Origin: Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon and ex-Marsala
Additional coloring: No
Owner: Moet Hennessy
Average price: € 330.00
Official website: www.ardbeg.com
It was the year 2012, and although we are talking about almost ten years ago, even then Ardbeg’s marketing department stood out for the great inventiveness and originality that we all (more or less) love today.
Let’s take a few steps back to 1999, the year to which the distillate in this particular bottle belongs, which was poured to mature in ex-Bourbon casks and a small number of ex-Marsala casks, to then produce 15,000 bottles twelve years later.
So far, nothing strange… except that it’s rumored that in 2011, in a project created in cooperation with NASA, a small part of this batch was sent to the space station to study the behaviour of whisky in zero gravity.
Only a rumor because, in reality, things didn’t go exactly like that.
In 2011, NanoRacks LLC launched a mission to study the behaviour of certain molecules in zero gravity, sending into space, among many others, whisky molecules… but not from this whisky, since the experiment lasted two years while this edition came out just a year later.
It is therefore a celebratory version of this peculiar event, which with a genial marketing move was exploited for the launch (of the whisky, not of the rocket) without actually ever explicitly declaring that it had been in space, but with a whole series of amusing features among which a dedicated page (no longer available) where you could upload your own photo with a space helmet!
On a more serious note, it’s very interesting to find a NAS whose ageing is actually known, and which has used ex-Marsala casks not for finishing but for complete maturation.
Amber in the glass.
Unusually accommodating on the nose, where the peat takes time to emerge, salty and toasty, dipped in ripe fruit (plums, red fruits, gooseberries), a touch of vanilla, brown sugar, rosemary, lemon zest. At length it becomes herbaceous, with a distinct influence of wet leaves. Unusual for an Ardbeg but intriguing.
The palate is very full-bodied and oily, where the herbaceous component becomes sylvan with pine needles, undergrowth and balsamic tones. Very dark in flavour, with liquorice, plums, blackberries, rhubarb, a good dose of black pepper and Catalan cream. Seaweed and toasted bacon embrace to act as a common thread to the dram, with a consistent burn along the length.
The finish is long and very dry, savoury, with liquorice, rhubarb, toasted wood, cooked pear.
If the finish perhaps tends to flatten out a little, it’s otherwise a very special whisky, not only for being an Ardbeg but also for the fusion of flavours, where the sweet tones of the Marsala underpin the saltiness and peat in a surprising balance which, however, does not hold up over the length. But it remains an excellent dram.