Ardbeg prides itself on being the ‘Ultimate Islay Malt Whisky’. Established in 1815, Ardbeg is revered by connoisseurs around the world as the peatiest, smokiest and most complex of all the Islay malts widely available. Despite its smokiness, Ardbeg is renowned for its delicious sweetness, a phenomenon that has affectionately become known as ‘the peaty paradox’.
This release is sold in honor of Ardbeg Day 2018 (June 2) held during the Islay Festival of Music & Malt (Fèis Ìle). The theme for Ardbeg Day this year is “Peat & Love”. This “groovy” bottle gets its name from the grooves obtained after heavily-charring the former red wine casks used to age a portion of the whisky.
There’s an instant, sexy filthiness to this maybe it’s the earthy smoke or the heavy, tarry phenols which move steadily towards pitch pine. A marine element then develops: dried seaweed, smoked mussels, smoked sea salt and Arbroath Smokies. In time, you pick up wet leather and a mezcal-like element of herbal (marijuana-like) smoke. A deep black fruitiness begins to emerge, along with a venison-like meatiness. With water, there’s the dusty dryness of gentian root, silver polish, sheep dip, bitumen and, finally, a more fragrant lift.
ABV: 51.6%. Color: Peaty water
Smoky & Peaty, funky and oily on the nose, with salty barbecued beef jerky, iodine and seaweed, vanilla, and canned peaches in syrup.
The first impact is of dry, grippy, burnt wood with an intense smokiness, but the nose should have warned you that things weren’t going to be all sweetness and light. There’s a good oiliness in the centre, which helps to keep the wood at bay and helps make it remarkably easy to drink at this strength. They also allow Ardbeg’s sweet core to shine, briefly, in the middle of the tongue, along with a light bay/menthol element. Smoke and oak, with brioche, kombu, marzipan, broiled meat, and plenty of sea. Black pepper, campfire, peat, and charcoal all come on towards the back palate and into the moderately lengthy, smooth
Then the flavors move on to pimenton-heavy chorizo. Water initially begins to calm things down, but does pull out some bitter, wood-accented tones, finally leaving you with the impression of this massive, smoldering, beach bonfire.
Dry, smoky, leathery, meaty/biltong. While also showing a return of that syrupy, honeyed sweetness.
Balance, Body & Feel
Enormous, in-your-face smoke. Pretty dry as well. Groovy in a brown acid kind of way.