Adam Hannett made a few changes to our traditional format for his first Feis Ile masterclass. This was partly driven by a ‘problem’ we have had in the past due to the sheer number of Laddiefans who want to come – these events are always sold out months in advance. No matter how many we packed into Warehouse 12, significant numbers are always disappointed. It was always great fun, but there was a sense of people being packed in – not always a relaxing experience, or easy to hear and see what was going on.
So Adam took the drastic step of reducing the ticket allocation by half. This meant that everyone would be much more comfortable,all facing the stage, and there would be much more room for manoeuvre. We believe the result was calmer, even if we do feel for those who were unable to get in.
The dram selection for the lucky two hundred ticketholders was truly awesome. A magnificent seven – plus one, about which more later. The first was ‘The Lasting Power Of Vision’, Adam’s festival vatting of single malts distilled from barley peated to 10ppm back in 2001, the first year of our resurrection. The casks used were ex-bourbon, sherry and French wine. The vatting was then finished in virgin oak for a month. A beautiful start to the morning.
In a sign of just how interesting this masterclass was to be, drams two and three were not yet whisky. They were a ‘work in progress’ to demonstrate the effect of terroir on the harvest. Exactly the same variety of barley (Concerto) was conventionally harvested in 2013 on Scottish farms in the Black Isle and Aberdeenshire and distilled, in 2014, separately. Both were filled into first fill ex-bourbon casks. The differences in the glass after two years are subtle, but apparent. It was an impressive demonstration of intent, and commitment to the concept of terroir, so central to what we do.
Dram four was a huge ‘DNA’ from 1990, matured full term in sherry butts with masses of dark dried fruits, raisins, dates and figs. A fantastic monster of a dram, but perhaps a bit of a misnomer in that the glorious sherry flavours mask the quality of the distillation to some extent.
The DNA was very different to dram number five – a Bruichladdich from 1988. This was classic Laddie bourbon maturation, and the style that Adam openly prefers. It was quite light, with notes of honey, almonds, crème brulee, pear, melon and mango. Then more exotic fruits, coconut and cocoa. Truly classic Laddie from the ancien regime and of course presented without chill-filtration and colouring free.
Our stock profile means that dram six, PC13, will never be released for sale but there is enough to tantalise Adam’s guests here. A homage to the old village distillery in Port Charlotte – subtle peat with a marine influence. A whiff of farmyard, marzipan and Crunchie bar.
Dram seven was a real head turner. One to send shivers down the spine. A sense of extraordinary things to come. Another work in progress, unfinished business, this was an Octomore Black Art. In the best tradition of the great distiller Jim McEwan’s original concept, information about the exact makeup of this magnificent whisky will likely remain with its creator, but we were told that the youngest malt in the vatting was from 2007. An amazing experience.
And what of the eighth dram? This was presented in the form of a 200ml bottle presented to each guest. It was an Octomore ten year old. This is a cask strength, never to be repeated example and Adam brought people to their feet with his heartfelt plea: ‘This is by way of a gift to you. It is for taking away with you and drinking – for sharing with your friends. I don’t want to see any of these bottles on Ebay.”
The cheering threatened to raise the roof….
The masterclass was recorded for posterity in our first multi-iphone broadcast on YouTube. If you missed it first time round or wish to revisit – click here….