Yet another bottle from our blind tasting competition. Assaf, who organised this whole thing and deserves a huge thanks for all the work he put into it, said that the last few whiskies would be really challenging, and I don’t think it gets more challenging than an independently bottled, older Ardbeg from 2009 that’s no longer available. That’s all part of the fun though and it adds a real element of surprise. A good surprise in this case because even though I guessed wrong, it was bloody delicious.
Ardbeg is a fine distillery, but they seem to have run into a slight problem. They were mothballed for a very long time, and when they reopened in 1997 they started chucking their older stock into everything they put out. Unfortunately they are a smaller capacity distillery so maintaining the level of older stocks is a problem, and though unconfirmed, their classic Uigeadail seems to be tasting a little younger, as do the annual special releases. They’ve also cancelled their Decades distillery tour that involves tasting some older Ardbegs. I really hope that these measures are in place to build up some old stocks. For now the core expressions are still bloody good whiskies and I’m sure most of us would be happy with them in the meantime. Anyways just a minor rant and some speculation on my part. Take it with a pinch of salt.
Back to the point, because of the scarcity nowadays of older Ardbegs, bottlings like these are extremely hard to come by and when you can find them they’re extremely expensive, so this really was a treat.
Aged 15 years. 48%ABV. No colourant added, non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength from casks 794 & 800.
Nose: Some farm here. Quite a vegetal peat, less medicinal than Laphroaig or younger Islays. Ledaig maybe? I know this peat profile, but can’t place it. Citrus oils. Hay. Bit of honey. A floral note lurking in the background. With water some tropical fruits appears, some melon and mango peel.
Palate: Slate. Very mineral. Quite salty. Rubber. Lemon grass. Some paprika. With water, a little tar and green banana.
Finish: Medium-long. Mineral peat. Rubber. Salt. Grassy bitterness. Bit of pepper.
Would I buy this: Yes (if it was still available outside of auctions).
Would I order this in a bar: Yes.
Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes, probably kiss them too.
I guessed Ardbeg 10. The peat felt quite mellow on the nose, I thought maybe even a peated Highland malt. The palate was more like an Islay but there were some herbal and grassy notes that almost made me change my guess to Ledaig 10. I wasn’t expecting an independent bottling because they’re quite rare here. Big happy surprise. A lovely dram at a perfect age. The peat is still very present, but just mellow enough to let some more interesting notes from the malt shine through.