Ah it’s that wonderful time of year again! The birds are singing, the flowers are in bloom, that huge, mysterious fireball has been sighted in the sky over Scotland, and the shop is flooded with pilgrims on their way to the magical isle of Islay. The annual Islay Festival of Music and Malt got underway at the tail-end of last week and will have the Hebridean island rocking until this Saturday. We may not be Ileachs ourselves, but we can’t help but get that festival feeling and as part of our celebrations we’ve had a very special Islay single malt bottled just for our customers!
This one is close to my heart and let me tell you why. When I was just a wean and I’d get toothache, my granny would dip a cotton bud into a wee dram of whisky and get me to put it on the tooth to numb the pain, aided by a hot flannel tied round my head. Of course, being a wee wick, I’d sook the cotton bud dry and ask for another! I’m fairly certain that’s when my love affair with the water of life began, but I’ll never forget the day it almost put me off the stuff for good.
It was New Year’s Day and that awful drumming pain came over my lower left jaw. I ran to my granny looking for her usual cure, but she had poured her last drop of Bell’s during the Hogmanay celebrations. I began to panic. Granny began to panic. A hot flannel alone wouldn’t ease this agony! My father came to the rescue with a dram from the green bottle he kept on the top shelf of the unit in the living room. Granny dipped in the cotton bud and handed it to me. Already I was beginning to worry about the stench of smoke and medicine coming from the small white bud, but the pain was growing so I put the dripping cotton into my mouth a bit down. YUCK! I spat the thing to the ground, grabbed the hot flannel and fled! I would never forget the large letters on the label spelling out LAPHROAIG.
Too much for my young palate to cope with – I mean, I really shouldn’t have been imbibing at that age anyway! – it wouldn’t be my last dalliance with the Islay dram. My father loved his Laphroaig and once I was old enough to buy a drink, I realised that I was actually quite fond of the stuff myself. We shared many a dram of the peaty, medicinal 10 year old over the years, and on some of the biggest days of my life. So, when we managed to get hold of a single cask Laphroaig for this year’s Fèis Ìle bottling, I was delighted!
Distilled in 2006 and bottled exclusively for Loch Fyne in celebration of Fèis Ìle 2017, this single cask Islay malt from The First Editions range has matured for eleven years in a single refill sherry butt. Only 120 bottles have been charged by family-run bottler Hunter Laing & Co. and there’s not a drop of artificial colouring or chill filtration. At a strength of 57.6% abv, it would have probably blown the baby teeth right out of my mouth as a wean! Now that I’m older and wiser, I think I’ll manage this one without the hot flannel.
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