Ardbeg: Ardbog (Scotland Islay Single Malt Whisky: No Age Statement: 52.1% ABV)
Visual: Dark gold.
Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.
Nose: Dry. Smoke. Peat and dry beef slices. Bogs and seaweed. Tar. Pears. Apples. Raisins. Waters adds light sulphur element.
Body: Pears. Peat. Beef slices. Dry and tongue numbing. Vanilla. Seaweed and salt. Fruitcake with cherries. Madeira. Water makes smother and adds marzipan but keeps the peat. The texture gains an oily style as it becomes more accessible.
Finish: Quite open. Smoke. Dry. Chocolate drops. Pears and grapes. Very peaty. Tar. Cloves. Water adds white grape, marzipan and an oily sheen.
Conclusion: Wow, this one is great. The peat is massive, but somehow does not dominate the spirit. I’m not quite sure how they do it, but I’m glad they do. The first kicks is still sheer force I will admit, all peat, bogs and dry beef slices. Then, as you are recovering you get the pears, apples and cherries all coming out. It is like a gift from the spirit to congratulate you for surviving the initial assault.
While the dryness will numb the tongue, the whisky is much smoother than its abv would suggest, in fact for such intensity of flavour the smoothness is even more surprising. What’s more you get more with water, it gains a great sweetness, marzipan and sherry that adds to an already complex character but without negating the peat smoke.
The use of texture is amazing, dry without being harsh, oily with water, down from slightly tarry without, again it is mixing elements you would not expect to see side by side. The fantastic fruit range and sweetness that water brings makes it feel like a peated dessert. Which turns out to be nicer than you would ever imagine from those words.
There is so much to it and so much that can be done with water to expand upon it. If it wasn’t for the fact that bottles were going for up to 350 quid last time I looked I would happily grab a bottle to experiment with to find out its full range. As is I am merely glad to have got the chance to try it.
This is great, all the peat, beef, salt and smoke backed by light and dark fruit.
I sat again. Wow.
Background: This was drunk at the amazing Independent Spirit Rare Whisky event at Circo. When they say rare they mean rare. This was released during the Feis Ile whisky festival and normally only available to committee members Ardbeg embassies. This expression was aged in bourbon and Manzanilla sherry casks. We had five whiskys that night, with other guests, my friend Matt, and Chris from Independent spirits all giving their thoughts. Since I know how easy it is to get psychosomatic flavours after someone else mentions them consider the above a view of the general opinion on the whisky so I can call it a feature rather than a bug. Due to the nature of the event my notes were somewhat haphazard, but hopefully I’ve managed to put them together into something readable.