Islay distilleries prepare to let Fèis Ìle visitors behind the scenes

Two of Islay’s best loved single malt distilleries, Lagavulin and Caol Ila, are set to welcome Fèis Ìle – Islay Festival – fans from across the globe once again for the island’s celebration of culture, music and whisky.

The festival is scheduled to run from from 25 to 27 May, and will feature a series of events, kicking off when Lagavulin opens its doors to host a mix of music and whisky tastings dedicated to its smoky character. Among the ticketed events on offer are:-

Smoky Luxury on the Waves: Sail away from Lagavulin Pier with Diageo whisky specialist, Peter Milne, creator of this year’s Fèis Lagavulin Limited Release Bottling, and Joanne McKercher, Diageo archivist, for special drams, seafood pairings and untold stories of Lagavulin, amongst the scenic views from Lagavulin Bay.

The Manager’s Big Challenge: Join distillery manager, Jordan Paisley and Fèis favourite and brand ambassador, Colin Dunn, in ‘smoky’ Warehouse 3, as they take on fellow fans in blind taste-tests, liquid quizzes and production themed games.

Warehouse with the Coopers: Join Lagavulin’s guides and coopers in Warehouse 1 as they serve up a selection of amazing whiskies straight from the cask. See the experts in action as they demonstrate how to build the perfect cask, uncover maturation stories and best of all, how Lagavulin gets its signature smokiness.

Distillery manager Paisley said: “Fèis Ìle is always a highlight of the whisky calendar, and 2024’s festival is set to be no different. Every year, our team raises the bar in terms of what we’re able to offer our guests, and we’re super happy with the programme of experiences, music, and tastings the team has put together to celebrate our wonderful smoky whisky.”

On 27 May, Caol Ila’s festival day will celebrate its namesake, the sound of Islay, with a maritime inspired programme paying homage to the distillery’s location. Highlights of the day will include:-

Meet the New Manager: New Caol Ila distillery manager, Eva Cumming, joins Fèis Ìle veteran Colin Dunn in the Maturation Warehouse to discuss her love of whisky, Islay and of course Caol Ila, while offering with five ‘superlative’ drams, including the Fèis bottling 2024 and her choice of an outstanding sample drawn from a single cask.

How Do You See The Sea: Enjoy Caol Ila drams during a creative session with the distillery’s neighbour from Persabus Pottery, Rosemary Fletcher, exploring the colours, patterns, and textures of Islay’s wild, and beautiful seascapes, with a series of art processes and exercises using charcoal and pastels.

Flavour & History: Gain insight into how Caol Ila blends and malts are selected, and the importance of Caol Ila’s signature smokiness, from Peter Milne, who created the 2024 FèisLimited Release Bottling 2024 and Diageo archivist Joanne McKerchar. Guests will have a one-off chance to blend and create a unique whisky of their own while exploring the influence of distillery character and maturation on flavour.

Distillery manager Cumming said: “2024 marks my first Fèis Ìle as Caol Ila distillery manager and seeing all the energy and enthusiasm the team has put into creating our experiences has been a real inspiration. This festival is on the bucket list of pretty much every Islay whisky lover no matter where they are in the world, and I can confidently say there will be some wonderful memories made this May.”

This year will also see the re-opened Port Ellen Distillery feature in the Fèis Ìle calendar on the afternoon of Tuesday 28th May. Tickets for that experience will be released in the coming weeks.