Tag Archive: Ardbeg


Ardbeg: Blaaack: Committee 20th Anniversary (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep dark gold colour with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Wet wood. Crushed red grapes. Salt. Black and red liquorice. Medicinal touch. Slight green grapes. Pencil shavings. Salty rocks. Slight charring. Brown sugar. Water adds oily peat notes and a touch of tar.

Body: Blueberry. Salt. Wet rocks. Warming alcohol. Cake sponge. Charring. Earthy wine character. Water adds caramel. Soot. Fig rolls. More blueberry. Some subtle cherries.

Finish: Smoke. Soot. Bitter chocolate dust. Plums. Earthy. Fig rolls. Water adds dust balls. Blueberry. Charring. More bitter chocolate and a medicinal touch.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m a known Ardbeg fan, and with that taken as fact, this is still, in fact, something special.

For one it is a good quality Ardbeg – peaty, sooty, heavy, lightly medicinal and slightly dry. The Pinot Noir ageing hasn’t overwhelmed or replaced any of the distinctive Ardbeg qualities. The alcohol is present but never intrusive, even taken without water.

Neat it has an interesting look at the Pinot Noir influence. There are some red grape notes, but it has a kind of earthy wine character that reminds me of the European takes rather than the fruitier NZ Pinot Noir that they used for ageing. It adds a fruity but heavy note to the dram.

Water brings out a completely different interpretation of the wine notes. It is sweeter, with blue fruit, figs and most notably blueberry. It is subtle in how it works – the front is all Ardbeg but it has these dark fruit rounding notes that just take it to another level.

Unlike some of the committee releases – one that I still adore – this really plays to traditional Ardbeg strengths and just enhances it. A bit deeper, a bit more rounded, but not such a surprise as , say, Drum was.

If you know Ardbeg, it is that, but earthier, sweeter and slightly smoother. Utterly amazing. I could talk more, but I would probably just end up repeating myself. Flaws? Well it isn’t as good as the XOP Ardbeg 1992, but what is? And this isn’t stupid money to buy.

Are you an Ardbeg fan? If you see it, try it if you can.

Background: Another year, another Committee release, and Ardbeg have gone with something very interesting for their 20th anniversary. Pinot Noir aged Ardbeg. Now they don’t say Pinot Noir finished, so I presume at least some of the whisky is completely aged in Pinor Noir casks, but I could be wrong. Also I didn’t managed to try the cask strength version to compare like I did with Ardbeg Drum a while back. A pity, would have been cool to compare. Anyway, I love Ardbeg – Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can recognise easily, so grabbing this from Independent Spirit was a certainty for me. Of note, the bottle is as black as its name – you have to hold it up to direct light and look carefully to be able to tell how much whisky you have left in there. A minor annoyance. Went with heavy music to back this – the hardcore punk of Gallows: Orchestra of Wolves.

Ardbeg: An Oa (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46.6% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly pale gold. A mix of slow and fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Brine. Fresh dough. Salt. Subtle white grapes. Wet rocks. Water adds peat, moss and crushed sunflower seeds.

Body: Medicinal. Sherry trifle. Salt. Solid peat centre. Fudge. Leather. Strawberry. Water adds muggy smoke and red grapes.

Finish: Ash, Peat smoke. Dry. Slight malt chocolate. Tobacco. Strawberry chocolate. Smoked beef. Slight grapes. Water adds more alcohol tingle. Trifle. Dry toffee. Toasted teacakes. White chocolate. Vanilla.

Conclusion: As always with full sized whisky bottles, I’ve had a few drams out of this already to give it time to open up and air before doing the proper tasting notes. Again, this extra time to air has definitely paid dividends.

It is mildly, and I must emphasise very mildly, restrained for an Ardbeg. Yep, what we have here is a medicinal, salty, peaty and briny beast, but just slightly mellowed from the standard 10 year. Don’t worry, this isn’t Ardbeg lemonade edition. It is still a beast, just a restrained beast. A restrained beast that can still be let loose at any time.

The restraint comes from a gentle toffee, fudge and trifle sweetness. While subtle in its neat form, this becomes very noticeable with water, even bringing out white chocolate and subtle grape notes into the mix. So, yep, another one where a touch of water really helps the whisky shine – but the bigger, booming and medicinal dram it is neat is no slouch either.

It is meaty, always smokey – from ash to smoked meat with nods to growling peat bogs when neat. However amongst the Ardbeg range it does feel like the approachable Ardbeg. Again, don’t worry it is still Ardbeg, it still fights.

The first few drams I had of this were only good. Now, with time to air, it is excellent. Lots of Ardbeg weight and salt, medicinal and peat but with more sweetness. Not Ardbeg Drum level sweet, just a more subtle, softer sweetness that really adds behind the Ardbeg punch.

At the price point this is just amazing. A must have for Islay fans.

Background: I saw this while in the duty free area of the airport in India. They were trying to convince me it was a travel exclusive. It is not. I grabbed this bottle from The Whisky Exchange. So there. This is a new(ish) addition to Ardbeg’s main line up. A no age statement whisky that has been aged in new charred oak, PX casks and first fill bourbon casks. Sounds very nice, and is decent priced so I grabbed a bottle. It also helps thats since its release it has won many an award – three of which are listed on the box – at the 2019 International Whisky Competition it got best Scottish Single Malt NAS, Best Isaly Single malt, and the distillery getting distillery of the year. Not bad, hope it lives up to its reputation. Went with Bad Religion: Age Of Unreason for music to listen to while drinking. Finally grabbed it as I had tickets to go see them live soon. Sooo, anyway, that isn’t happening now. Ah well.

Ardbeg: Drum (Standard Release) (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slightly darkened grain colour. A mix of fast thick streaks, and then slower streaks follow up from the spirit.

Nose: Pineapple. Brine. Salty rocks. Dry smoke. Quite strong alcohol. Fish skins. Moss. Brown bread. Burnt sugar. Water adds sea breeze. Smoother but still present alcohol.

Body: Slightly medicinal. Dry smoke. Subtle banana liqueur. Cherries and sultanas. Dry sherry trifle. Banana bread. Slightly waxy. Warming spice. Water adds clearer banana and waxy banana leaves. Clearer dark fruit. Turmeric and lightly earthy notes. Slight apple.

Finish: Smoke. Dried beef slices. Malt chocolate. Slight spices. Dry sherry. Raisins. Subtle dried banana. Waxy sheen. Water adds spicy rum and light peppery character.

Conclusion: Ok, so I loved the committee release version of this. How does this, more restrained abv, release compare? Well, obviously it is different – I’ll get to that in a mo – but, short answer – I still love it.

So, the lower abv seems to have reduced some of the sweetness that characterised the cask strength version. This is a cleaner, drier take with more of the Islay medicinal and salt showing through. The banana notes are still there, though more subtle. Instead it has room to show more raisins, spicy rum and similar darker notes playing in the drier body.

It’s got a lot less room for water to play with, as you might expect from the lower abv. A few drops open the whisky up, but any more than that seems to dampen the whole experience. Still worth a few drops though, as you get much more banana, rum and some of that waxy feel back with it.

I prefer the committee release – it has a lot more room and range, but I will admit here it is more recognisably Ardbeg, and less dessert touched, so will play better to those who want a more pure Islay experience.

Still great, a different take on the Drum, more for Ardbeg purists. Not quite as good in my opinion, but still great and highly recommended.

Background: Ok, this may or may not be cheating. I did notes on the cask strength Committee Release version of this that I tried at an Uber Whisky Tasting Night. I liked it so much, that when I got a chance to try this, easier to get, normal abv release of the whisky, I did so without hesitation. So now I am doing notes on it. It is a different abv, it counts as a different whisky honest. I am not just indulging myself. Honest. Anyway, again this is Ardbeg that has been finished in Caribbean rum casks. Very nice. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

Ardbeg: Drum – Committee Release (Islay Single Malt Whisky: 52% ABV)

Visual: Very clear and light. Mix of fast and slow medium sized streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Heavy peat. Lightly waxy. Slight salt. Waxed fruit. Slight sugar cane. Fresh brown bread. Ripe banana. Banana leaves. Water adds nail polish and dried meat.

Body: Banana. Oily. Oily peat. Caramelised sugar. Rum. Palma violets. Water adds banana yogurt. Peat. Grapes.

Finish: Caramelised brown sugar. Molasses. Cherries. Rum. Peat. Banana and banana leaves. Waxy. Pear drops. Banana custard. Fatty sausage.

Conclusion: This feels like the most unexpected of experiences for me. It is a tropical tasting Ardbeg. It comes in with such a punch of a peaty aroma, but then drops you into smooth (and yes still peat influenced) perfection behind. It punches peat out, punches out waxy and heavy, burnt brown sugar and oily notes. It feels initially like it is going to be one to punch your teeth out.

On that first sip instead it comes in with subtle waxy, oily notes below the peaty weight, and leaves a touch of room which is nigh instantly filled by the rum coming in. It floods in with spicy and dry notes backed by lots of burnt, caramelised brown sugar and even molasses like notes.

More than that, what makes this seem so utterly different is that it has so much banana character added into this – waxy banana, mashed banana, banana yogurt, banana custard. Lots of banana notes really selling the tropical imagery and working so well against the spicier rum notes. Very sweet, always present behind the oily, peaty character.

Heavy peat, heavy sweet, thick waxy mouthfeel, meaty weight. It has full Ardbeg weight but is so sweet, rum touched and vibrant behind that. This is a legend, so polished, weighing the Ardbeg character but unlike any Ardbeg I have tried before.

It is something I never expected – a dessert meets Ardbeg peat whisky. It is both different and amazing, If you get the chance, and it is not silly money, try it. Genuinely great

Background: Final of the five whiskies tried at Independent Spirit‘s Uber Whisky Tasting. Ok, there was a sixth bonus one, this was the last official one, ok. This is this year’s take on the annual Arbeg Committee Release and one I was very excited to try – a rum finished Ardbeg! Going for stupid amounts of money if you try and find it online now, I was so chuffed to see it in the tasting so I could give it a go. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best.

EDIT: This is the Committee Release version which is 52% abv compared to the standard release which I just found out exists and is 46% abv.

Douglas Laing: Platinum XOP Ardbeg 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 50.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light grain with green touches. Fast, thick streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Charcoal. Medicinal. Soot. Cheesy yeastiness to mature cheddar. Light orange zest. Burnt marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate, kippers and vanilla.

Body: Strong alcohol. Oily. Almost evaporates on tongue. Waxy and medicinal. Slight traditional lemonade. Water adds mature cheese, fudge and a lime touch. More water adds custard, smoked fish and nut oils. Later vanilla, coconut and light golden syrup notes.

Finish: Butterscotch. Oily. Charring. Tart grapes. Salt. White pepper. Water adds mature cheddar, squeezed lime and light cherry. Walnut oils. Milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Well fuck me, this is one heck of a dram. Now, neat it is intense, but slightly closed. There is massive charcoal, medicinal notes, massively oily and waxy. It is one that hits the throat and then almost evaporates away, just leaving charring and salt. There some hints of more to it though – a cheese yeastiness, slight sweetness, but they are only hints. Similarly traditional lemonade imagery floats over it, but never quite forms fully.

Now, when you add water, holy shit that is when you start to get real play from this! Mature full bodied cheese flavour now matched with oily nut flavours and feel that adds such depth to the once closed whisky.

The bourbon cask notes are now slowly coming out with the usual vanilla, fudge and coconut sweetness as light notes against the heavy oils – notes that rise up the more you add water into syrup and custard fuller sweet notes. However at no point does it forget its base, booming with charcoal and smoked kipper heaviness, just now with more behind that.

This is intense, complex, sweet with delicate notes somehow surviving the oily nut character and medicinal style. Now, this is not nine hundred pounds good to me, as I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around, but it is the best damn Ardbeg I have ever encountered, so for people who have that kind of money, then yeah I would say get it.

Background: So, before we go any further, I found out how much this cost. Nearly nine hundred fucking quid. Fuck me. Anyway… this was the third whisky of Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber whisky tasting. You may have wondered where the 2nd went. It was Glenfarclas 21, I had already done notes on that. Still a good dram. Anyway, this is cask strength, single cask, bottled in 2018, unchillfiltered, Ardbeg that is one of 251 bottles, so something very special to try. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again – especially for this one.

Ardbeg Perpetuum

Ardbeg: Perpetuum (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 47.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Medium speed and thickness streaks.

Nose: Smoke. Oily fish skins. Intense. Swordfish steak. Creamy. Salt sea spray. Wet rocks. Light sherry trifle – especially sherry soaked sponge and brandy cream. Water adds floral and crushed grit notes.

Body: Warming. Noticeable alcohol. Rum and raisins. Brown bread. Beef broth. Peaty. Sherry trifle. Oily and creamy feel mix. Cream flavour notes. Water makes less alcohol, adds lime cordial and bigger peat. Orange crème, vanilla fudge and far more trifle come out.

Finish: Peat. Dry. Dried beef slices. Raisins sweetness. Trifle. Light cherries. Vanilla toffee. Cream. Malt drinks. Water adds lime, peppercorn, fudge pavlova, red wine and gentle spice.

Conclusion: Intense. Very intense. Creamy. Full on peat yet aged smoothness of character. Vanilla bourbon sweetness and sherry full on flavours. Damn. Just, damn. Normally peaty whisky is a trade off. The intenseness of the peat is a young whisky’s game, and fades with age. Smoothness is the character of distinguished age that young whisky cannot match. Mixing young and old spirit this manages to do both. I really sounded like a corporate shill there didn’t I? However, hell, it is true.

Neat it has all of the salt, medicinal character, peat and meat character you would expect of an Islay, especially an Ardbeg. The alcohol is warming and present but doesn’t get in the way of a smooth but intense Ardbeg expression. Here the bourbon sweetness leads with vanilla toffee and fudge notes, working alongside the intense style – however there are hints from the sherry on the side giving raisins and sherry trifle notes.

The use of water flips this around – much more smooth, beafy and peaty, but the sweet sherry trifle and spice take the floor for a richer, fuller, and more balanced take. More mellow, but still intense, with much more going on.

Of course, if then you want to flip it back to bourbon influence leading again, then you have to pour yourself another measure. Oh the pain. Then add water to sherry it up, then pour another shot to get the bourbon back, then… and so on as the infinite loop continues in perpetuity. Ok, that time I really did sound like a corporate shill.

Jokes aside, this is legitimately great – hits all the range of Islay – salt, beef, oil, peat – and all the character of an aged whisky in smoothness, bourbon and sherry character. One of the few whiskies that I can easily say is worth the best part of a hundred quid price tag.

Background: Special whisky time. This is one that I had been umming and ahhing about if I should get it for a while, the 200th anniversary bottling of Ardbeg, but it is a tad expensive. In the end it was got for me as a gift thus solving my dilemma. Many thanks indeed! It is a mix of old and young whisky, and a mix of bourbon and sherry ageing. It was released during Feis Ile 2015. I was trying to save it until after going to see The Libertine play at the theatre, it just seemed appropriate, but my willpower failed and I drank it a day early. Which kind of also was appropriate all things considered. Drunk while listening to Dethklok – Dethalbum 3. A big whisky deserves big music.

Ardbog

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.

Ardbeg: Uigeadail (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: No age statement: 54.2% ABV)

Visual: A rich but light gold.

Viscosity: Medium thickness streaks form from the spirit, neither slow nor quick.

Nose: Charred wood. Light iodine and salt. Warming. Heated oils. Smoke. Barbecued fish. Oak.

Body: Very strong. Charring and charcoal up first. Lots of alcohol and old oak feel. A touch of boggy peat. Water adds a light sweetness, possibly custard like, which contrasts the harsher content.

Finish: Dry peat and very dry charring. Gin like in dryness. So yes, very dry. Water makes a massive smoke come out with the charring. Salty. Water also adds the lightest malt chocolate sweet offset

Conclusion: Huh. I never knew it was possible to burn a whisky. This thing is all charred husks and salt. Oddly it seems to favour the slightly medicinal character that I would associate with Laphroaig rather than the usual Ardbeg peat explosion.

Lots of salt character, however most noticeable is the extreme dryness which puts me in mind of the cask strength Glen Ord I had a while back. Again, like the Glen Ord playing with water to offset the cask strength didn’t seem to dampen the dryness. However here we did get a light sweetness contrast, I presume from the increased sherry representation

So unfortunately while this is a nigh universally well received whisky, like the glen ord it was too dry for my tastes.  The gin and salt style feels like it needs more to work with, as otherwise the alcohol punch feels like it has too much free reign.  I suppose that is what the sherry is meant to do, but I can’t quite see it.  Possibly it just needs the right water balance to bring out, something it’s hard to do without having a full bottle to play with. I can but review the drink I drank however and that I’m afraid to say was not to my tastes.  It just lacked that meaty grip, or mainstay component to grab onto. The alcohol strength, massive charring emphasis, and an attempt more subtle style just doesn’t play well together.  Ah well.

Background: At the time of trying I did not know how well regarded this whisky was. No less that Jim Murray called it world whisky of the year in 2009. Probably for the best I didn’t know so not to have expectations up. This whisky has a significant chunk of it sherry aged compared to the normal Ardbeg.  I’m a huge fan of Islay whisky, with Lagavulin being my favourite. Drunk at the Rummer Hotel in Bristol which has a quite quite silly sized spirit selection.  There was a zombie walk going on at Bristol at the time creating very odd atmosphere.

Ardbeg 10 Year (Scottish Single Malt Islay Whisky: 10 years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light pale straw.

Viscosity: Moderate speed and thickness.

Nose: Peat and salt, pure and simple.

Body: Warm rising peat and a meaty texture. Leather and barbecued sausage. Harsh alcohol fire, and just the tiniest sweetness before the fire rises again. Raw ginger.

Finish: Peat and smoke with harsh feel and taste.

Conclusion: You cannot mistake this assault on the senses. There may be subtleties to this whisky but I’m buggered if I can tell them under the huge dose of peat and fire.

Don’t take this as a criticism as what it does is fantastic and wakes the sense as if they have previously been asleep after a run in with a spinning needle.

Don’t expect subtlety but embrace the fire and power of this fantastic whisky.

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