop flavors, instead focusing on converting the starch into alcohol, which will produce fewer interesting side-products during fermentation. Each washback holds enough wort for two wash still charges - half is taken out, then the second half is removed five hours later after the first wash still run.

The view out of the room where the washbacks are located is rather nice
Ardbeg has some rather peculiar stills. To begin with they only have a single pair of stills - one wash still and one spirit still. Second, they are very short stills - shorter even than Laphroaig's tiny spirit stills - which should reduce copper contact. With that said, they still have plenty of capacity - the wash still is 18,770 liters and the spirit still is 16,957 liters. The spirit still actually has more capacity than any other spirit still on the island, with the exception of Caol Ila's monsters. The stills are fairly highly charged - the wash still is filled to 64% and the spirit still to 81%, which should reduce copper contact. However, the stills both have a lamp glass shape and slightly rising lyne arms, which will increase reflux, though this is balanced by the fact that they still have fairly wide necks. To add to this, the spirit still has a purifier - basically a piece of copper pipe that connects the lyne arm back to the pot of the still. What this does is return heavier vapor and anything that condenses in the lyne arm back to the pot for redistillation, effectively increasing reflux. All of this is a peculiar mix, which goes a way towards explaining the particular qualities of Ardbeg's whisky - despite very high peating levels, it isn't necessarily more smoky than Laphroaig or even Lagavulin, with a lot lighter esters and an oily character.

Ardbeg, as with most distilleries, proofs their new make spirit down to 63.5% and fills most of it into first and second-fill ex-bourbon casks. Smaller amounts are filled into sherry casks and French oak casks, for their Uigeadail and Coryvrecken expressions. Displaying the influence of Glenmorangie's Bill Lumsden, a variety of other casks, such as marsala, fino sherry, and French wine casks are also used.

French wine casks with their distinctive hoops in the foreground left and stacked up in the middle right
One example up close
After discussing casks, we went into one of the warehouses for the 'Deconstructing the Dram' tasting. As with the Lagavulin tasting, that will have to be its own post.

Once again fairly tipsy, I departed from Ardbeg. I briefly considered continuing down the road to view the Kildalton Cross, but thought better of it, given that it had been a long day and the wind was still blowing rather hard out of the west. That made for a slow trip back to Port Ellen, but I got there without too much trouble. I made a fairly early night of it, knowing that I had to get most of the way around Loch Indaal the next day.