From Ardbeg's peat monsters to the lighter Bunnahanhain, Islay has something for all whisky tastes including the range of 2023 Fèis Ìle 2023 Festival bottlings
Fèis Ìle is Islay’s renowned whisky, culture and music festival, and runs this year from the 26 May to 3 June.
Each of the nine Islay distilleries have their own festival day which can include tours, tastings and live music.
Here we take a look at what festival bottlings are on offer and how you can snap up a bottle.
Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2023 whisky is 14-Year-Old is a bottling. It has been matured in a balanced combination of American and European Oak and, for the first time, finished in Armagnac casks.
This complex bottling maintains Lagavulin’s spirit character, whilst offering a fruitier twist that is balanced by its signature smoke.
A drop of water highlights the thick, smooth spirited sweetness counteracted by a peppery spice.
Jordan Paisley, Lagavulin Distillery Manager said “Lagavulin Fèis Ìle is always a celebration for us all on Islay and as we come together to share a dram this year’s release is no different.
"This combination of casks is a special nod to our team near and far as we continue to surprise our fans with unexpected flavours and twists on their favourite whisky.”
Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2023 14-Year-Old is bottled at 58.4% ABV, with an RSP of £220, available to be purchased exclusively from the distillery.
Fèis Ìle 2023 marks a new dawn for Caol Ile as the distillery will host festival visitors for the first time from its new visitor experience.
The limited-edition 13 year old bottling has been matured in Pedro Ximénez / Oloroso seasoned butts, imparting delightful, sweet and fruit notes that complement the peat and peppery spice typical of the Islay distillery.
A dash of water emphasises the smooth sweetness and bring in more saltiness and smokiness flavours, taming the Islay heat.
Sam Hale, Caol Ila Distillery Manager said, “Fèis Ìle is always a remarkable time for us and we’re so excited to host it for the first time in our new visitor experience.
"This bottling is a special one for the team and we’re looking forward to raising a glass together with our fans”.
Caol Ila Fèis Ìle 2023 13-Year-Old is bottled at 60.4% ABV, with an RSP of £185, available to be purchased solely from the distillery.
To mark this year’s festival special significance for the distillery, Caol Ila guests will also have the opportunity to purchase a unique and exclusive distillery manager’s bottling. More details to be revealed soon.
To mark Fèis Ìle 2023, Bunnahabhain Distillery has unveiled three new expressions: Canasta Cask Matured, 1998 Manzanilla Cask Finish and 17-year-old Triple Cask Moine.
For the first time ever, Bunnahabhain is also launching a fully immersive virtual reality experience for those who can’t make it in person.
This virtual reality experience allows users to fully immerse themselves in the world of Bunnahabhain, explore the distillery in 360 degrees, and enjoy tastings with the distillery team, including master distiller Brendan McCarron, from the comfort of their own homes.
Two of the new expressions, the Canasta Cask Matured and the 1998 Manzanilla Cask Finish, will be available globally with a special experimental peated expression, the 17-year-old Triple Cask Moine exclusively sold at the distillery and online.
The Canasta Cask Matured is a distinctive expression, inspired by the success of the Bunnahabhain 1980 Canasta Cask Finish limited release.
Canasta casks are rarely used in whisky making and were once home to a skilful blend of Palamino and Pedro Ximenez grapes before being used for whisky making.
This spicy and sweet combination compliments the Bunnahabhain unpeated spirit exceptionally well, adding layers of complexity and richness. No added colour and non-chilled filtered, the expression has been created to enjoy as nature intended, with an ABV of 51.2%.
The 1998 Manzanilla Cask Finish is a celebration of the influences experienced at Bunnahabhain’s unique coastal home at the Northern most part of Islay.
Manzanilla is famed for its coastal, nutty and salty characteristics, which pair beautifully with Bunnahabhain’s unpeated sherried spirit resulting in a warming and welcoming dram, bottled at cask strength with an ABV of 52.3%.
The 17-year-old Triple Cask Moine expression is exclusively available at the distillery.
This experimental expression was inspired by Julieann Fernandez, Bunnahabhain’s master blender, and her love for rum and raisin ice-cream.
A contrast to Bunnahabhain’s house style, the 17-year-old has an ABV of 52.6% and is a marriage of three blended peated single malts that offers notes of the finest artisan rum and raisin ice-cream, with a wonderfully smoky finish.
Brendan McCarron, Master Distiller at Bunnahabhain, said: “We’re so excited to welcome whisky fans from across the globe to celebrate the world of Bunnahabhain at Fèis Ìle once again. We look forward to the festival every year as it is a great way to spend time with whisky lovers, bring them into our world and share some fantastic drams in such a beautiful setting.
“Our Canasta and Manzanilla expressions showcase the very best of our distillery home and our signature unpeated, sherried house style.
"Fèis Ìle also gives us a fantastic opportunity to experiment with the limited peated spirit we have, and our 17-year-old triple cask is a uniquely wonderful and smoky expression to add to the celebration.
"We’re very much looking forward to raising a dram with fellow whisky lovers later this year.”
The Fèis Ìle 2023 release from Kilchoman, Islay's farm to bottle distillery, is a vatting of three casks distilled from Publican barley grown, malted and distilled at Kilchoman in 2011 and 2012.
Kilchoman founder, Anthony Wills, then selected two bourbon barrels and one sherry butt to be vatted together and bottled at natural cask strength.
The Kilchoman Fèis Ìle 2023 release will be available from the distillery shop only (limited to one bottle per person) from 1 June and is £115 per bottle (70cl), with only approx. 1159 bottles available.
Speaking of this year's festival whisky, Anthony Wills said: “Selecting casks for our annual Fèis Ìle release is the highlight of my year.
"I’ve always enjoyed the balance of character achieved by combining both bourbon and sherry casks, the bourbon barrels enhance and exhibit the character of the Kilchoman spirit whilst the sherry butt adds layers of richness and complexity.
"The result is a beautifully balanced example of Kilchoman Single Farm Single Malt, a credit to the hard work of all the team, both on the farm and in the distillery."
With the countdown to Rock’ndaal officially on, Bruichladdich Distillery has unveiled its two exclusive bottlings to celebrate Fèis Ìle 2023.
The 250 whisky enthusiasts attending head distiller, Adam Hannett’s, coveted Fèis Ìle Masterclass will be the first to sample the two festival exclusives: Bruichladdich Rock’ndaal 02.1 and Port Charlotte Rock’ndaal 02.2. The bottles will then be available to purchase onsite at the distillery before going online.
The first of the festival releases, Rock’ndaal 02.1, is a 16 Year Old Bruichladdich single malt. Matured in a mix of bourbon and Sauternes casks, the team say that the sweet influence of the French oak perfectly complements the signature fruity and floral notes of the single malt.
The second festival release is Rock’ndaal 02.2, a 2006 Port Charlotte vintage. The heavily peated single malt has been matured in a mix of refill wine casks and sherry butts, with the versatile Port Charlotte liquid profoundly influenced not only by the quality of the wood and the wine, but 16 years of all Islay maturation.
Bruichladdich Rock’ndaal 02.1 is priced at £135 and Port Charlotte Rock’ndaal is priced at £165.
Both single malts are limited, Bruichladdich Distillery exclusives with only 2,500 bottles of each available.
Those interested in purchasing a bottle must enter the ballot at the Bruichladdich website. The ballot will open on Wednesday 31 May and closes on Monday 5 June.
In preparation for Ardbeg Day on Saturday 3 June 2023, Ardbeg is releasing a limited edition single malt scotch whisky - Heavy Vapours.
For the first time ever at Ardbeg, its whisky has been distilled without a purifier, which is responsible for Ardbeg’s unrivalled balance between extreme peat and floral fruitiness, making Heavy Vapours the most full-blown Ardbeg.
Defined by its distinctive profile of pungent earthiness, aromatic clouds of dark chocolate, a billow of aniseed and cinnamon, and a lingering tang of sharp peppermint, Heavy Vapours is the ultimate experimental Islay single malt scotch whisky matured in classic Ardbeg casks.
Ardbeg Heavy Vapours (46% ABV) is available to purchase online for £120 from the Ardbeg website from 23rd May 2023.
The limited edition whisky will also be available to purchase from various whisky specialists including The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt.
2023 marks the first time Jura Distillery has hosted Feis Ile in person since 2019 and to celebrate, they will release an extremely limited bottling, dedicated to Graham Logan and his 30 years of service as manager of the beachside distillery.
Graham has handpicked the cask for this bottling – Cask 1777 from Warehouse 2 – a first-fill bourbon which is a perfect representation of Jura’s signature house style.
Jura’s Feis Ile Distillery Exclusive in honour of Graham Logan will be available from the Jura distillery, at their Feis Ile day, 2 June, priced at £120.