Last week I posted the first of three reviews of early 1970s Ardbegs from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask line. I really, really liked that 27 yo. Here now is the first of two 28 yos. As noted in the previous review, these bottles did not have cask numbers on them and are identified by a combination of distillation and bottling years and their outturn. In this case, the abv is relevant too: at 50.1% it’s a touch higher than the usual 50% of the OMC line. Anyway, let’s get right to it.
Ardbeg 28, 1972-2000 (50.1%; 234 Bottles; Douglas Laing OMC; from a bottle split)
Nose: Bright, phenolic peat: more citrus and cereals here than in the 27 yo. Starts expanding almost immediately with salt crystals and olive brine, more disinfectant and the sweet, sweet stink of the sea. A little inkier as it sits and even more coastal (the sea, the beach, the air). More lime peel now and pickled mustard seed. With more time there’s some ham cure here too but not as pronounced as in the 27 yo. A few drops of water push the smoke back a bit and pull out more of the coastal notes and more of the ham cure and some preserved lemon.
Palate: Sweeter to start and then a huge wave of smoke—again it’s bright rather than dark/tarry, at least at first. The citrus just about manages to peep out. On the second sip the citrus is more present and there’s more salt too here now. Wonderful texture again, coats the mouth (just one ounce of this and there’s no drinking anything else after). Gets more phenolic as it sits, with ink and tarrier smoke emerging. More acidic with water but the smoke doesn’t recede here—if anything, it gets more assertive.
Finish: Long. The smoke turns to coal and then to ash, which goes on forever. More acidic here too with water, with more of the coal and less of the ash.
Comments: This is an even more straightforward bourbon cask peated whisky of its style than the 27 yo and it’s about as good as this style gets before it starts getting transcendental. But do you know who is still making bourbon cask peated whisky of nearly this quality and of a much younger age (and smaller hit to your wallet)? Lagavulin.
Rating: 91 points.