Origin: Isle of Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Rye
Additional coloring: No
Owner: Moet Hennessy
Average price: € 150.00
Official website: www.ardbeg.com
And here we are at this year’s Ardbeg Committee Release, as always marked by great sobriety and refinement as only the distillery’s marketing staff know how to do.
A bottling dedicated to Mickey Heads, Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager who, after 13 years, retired from his role in 2020 (moving on to become Chairman of the Committee), being celebrated with a unique release for this label: a maturation that took place entirely in casks that contained Rye whiskey, bottled at cask strength.
Arrrrrrrdbeg (with seven R’s) is presented on the label (and in the name) in a burlesque pirate theme, with the Heads himself portrayed as a pirate in the illustration of Butcher Billy, and is fully in line with the distillery’s unconventional bottles.
If you thought the Blaaack mouflon was a high point (or a low point, depending on your expectations), you’ll certainly have to think again now…
Light gold in the glass.
Coastal and vegetable peat on the nose, moist, thrown on the fire crackling with a gentle smoke dragging along pineapple, green apple, pear, liquorice, lemon juice, honey, vanilla sugar. Over time, the smoke becomes more compact and medicinal, and an impression of caramel and molasses appears. Condescending and gentle.
Liquorice and pepper begin on the palate, chaperoning pineapple, citrus (orange, pink grapefruit), pine needles, toasted cereals, lemon cream, shortbread, honey, caramel. And the smoke? More intense and chewy than on the nose, still in its maritime and salty essence, it acts as a trait d’union without excess. Clear spice (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg) on the length.
The finish is quite long and salty, of candied orange, burnt pine wood, pineapple, lemon, nutmeg.
The Rye maturation, apart from some influence especially on the nose, doesn’t seem to have made much difference. A pleasant dram, quite balanced, with the Ardbeg traits softened but not betraied… there’s nothing crooked or unpleasant about it, but I expected a sharper, more radical characterisation, instead of just a good dram. Had it been a “normal” release I would have given a highe vote, but from a Committee Release I expect much more.