Continuing an unplanned mini-run of discontinued Islays in their late teens, here is the Ardbeg 17, which was, I believe, the first release from the distillery after it was purchased by the Glenmorangie group in 1997. It was discontinued in 2004. I got this miniature in an unlikely swap. A fellow whisky geek offered it in exchange for the tin of a Port Charlotte PC9. I was only too glad to take him up on it. I can’t be bothered to squint for the bottling code, but this is a 43% bottling for the US market and as per the Ardbeg Project there was only one release of the 50 ml miniature in the US and that was in 2000 (well before I’d ever heard of Ardbeg). I’m not sure how much production was happening right before the 1983 closure of the distillery (it reopened in 1989)–it’s possible that this is from even older distillate. It is certainly the case that those who bought the 17 yo released in 2004 were getting much older whisky.
Anyway, I’m very excited to taste this–let’s get started! Continue reading
The Ardbeg special release for 2014, the Auriverdes, which commemorates the World Cup in Brazil, is already out in the US (odd, as usually the special releases don’t hit the shelves till June 1); and there’s talk as well of a new edition of the Supernova on the way. As such, it seemed like a good time for me to finally taste my samples of the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Supernova head to head—in a few years time I’ll get around to the Galileo, the Ardbeg Day, and the Ardbog.
As you may know, the Supernova, first released to the Ardbeg Committee in 2008 (back when “committee release” meant something) and then in two editions in 2009 and 2010, was Ardbeg’s experiment with very high peating levels. The regular Ardbeg is already peated to a very high level by normal standards (54 ppm) but the barley for the Supernovas was peated to 100 ppm. Of course, this number is dwarfed by those for every release of Octomore from Bruichladdich (which also first emerged in 2008) but the Ardbeg name carries a certain cachet. It does appear though that Ardbeg ceded the peat arms race to Bruichladdich almost immediately. If there is indeed a new Supernova on the horizon it’ll be interesting to see how high it goes with the peat ppm.
Anyway, let’s see what these two are like. Continue reading
That whisky geeks suffer from OCD (or maybe enjoy is the better verb here) is well known–we chase after and compare batches of Aberlour A’bunadh, Laphroaig 10 CS, Springbank 12 CS etc. etc.. None of this, however, compares to the mania of the Ardbeg obsessives who, in the absence of helpfully provided batch information on the labels, track bottling codes, parsing them not just for the year of distillation but for the exact bottling run. Clear distinctions between years and narrow periods are claimed by many and there are even some who insist on being able to tell differences between batches bottled at different times in the same year. I sometimes idly wonder if Ardbeg would be quite so popular if they just put all the identifying information on their labels. At any rate, it’s very good for their sales as there’s infinite granularity for the collectors this way–instead of just one Ardbeg 10 you can have an Ardbeg 10 from every year for which a bottle code is available, and instead of just one Ardbeg 10 from that year you can have many. It just goes to show that distilleries don’t really need to stimulate mania among geeks; we manage just fine on our own. Continue reading
I’ve had a very mild cold for a couple of days now. It’s not really knocked out my nose or tastebuds but I’m not drinking anything I like very much or taking notes for reviews until it’s gone. Instead, I’ve been drinking other things and little bits of whiskies I’ve recently been a little disappointed in. In this latter category fall the Ballechin 5 (Marsala)–to be reviewed soon–and the new(ish) Ardbeg “Ardbog”–to be reviewed in a month or two. Neither are bad–and I like the Ardbog more than the Ballechin–but neither seemed like they’d be wasted on me under current conditions either. Oddly enough, I liked them both a fair bit more last night. The dry, farmy peat of the Ballechin seemed to be tamped down and the Ardbog just tasted rounder (this may also be due to the bottle having been open for a few months now). I’ll be interested to try them again once this cold is done (hopefully in a day or two) and see what I make of them again. Continue reading
I first tasted this beauty of a sherried Ardbeg at a somewhat decadent tasting of sherried whiskies in St. Paul this past February. I may have mentioned this tasting before–a number of whisky enthusiasts got together and each brought at least one non-standard bottle of sherried whisky. There were a number of standouts that evening, including a very old G&M Longmorn and a quite young SMWS Bowmore that one of the hosts brought out as a special “dessert” treat. I thought this Ardbeg was not very far behind. My friend Rich, who brought it, included a sample in a swap we conducted the same evening–a swap in which I sent out far more samples than I got back but came out much further ahead. (More on Rich’s generosity in the coming weeks.) I’ve been both looking forward to trying it again and feeling reluctant to then be in the position to not be able to try it again. This run of sherried whiskies, especially this mini-run of sherried and peated whiskies, seems like as good a time as any to renew the acquaintance. Continue reading
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). Continue reading
Another Elements of Islay bottling from Speciality Drinks, this time an Ardbeg. (see here and here for my reviews of the Lg1 and Lg2.) The second they released in the series, to be specific: the Ar2. No word on whether the bottle contains secret holograms from princesses on the run from galactic empires, but doubtless if I drank enough of this 60.5% whisky fast enough I would be able to see them.Indie Ardbegs are not quite as rare as indie Lagavulins but they’re not terribly easy to find either. And with that I have exhausted my opening patter; let’s get right to it:
This is not a very timely review. The Alligator was Ardbeg‘s special release a couple of years ago and is very much day-before-yesterday’s news, having been displaced first by the Ardbeg Day release, and then by the controversial Galileo—and we’re less than two months away from the 2013 special release. Ardbeg, if you don’t know, currently has three whiskies in their regular lineup—the Ardbeg 10, the Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan—and, in addition, release, with a great deal of fanfare (or nonsense, if you prefer) one or two special bottlings every year. These releases are usually experimental in some way. Last year’s Galileo caused a great deal of underpants twisting among a large segment of whisky geeks. This was on account of it being a vatting of bourbon cask matured Ardbeg (so far, so good) with some marsala cask matured Ardbeg (apparently, worse than genocide, if you go by the outcry in some quarters). To my mind, the objections were largely religious in nature, coming from those who object to wine casks on principle, even if they might not in practice be able to tell a vatting containing marsala cask matured whisky from one containing unobjectionable sherry cask matured whisky. I said as much on a prominent whisky forum and this led to a whisky blogger, who doesn’t seem to have matured at all, calling me an “arsole”, which is accurate but not good spelling.