Origin: Isle of Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-American oak and ex-Sherry
Additional coloring: No
Owner: Moet Hennessy
Average price: € 340.00
Official website: www.ardbeg.com
As always, I return as a guest on WhiskyArt for the festive season.
I hope you’ll appreciate that I’m bringing a review of the third batch of what has become one of the most anticipated bottlings of the year – the Ardbeg 19yo Traigh Bhan – recovered with great expectations at the revamped Milano Whisky Festival 2021.
The whisky dedicated to the peculiar beach on the Islay coast is released in an annual limited edition, always following the same recipe but with small differences: in this third batch, they used American oak and ex-Oloroso Sherry casks, and finally the whisky was bottled and completed in the middle of the general lockdown caused by Covid-19. In short, Ardbeg never misses a legendary note, since the first was bottled during a terrible storm and the second during a day of thick and impenetrable fog…
After a first spacey bottling and a less convincing second, will this third one manage to win our hearts back?!
Light gold, almost greenish to the eye.
The nose is initially dominated by sweet spices between sherried and virgin cask notes. The general impression is of a fine artisan panettone: candied fruit, vanilla, sultanas, soft brioche. A strong vein of aniseed arrives, bringing with it the more peaty notes, but quietly: delicate sea breeze, kombu seaweed, unlit bonfire on the beach. Then some tropical fruit with pineapple, lime, starfruit, and a few vegetal hints like lapsang souchong tea and a resinous note of Mediterranean scrub. It’s decidedly convincing and mouth-watering, raising the bar of expectations to the highest level.
The entry on the palate is of great impact: very vertical, a damask steel blade that sweeps the tongue with savoury and mineral scents, sea peat, peppered beef jerky, smoked pears. Then bitter notes of tamarind, myrtle berries, liquorice, walnuts with eucalyptus honey, more anise and a touch of cayenne pepper. The contrast with the nose is surprising, but doesn’t bother you too much: after all, it’s Ardbeg, we’re used to it.
The problem is the finish. A bit like in the second edition, it’s rather light, but above all decomposed. It’s peated, salty, and therefore bitter, but not very deep, and not too long. The salivation is not really for enjoyment, but just to compensate for the bitterness.
It almost seems like a young whisky, certainly not a nineteen year old, and above all you don’t feel the Sherried influence that so characterised the nose. I personally like bitterness, but here it seems to me that it’s badly integrated and I cannot therefore give it an entirely positive assessment. It may be an Ardbeg, but it almost has that experimental Octomore character… Which maybe in the end makes it almost intriguing if you’re not afraid of strong contrasts. Here you will certainly find suitable peat for your palate which has been put to the test by the festive season.
By the way: all the best, happy reading, but above all, happy drinking!