I reviewed the Ar2, the second Ardbeg release in the Whisky Exchange/Speciality Drinks’ Elements of Islay series some months ago and unaccountably did not get around to following up with the Ar1. Well, here it is now. Not sure if/how many others were released in the series and am now too lazy to even click around a little to find out. If my condition does not improve by the time this is published perhaps someone will be so kind as to let me know.
Ardbeg, Ar1 (58.7%; Speciality Drinks; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sweet, cereally peat and bright carbolic smoke. A profile so clean and sharp you could operate with it on a battlefield with no risk of infection. Fresh bluefish guts and fat. After a bit there’s a lovely wave of preserved lemon and something almondy. A minute or two later this transitions to deep, sweet peat, wet limestone and ashes. Quite a lot of salt too now and also some charred meat. With a few drops of water (added more than 30 minutes after this was poured) it gets more acidic and the peat is now less clean (a farmy note appears).
Palate: As on the nose, the cereally peat hits first and then, as you swallow, oh my God (yes, I actually said it as I swallowed), a massive wave of tarry yet sweet peat and smoke washes over you for about 300 years. Immense. Like being caught in a dense fog but hoping not to make your way out. As it dissipates there’s that lemon again and some bright sweetness and salt. And lots and lots of iodine. Even more smoke and tar with a few drops of water but less balanced.
Finish: Long. Medicinal. Smoky. Lemony.
Comments: This is the stuff. It’s not terribly complex but if you like classic Islay peat this is the stuff. Very high strength, but does not need water (of course, you should keep in mind that my bottle has been open for a couple of years).
Rating: 90 points.