Origin: Isle of Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon and ex-Sauternes
Additional coloring: No
Owner: Moet Hennessy
Average price: € 150.00
Official website: www.ardbeg.com
For once, Ardbeg isn’t launching yet another very-limited-edition-that-you’ll-never-see-again, but a new series, Anthology, whose leitmotif will be the maturation casks, between experimental and never used before ones.
This first release, dedicated to the mythological harpy who (they say) used to roam Islay, combines the classic ex-bourbon casks with ex-Sauternes wine casks, a novelty for the distillery despite the fact that its half-sister Glenmorangie already makes abundant use of them. In reality, it’s not clear whether these are separate maturations or just finishing in the ex-wine barrels.
A not inconsiderable detail is the age statement, not exactly common in more recent bottlings.
The onset on the nose pushes on notes of brine and iodine, with a peat that is more mineral than fleshy to frame it. Fruit that alternates between yellow and red nuances, including apricots, blueberries, peaches, and blackberries, with a citrus participation declined between pink grapefruit and candied orange, against a background of liquorice root, ginger biscuits, and a hint of dried thyme. At length, a thread of mint also appears. Something unusual is there, you have to give it credit, and it is pleasant too.
On the palate, a decidedly sweet side stands out, in which the fruit becomes more marmalade-like with menthol inlets, which combined with evocations of chocolate bring After Eight to mind. It is a sweetness with predominantly red tones, with a soft silkiness only slightly rippled by sour and acidulous notes, in which the citrus side after a pastry treatment (lemon curd) peeps out. Peat reappears in its coastal and mineral guise, with smoke placed in the rear and evident especially along the length. Spicy thrust, of ginger and nutmeg, echoing the aromatic herbs albeit with levity.
Finale in which the menthol and balsamic notes, coastal and iodine notes, spices, red fruits and smoke make for a good length.
Always on the verge of cloying, from which it is saved by mineral and spicy incursions, but for some it might still be overly sweet. And it probably is, so much so that it is tiring after some time, without ever achieving a convincing balance. But if it’s of experiments we are talking here, the path is interesting, even if it is still unfinished.