Origin: Isle of Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon and ex-New Zealand Pinot Noir
Additional coloring: No
Owner: Moet Hennessy
Average price: € 120.00
Official website: www.ardbeg.com
A special bottling to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Ardbeg Committee, dedicated to members only, when this ‘special’ bottle was announced, it caused quite a stir on social media, as was clearly the distillery’s aim.
The big sheep on the label is a tribute to the sheeps of New Zealand (which, as Ardbeg says, would be in a ratio of 7 to 1 with the inhabitants), the state of origin of the casks in which the maturation of the whisky was completed, ex-Pinot Noir.
On Ardbeg Day at the end of May this year, the “for everyone” version will be released, at a lower alcohol content of 46%.
This is the first time Ardbeg has used this type of cask to finish its whiskies, was it a gamble or a successful experiment?
Amber in the glass.
It’s a bizarre smell that greets you, unusual for an Ardbeg: the full-bodied and salty peat is there, but tamed by a decisive sweet component. Red fruits, green apple, caramel, vanilla and honey mingle with the acrid and medicinal smoke, alternating in the nostrils in a curious dance of aromas. We are, however, a long way from the calmness of An Oa, in other words, the peat remains predominant, fiercely smoky and moist, but it’s expressed in unusual sweet and fruity tones, dictated I imagine by the influence of pinot.
The palate reveals the strength of the whisky, with the alcohol content well present at the mouth, along with the very salty and peaty roar with a good peppery touch. But. Again, a sweet and cuddly profile hides beneath the burnt wood muscle, bringing in deep caramel notes, almost like a candy (with lots of almond), along with ripe fruit (lots of cherries, then raspberries and peach) and honey. Background of Caribbean cigar tobacco. It’s a continuous alternation of the two souls, which overlap without ever really merging, in an eternal conflict as to which should prevail.
The sweetness is defeated in the rather long finish of pepper, smoked seaweed, sea salt and burnt wood.
The balance is precarious, the two souls of the whisky never seem to reconcile, but it’s precisely this conflict that makes the dram varied and enjoyable, a variation on the Ardbeg theme that is both appetising and curious, an imbalance that may be a flaw for some but is a bonus for me.