Weird Beard: Sadako (貞子): Ardbeg Barrel Aged (England: Imperial Stout: 9.2% ABV)
Visual: Black. Thick creamy brown head of half a cm size.
Nose: Chocolate. Iodine. Beef slices. Peat and smoke. Brown bread.
Body: Thick. Brown bread. Charring. Iodine. Drying salt. Greenery. Sour dough. Some malt chocolate behind. Meaty back.
Finish: Brown bread. Smoke. Drying. Bitter chocolate. Salt and rocks. Sour dough. Iodine.
Conclusion: When you have a cask as booming as Ardbeg, you really need a big beer to go against it for cask ageing. For a case of it being done right check out De Molen’s Hemel & Aarde Octomore Barrel Aged (Yes I am aware that Octomore is from Bruichladdich – I’m just comparing intense whisky casks).
This, well oddly it tastes more Laphroaig than Ardbeg to my eyes – possibly because the barrel ageing only lets the harsher and more medicinal elements through, without the weight of the base whisky to contrast. Ardbeg was always a peaty beast, and you get that here, but it never was as medicinal as Laphroaig, which is why this is such a surprise.
The aroma is sheer quality Ardbeg, with the depth that entails, but the body comes in more as an assault of medicinal, salt iodine and the like. As I say, very Laphroaig. The feel backing it is a thick bready character – a heavy texture but flavour wise it feels quite neutral as a base for the whisky influence to work from. As it warms you do get a much needed peat meatiness that comes out, the whisky aging now giving it the backing it needs.
Now, you may notice at this point I’m talking a lot about the whisky influence but very little about the beer influence. There is a reason for that. The beer is damn near killed here – on the finish there is some bitter chocolate, and all throughout there is some sough dough, but generally? The beer just can’t compete.
Overall it is a hell of an experience, but not overly a great beer. For Ardbeg and Laphroaig fans this may mix things up a bit for you by delivering flavour but in a thicker, longing lasting experience.
For most everyone else – it just doesn’t gain much from the beer side of the equation. Just backing Ardbeg with brown bread. Meh I guess, it definitely shows the Islay style, but doesn’t add anything to it. Ah well.
Background: I tried to guess this thing’s translation without looking – I failed. I recognised the second Kanji as “Child” so, knowing this is a barrel aged beer, guessed it may be barrel or oak child. Then I found out there was a non barrel aged version so that screwed up that idea. Anyway, turns out Sadako is a women’s name, with literal translation of Chaste Child. In my defence I really haven’t needed to know the Japanese letter for “chaste” much in my use of Japanese. I’m fairly sure it is also the name of the antagonist ghost in “The Ring” but I may be wrong in that. Anyway, yes Ardbeg aged – Ardbeg is one of the heaviest duty Islay whiskys, so this should be interesting. Drunk while listening to early era Slipknot. No mocking me, I was a kid when I got into them and I like to listen and reminisce sometimes. This beer was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Incidentally, wax on bottles of beer was amusing for while, now so many beers have it that it just gets annoying. Stop putting tests between me and my beer damnit.