Thursday, April 20, 2006


There are some tastings that afterwards you think: Mmm, that was a good night. And there are some tastings that afterwards you think: Man that was a GREAT night!

Ardbeg Distillery manager Stuart Thomson provided one of the best tastings we’ve had - helped along by some of the finest drams we’ve experienced. There are some who can’t take the smoky Islay offerings, and there are others who consider their lives would be incomplete without a regular dram from that island’s great distilleries. I think club members who count themselves among the former would have been pleasantly surprised last night.

Stuart’s involvement came about because our advertised guide, Glenmorangie’s Master Distiller Bill Lumsden, had to call off at short notice. He sent along the Glenmorangie Artisan Cask to showcase the distillery’s wood management policy. The Artisan was matured in Ozark Mountain oak and designed to capture the young, female, market. It was a soft, fruity and floral dram and enjoyed last night by women and men.

Next up came the Ardbeg selection: the 10 year old, the Uigeadail, and the breathtaking 25-year-old Lord of the Isles – a dram of such beauty that even the £135 retail price tag didn’t appear to be outrageous! (Try telling that to the spouses though).

Stuart proved an immensely likable guide, taking us from his second day at Glenmorangie and confronted by a jet of 39-year-old malt, which had sprung from its cask and was arcing its way over neighbouring casks. Old Tommy showed remarkable presence of mind by stooping, mouth open, to capture the stream before it could go to waste.

He talked movingly of seeing the wreck of Ardbeg for the first time after Glenmorangie saved it from total closure and how he persuaded his wife Jackie that there was, actually, little needed to restore it to its former glory.

And if you ever get the chance to have a natter with him, ask Stuart about the time his two-year-old son Harry noticed there was no Ardbeg on the gantry of a VERY posh country house.

It'll be a long, long time, before the Thomson family can show their faces there again!

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