Wednesday, January 6, 2016

More on Feis Ile... Guest opinion - the infamous Steffen Bräuner

OMG He cracks me up!!!
So in continuation with my Feis Ile review and stories it's time to share another point of view from someone who has been to Islay 5 times but this was his very first Feis Ile festival. If you don't know Steffen Bräuner, by golly please get to know him. He's probably one of the funniest if not smartest bloggers I've ever met. Here is the blog he wrote about his trip to Feis Ile for 2015:

 I also asked Steffen to answer my 10 question survey that I had sent out to a few people who attended as I felt it was important to get as many opinions (from first timers like myself and Steffen to hardcore fans) Here is what he thought:

1. Do you think every whisky geek should attend Feis Ile at least once?

"Feis Ile
 is one the major whisky festivals in the world. If you were to make a survey I would guess most enthusiasts will have this in their top 3. I think this already answered the question! I wouldn't go every year because I like to visit many different whisky festivals. Of course, I can't do them all every year but I come back now and again."

2. What do you think is the best option for accommodations during the festival and why?

"I feel the best option is to get a cottage. Go with a group. Bring some whisky. Invite some people over. Drink some whisky. It's quite nice if you have a private dramming place for the evenings if nothing much else is going on." 
3. What was the best distillery day for you and why? 

"This is a tough question to answer. The distillery days are more less similar. I managed to get around Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Ardbeg and Lagavulin. All distillery days and distilleries will have some special events, but they just sell out too fast. It would help if events capacity matched the interest.  

Laphroaig stood out for me. It had an ongoing set of mini tastings, around 5 different ones I think, if not more. All were three drams for a tenner, with different themes. These tasting went on all day and you couldn't book them in advance. But there was plenty. This was a great idea in my opinion. Laphroiag also offered the best whiskies for me and I really enjoyed all their anniversary bottlings: Cairdeas 2015, the new 15yo and the new 21yo.

Caol Ila and Lagavulin had similar events, on a much smaller scale though, where you could taste 2 or 3 casks samples in a blind tasting quiz. Also a very good idea."

4. What distillery day did you not enjoy and wouldn't recommend? 

"I didn't like Bruichladdich day at all. All events were basically sold out before they even hit the internet, and the possibilities to taste some interesting whiskies at the event were quite limited. For gods sake, take the whisky out of the events and make something fun available on the day itself as well. The few whiskies you could try were not my favourites, and for me personally I go to whisky festivals to try whiskies."
5. What did you appreciate and enjoy the most about visiting Islay?

"All the nice people I met and all the good whisky they brought along."
Our whisky hike up to the American Monument - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (I didn't forget Peter this time!!)

6. What about a visit to the youngest distillery - Kilchoman, would you recommend it? 

"I did not visit Kilchoman because… I have some issues with Kilchoman, and this trip didn't help, it just got worse. Anything they bottle not from ex-bourbon is terribly terribly sulphured for my palate (but not for most others), so this is a distillery I just can't get along with. A few odd things happened for me with this distillery as well when I was on Islay, some of them my own fault, but it all builds up to the fact that I will never be a big fan, to say it mildly."

7. What surprised you the most about this festival?

"The thing that surprised me the most about Feis Ile and/or Islay was the generosity of other festival guests, and the amazing whiskies they brought. A big part of the quality of this festival is created by the people attending."

8. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can give to someone about Feis Ile? 

"Start planning well ahead, probably 2-3 years in advance if you can because you need accommodations, which can be hard to find. I would also make sure to go with a group, as you have to spend 9-10 days on Islay if you want to experience the whole festival. That's a long time, and not much happens on Islay, which might suit some better than others. All the other times I have been to Islay was outside the festival and just 3-4 days every time, but the festival visit was my favourite."

9. Budget...?

"I don't usually do budgets but I guess the trip was cheaper than most other whisky trips I do. We didn't spend a lot of money on restaurants and bars, which, for me, has a huge impact on lowering the price of a holiday. Home cooking and private dramming can make a holiday cheap."

10. If someone said they only had one day to spend on Islay during Feis Ile  what would you recommend?
"Driving around to as many distilleries as possible to get some bottles, because… One day is way too short for Islay!! Both inside or outside of the festival dates. I would try to hit as many distilleries to get whisky. Not necessarily the festival bottling as there are a lot of other good offers. Bunnahabhain just introduced a very good 'bottle your own facility" with three casks, which in my opinion were some of the better offers. In fact these bottle your own Bunnahabhains were better than their festival bottlings. 
I would also make sure to get around the distillery day that just happens to be on the day you are there, just so you can experience the festival mood and if possible try to find in a Lagavulin Warehouse Tour. It's available outside of the festival timeline as well. I love it so much I've done it several times."

Well there it is, one of the most well travelled whisky people I know and love. It's funny how sometimes opinions can be so opposite. From my perspective I disliked Laphroaig day, loved Bruichladdich day and thought the Kilchoman day was superb!?  We agreed on a lot of the other stuff though like the kindness and generosity of other whisky enthusiasts from around the world. In the end, Steffen and I think the same which is sometimes if you simply take the focus OFF whisky, some pretty amazing things happen that usually involve fantastic whiskies...  Go figure!? All I can add to what Steffen thinks is that for me, Steffen, Bryan and yes Peter (I always seem to forget that poor guy) MADE my Feis Ile quite a special and amazing visit. I highly suggest you go with a group of people you like and bring out the best in whisky and friendships!

Here's to the lovely people we meet during the festivals we attend and may those friendships continue to grow over the years! I personally cannot wait to Spirit of Speyside where I will get to see many of the same people I hung out with at Feis!
May your whisky adventure be as full and wonderful as mine! I have a few more Feis Ile reviews to post. Up next was my day on Jura which was one of the most unforgettable days on my Scotland trip and a review from Ansgar and Thomas Speller, whisky writers/bloggers from the Netherlands. 

Huzzah my fine whisky fiends!!!


1 comment:

  1. It was fun to read Steffens opinion. Fully agree with him that "the quality of a festival is created by the attendees". I'll ask him about his issues with Kilchoman when I'll meet him again - and when he isn't sober ;-)