Ardbeg

 

Ardbeg distillery is located in Port Ellen, Islay and was founded in 1815 and remained operational until 1981 when it was mothballed. During that period of operation the whisky was used primarily for the production of blends. Hiram Walker reopened the distillery in 1989 and limited  production resumed until 1996. Then in 1997 Glenmorangie took it over and full production resumed in 1998. The current owners are LVMH and the distillery remains operational and has become an icon within Islay's distilleries.

 

Photo by Whisky Emporium photography

More great distillery info here, thanks to Malt Madness

 

General whisky characteristics: Lots of peat and smoke, some salt, apples. The newer examples, distilled since 1998 also have traces of eucalyptus and citrus. A really delightful peat monster!

 

 

 

Current & Recent Distillery Releases

   
     

Ardbeg New Spirit

A rare chance to sample Ardbeg New Make / New Spirit

Typical cost of this bottle; Not available to purchase

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Clear like water

Nose: Massive! Green apple, pear, smoke and plimsoles (old school rubber gym shoes)

Palate: Again massive, rather like a smoky obstler which is a typically German fruit schnapps made from mixed fruits but mainly apple and pear. There's also that hint of plimsole rubber and the whole experience offers a rich, thick, almost syrupy mouth-feel, without the sweetness of syrup.

Finish: This is really quite unique in that the majority of the flavours dissipate quickly, making me think it's short, but then about 10% of the overall flavour lingers right at the tip of the palate for a very long time.

Overall Impression: This could only be from Ardbeg, it's massive!

 

   
   

Ardbeg 10 years

New presentation, distilled after Glenmorangie takeover, available from late 2008 onwards

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale yellow

Nose: That wonderful Islay jetty of sea-air, peat and smoke is still in the 10y, but this newer version also has a little citrus and is perhaps just slightly lighter than the pre-Glenmorangie variant.

Palate: Initially creamy mouth-feel with a quick burst of citrus, eucalyptus and apple before the peat takes over.

With 3 drops of water: The nose is just slightly lighter with more citrus. On the palate the smoke is brought to the forefront and the Eucalyptus to the end.

Finish: Medium to long. Smoky, fruity (apple) and Eucalyptus.

Overall Impression: I still like Ardbeg, it's Islay personnified for me and this is still a jolly good whisky.

 

   
 

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Nose: Peat and slightly smoked rubber wellies with just a hint of manure-coated raspberry.

Palate: Rich earth and peat. I do detect that slight element I called raspberry in the nose, but on the palate it isn't quite raspberry. Or maybe it is, almost.

With Water: 5 drops of water in almost 5cl begins to open the nose, the peat and smoke are coming through much better now. As for the palate, it's deliciously smooth, but a little more spicy and smoky. Five more drops opens it further and the peaty smoke really comes through now. This is getting more fierce with each addition of water and although it gets spicier (more peppery) with water, it also gets smoother on the tongue.

Overall Impression: This is not a complex Ardbeg, but it is a very good one.

 

   
   

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist, 1990 Limited Release, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light yellow, 9 carat gold

Nose: This is not so much 'in yer face' and takes a couple of minutes to work, eventually opening to (Boskop) apple, lightly peated smoke and hints of sweet rubber.

Palate: Initially a rich creaminess which soon turns to lightly peated apple pie transcending the palate and fading slowly.

With 3 drops of water: A more penetrative nose and slightly spicier palate where the peat comes first, followed by a fruity and smoky finish.

Finish: Long, fruity, smoky.

Overall Impression: A slightly more unusual beast which is gentler, softer and much more reserved, but still an obvious and very enjoyable Ardbeg.

 

   
   

Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 57.1% ABV

Released in 2009 as the replacement for the 1990 Airigh Nam Beist

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light 9 carat gold

Nose: Initially the smoke from burnt firewood, but quickly losing the burnt notes and opening to a more natural, peated smoke, a little antiseptic old wood and floral leather.

Palate: Wonderfully rich, smoky peat block wrapped in fresh basil.

With 4 drops of water: The peat and smoke are enhanced on the palate.

With 4 more drops of water: Smooth, gentle, aromatic peat

Finish: Very long, almost never-ending with water and mostly on the front of the palate.

Overall Impression: A truly excellent whisky which I need to get more of! I love it.

 

   
   

Ardbeg Supernova, 2009 Release, 58.9% ABV

The peatiest whisky ever? 100ppm

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

"Dram-atics" H2H; Supernova 2009 - Octomore 2.1

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light 9 carat gold, typical Ardbeg

Nose: Initially hints of mango wrapped in Black Forest Ham, but after some minutes the mango is replaced with juniper. This also has a depth of smoke which is really incredible.

Palate: Smooth with lots of (wood) smoke and not so heavy on the peat. Also exhibiting rich fruit & juniper.

With 5 drops of water: More peat now appears on both the nose and palate.

With 5 more drops of water: More intense peat and smoke. A very concentrated Ardbeg.

Another 5 drops of water: Smoother and softer on the palate with another depth of smoke and peat.

A further 7 drops of water: Really brings the peat to a crescendo.

Finish: Very long.

Overall Impression: Magnificent with almost unparallelled depths of smoke and peat, but at 100ppm and the peatiest whisky ever(?) is it really so much more peaty than other offerings? Can our palates really discern this level of peat? All I can say is that the water perfectly illustrates and brings out fantastic depths of peat, but as for the numbers game ........
Just let me try this at 25y+ Please!

 

   
   

Ardbeg Supernova, 2010 Release, 60.1% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

"Dram-atics" H2H; SN2010 - Octomore 2.2 "Orpheus"

"Dram-atics" H2H; SN2010 - Benriach 21y "Authenticus"

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Yellow gold (9ct)

Nose: Light but very vivid peat, smoke and the most delightful Black Forest ham.

Palate: Peat, smoke, black cherries and that wonderful ham, but it needs water!

With 4 drops of water: More intense overall with peat, smoke and toasted ham.

With 4 more drops of water: More intense again but redcurrants have joined the peat, smoke and cherries.

Another 4 drops of water: That Atlantic sea-air begins to waft into the nose and the palate is still massive peat and fruit.

A further 4 drops of water: We now have a beach peat fire burning right alongside the Atlantic in the nose, whereas the palate is now almost totally intense but gentle peat.

A final 4 drops of water: Perfectly smoked ham over a Scottish peat fire fills the nose whilst the palate is a cocktail of fruity, smoky peat.

Finish: Extremely long with Balck Forest ham wrapped in seaweed and lightly cured over a peat fire on an Atlantic beach.

Overall Impression: I loved last year's edition of Supernova, but unbelievably this is even better! The peat, smoked ham and fruit make for a delightful and unique experience which I could enjoy all day long, every day. It has more depth than the Atlantic itself!

 

   
   

Ardbeg Blasda, 40% ABV

Original distillery bottling (OB), lightly peated at 8ppm

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Nose: A mixture of pear and apple with almost no smoke or peat.

Palate: This feels initially watery on the palate with a mixture of violets, apples, pears and even very slight almond. The aftertaste builds and disperses the watery feel to highlight the apple and pear flavours. In fact, these flavours almost grow on the palate over something like 20 seconds before fading gently away.

Overall Impression: Blasda is a very lightly peated Ardbeg and as such, offers more fruity flavours, albeit slightly bitter ones. If you want a very different Ardbeg, then try this one.

A second tasting as I decide to retry this one

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Extremely light, pale gold

Nose: Pear and apple again, but slightly more peat than I experienced last time, but this soon fades to leave almost pure fruit, with faint raspberries eventually appearing too.

Palate: Yes, this does go through specific phases with apple and pear followed by an addition of violet and slight almond / marzipan, but these do fade to leave just the fruit.

Overall Impression: I still like this but it is a different, quite fruity Ardbeg. I do hope they save some to mature α la Kildalton!

 

   

 

 

Growing up with new Masters

   
 

After Glenmorangie took over Ardbeg in 1998 they decided to illustrate the maturation of their new whisky by releasing a 6 year old to committee members in 2004. This was such a success that they then released a 6y 'Committee Approved' bottling to the public, followed by a series of (almost) annual releases until the magic 10 years were reached with the release of 'Rennaissance' in 2008.

   
   

Ardbeg Very Young

Glenmorangie's first official edition called 'Committee Approved', following the rare Committee only bottling, which will allow us to see the ageing process first-hand in a series of annual-ish bottlings that will take us through to the new 10y version in 2008

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally €€€€€, now €€€€€

 
 

Brief Tasting Note: My initial impression was one of a rather wild, or raw, whisky. I say this not as a complaint, but as a description of how fiery this obviously young Ardbeg is. It exhibits lots of peat on both nose and palate and certainly announces its presence rather vociferously. I personally prefer my Ardbegs to gain a little more maturity from the casks, but this is certainly one to try if you get the chance.

 

   
   

Ardbeg Still Young; the Second (7y) edition in the series of;

Very Young, Still Young, Almost There, Renaissance

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ now €€€€€

 
 

Brief Tasting Note: We're now one year on and the whisky has matured to 7y, but the characteristics are still quite similar to the 6y (Very Young) edition in that it's peaty, fiery and lacking a little, well, maturity and complexity. Come back next year.

   
 

Thanks to yet another take-over of the company, this time with LVMH buying Glenmorangie, the expected 8y variant in this series never materialised so we had to wait an extra year to see how the spirit, sorry whisky, was maturing.

 

     
   

Ardbeg Almost There; the 9y edition in the series of Very Young, Still Young, Almost There, Renaissance

Glenmorangie's Ardbeg is maturing very nicely

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Nose: Peat, iodine, salt and a little citrus with hints of eucalyptus.

Palate: Initially smooth peat with just a hint of Eucalyptus followed by a little more peat and smoke.

Finish: long and smoky in a citrus / Eucalyptus kind of way.

Overall Impression: To me this is a more subtle Ardbeg than say the Uigeadail or oogling which are just in your face peat. It has some finesse amidst its obvious youth and I really like this whisky. It is far better than the very young and still young. Having also tasted the new 10y I think I may even prefer this one! Gimme more!

 

     
   

Ardbeg Renaissance; the 10y edition in the series of Very Young, Still Young, Almost There, Renaissance

Glenmorangie's Ardbeg comes of age

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

First impressions: My initial nosing found some hints of Scottish moor. Not so peaty, more heather-like. But as it sits here in a glass, warming to room temperature, it is steadily filling the room with a wonderful, solid peaty aroma. It seems to be growing in the glass!

Nose: I'm still on the nose and it seems to be quite sweet. Peaty, earthy, slightly floral and just a faint aroma of newly polished hiking boots

Hiking boots? Surely not: I spent the last few minutes questioning my own comment about hiking boots. Well, I have often spoken about the great times I have spent in my beloved Yorkshire, hiking in The Dales. The school I attended purchased a country inn and converted it into an outdoor centre for teachers and pupils with lots of olde worlde brass and country inn atmosphere. Getting up on a morning and preparing for the day's hike by treating my boots with dubbin was a real joy.
This Renaissance has just brought that vision back! Freshly dubbinned leather boots sitting next to an open peat fire. A wonderful image and aroma. But don't be put off, the leather and dubbin aroma is extremely faint and may even be my own imagination playing tricks. But I certainly got that image in my head from this dram. Maybe it's now time to try it.

Palate: An initial and surprising burst of smooth cream, followed immediately by gentle mixture of peat and wood smoke. Again, shortly followed by liquorice on the tongue. This is indeed smooth and relatively sweet.

With Water: 5 drops of water in about 1.5cl really expands the nose. It is now much more aggressive. More spicy and the floral aspects take over from the peat. But on the palate it's still smooth, almost more so with water. The initial flavour is now mainly liquorice, but this is soon replaced as the peat comes back from the throat, tingling across to the front of the palate and lingers almost forever.

Overall impression: I loved the "Almost There", but this is more rounded, a little more complete and very different. Which do I prefer? I'll let you know after a H2H. Meanwhile, this is a really good whisky. Not exactly what I expected as it is more creamy than I ever expected. There are even some floral and fruity elements which almost remind me of the Kildalton, in a peaty kind of way. I like this and will be looking for more.

 

   

 

 

Some now obsolete editions

So easy to find a few years ago, alas no longer.

 
   

Ardbeg 10 years old, 46% ABV

Distilled before Glenmorangie takeover and bottled & sold under this livery until late 2008

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Nose: I'm standing on an Islay jetty with my nose in the peat bogs. It's peat, earth, smoke and a little more peat with a gentle sea breeze wafting in.

Palate:
Deliciously peaty and very solid, perhaps just a little apple in the background?

With 3 drops of water: Water definitely sweetens this peat bomb.

Overall impression: A very good whisky from an excellent distillery. Shame about the owners (LVMH) who I like not one jot. but that's just  personal.

 

   
   

Ardbeg 17 years old, 40% ABV

Sadly no longer available and hard to find on secondary market.

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally  €€€€€, currently €€€€€

 
 

Nose: Slightly peated oranges and peaches with a tiny dash of sulphur.

Palate: An initial oily sensation quickly turning spicy (tingly and peppery) then fading back to an oily feel after a burst of citrus.

Finish: Quite long and oily.

Overall Impression: I love Ardbeg 10 and earlier this year I had the pleasure of trying the 30y. This really does lie somewhere in the middle. The typically pungent peat of the 10y is hardly detectable, although there is a hint of it in the background. The wonderful smooth fruit of the 30y is, maybe, just beginning to develop, but it has much yet to do. As I type this I take another sip and suddenly feel an almost nutty sensation. Somewhere between almonds and chestnuts. Very nice. Meanwhile, these bottles are now collectors' items and sell for around €200. A price I would not wish to pay if I were to open and drink a bottle. But it is nice, I like it, but not to the point of €200.

 

   

 

  Old & Rare

Beware; Stressful to your bank accounts!

   
   

Ardbeg Guaranteed 30 years old

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally €€€€€, now €€€€€ to €€€€€

 
 

Unfortunately, here is another great dram for which I seem to have misplaced my full tasting notes. What I can tell you is that I was so pleased with this astonishing whisky that I immediately awarded it second place in my all-time Top 10 Drams!

Most of you will be familiar with the 'in your face' massive peatiness of the 10y bottling and the blatant force of the Uigeadails, well this was a totally different beastie (oh dear, sorry, did I say Beastie?) as it is rich, smooth, very round, creamy and almost peat-less!

The nose was an open-air market-stall of summer fruits with hints of Atlantic air, but the palate was deliciously creamy with an abundance of apricot, peach, cream and just the faintest hint of smoke in the background.

Many may say this is not true Ardbeg character. I say it's taking Ardbeg into another, fully mature direction; That of fruit, richness and a complexity not found in younger expressions.

Well worthy of second place accolade in my Top 10.

 

   
   

Ardbeg Provenance, 1974-1997, 55.6% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally €€€€€, now €€€€€ to €€€€€

 
 

Nose: Pears and peat with a little rubber.

Palate: Smooth fruit, mainly peaches and apricots, with just a little peat.

Overall impression: I was so looking forward to tasting this one which has often been described as the greatest Ardbeg ever and possibly one of the greatest whiskies of all time. Well, I wasn't disappointed, it is a truly great dram. Age has mellowed the peat and has developed a smooth fruity delight with mainly peaches and apricots. But the greatest Ardbeg ever? I still prefer the "Very Old, Aged 30 years" over this one, but it is a close call and this is a true great positioned at No. 4 in my all-time Top 10.

 

   
   

Ardbeg Lord of The Isles, 25y, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally €€€€€, now €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light amber, rich oak.

Nose: Smoky sea air with plums and peaches warming on a peat bonfire.

Palate: Very fruity smoke with hints of orange, maybe even mandarin or satsuma, along with a hint of peach and maybe even raspberry in the background.

Finish: Long and richly fruity with plenty of smoke and peat, but right at the end I detect something quite strong, maybe almost liquorice-like.

Overall Impression: A very rich and intense Ardbeg and, like many other older expressions it has gained a lot of fruit, but unlike many others it has retained an abundance of smoky peat. Solid, intense, very good.

 

   
   

Ardbeg 1990, (For Japan) Bottled in the year 2004, Cask Strength

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally €€€€€, now €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Very pale yellow

Nose: Initially very light and floral in an earthy kind of way. Also quite fresh, very light (did I say that already?), oily and a rather pleasant hint of rubber dinghy.

Palate: Fruit (peach & pear) followed by light peat and rubber with a creamy mouth-feel and hints of white pepper.

With 4 drops of water: A lighter nose and lots more Atlantic freshness.

Finish: Long, fruity and very maritime.

Overall Impression: Fresh, sophisticated and very 'Atlantic'. Very nice!

 

   

 

 

Committee Releases

Join the bunfight to try and get them!

 
   

Ardbeg Kildalton (1980)

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally €€€€€, now €€€€€

 
 

Picture the scene: Once again at Munich whisky fair and in the far corner at the Ardbeg stand. After a few minutes chatting a bottle appears from under the counter and the kind chap boldly states "You won't have tried this?". As it happens, I did indeed have a bottle at home, but unopened so the chance to try this was not to be missed.

The Nose was unlike any Ardbeg I had previously tried; Very floral, perfumed and no hint of smoke or peat!

The Palate was equally surprising; again showing hardly any trace of smoke or peat but filled with Scottish heather, herbs and extremely floral.

My Overall Impression was one of surprise and awe, how could any Ardbeg taste like this? A fantastic dram with great depth and complexity which very nearly made my all-time top 10 drams. Brilliant!

 

   
   

Ardbeg 'Oogling' 59.9% ABV

Young Uigeadail, Committee bottling

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally €€€€€, now €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich, dark gold

Nose: I'm standing right at the end of a Scottish jetty on a windy Autumnal day with a basket full of heavily smoked kippers watching the fishing boats unload.

Palate: Rich and luxuriously creamy. The tingle, or in this case fire sets the palate immediately alight with everything the nose promised; smoke, peat, salty sea-air, smoked kippers and even the jetty itself!

Finish: It just goes on and on and on and on ..... then repeats again and again ...... Will it ever end? Hopefully not!

With 3 drops of water in just under 2cl: The nose has even more aromatic smoked kippers. The palate is smoother and slightly sweeter, with more kippers, smoke and jetty.

With 3 more drops of water: The nose now has the most magnificent black-forest ham (well smoked of course) and the palate is very smooth, smoky and slightly sweeter again.

Overall Impression: Bloody marvellous!

 

   
   

Ardbeg 'Rollercoaster' 57.3% ABV

Ten years of the Ardbeg Committee celebrated with this 4.5 litre bottle served to members at Munich Whisky Festival, Feb. 2010

Typical cost of this (70cl) bottle  €€€€€

"Dram-atics" live review

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light 9 carat gold

Nose: An aromatic duet of leather and oak rise above the slightly citrus (lemon) gentle peat whilst trying to mask a hint of finest Black Forest (smoked) ham.

Palate: Very slightly spirity peat with a big dose of fruit (mainly lemon and apple) which sits on the palate for ever and ever ....

With 4 drops of water: A slightly more maritime nose but still peaty. Much more smoke and peat on the palate.

With 4 more drops of water: Lots of aromatic, citrus smoke and peat.

Overall Impression: A wonderful nose which promised more than the palate delivered, but still a decent (albeit far from great) fruity, smoky Ardbeg.

 

   
 

 

Ardbeg 'Alligator' 51.2% ABV

For Discussion Committee Release, 4.5 litre version

Typical cost of this (70cl) bottle  €€€€€ to €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich gold

Nose: It takes a few seconds before the olfactory senses are engulfed in a fruity earthiness which soon expands to include a light (very light) rubberiness.

Palate: A warming fruity earthiness once again dominates with the fruitiness being mainly raspberry and plum in a quite earthy way.

With 4 drops of water: A little smoke is now released on the nose, but this sits alongside the fruitiness which remains. The smoke soon expands as the nose also develops some faintly antiseptic peatiness. The palate again has that fruitiness which is rapidly followed by a lightly peppery peatiness.

Finish: Long, fruity, earthy

Overall Impression: Interestingly different, be sure to add a little water but not too much.

 

   
 

 

Ardbeg Day, 4.5 litre version, 56.7% ABV

Committee bottling supplied to "Embassies" for June 2nd 2012 (Ardbeg Day at Feis Ile)

Typical cost of this bottle; 4.5 litre version not for resale

Dram-atics "Classics" review

 
 

Glass: Glencairn

Nose: A wonderful combination of earthy wood smoke, light peat and fruit with apricot, peach and various summer berries alongside butterscotch.

Palate: Just lots more of those goodies from the nose with massive fruit alongside a smoky, earthy peatiness.

With 4 drops of water: The fruit recedes as the peat intensifies.

Finish: Long-ish

Overall Impression: Wonderful and surprisingly fruity. Did I mention wonderful too?

 

   

 

 

Independent Bottlers

     
   

AR1, The Whisky Exchange, 58.7% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

"Dram-atics" live review

 
 

I recently had the opportunity to revisit this whisky:

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light golden yellow

Nose: Peat, fruit and an Atlantic jetty with lots of alcohol burn

Palate: There's lots of alcohol and it needs water, but otherwise the over-riding flavours are of a rather peaty apple pie!

With 4 drops of water: The nose now offers very maritime peat and although the palate still exhibits peat, the fruit is more intense and a hint of marzipan is now present.

With 4 more drops: Much more intense peat and the fruit is focused on apricot.

With a further 4 drops: Can this get any more intense? Yes it can, with massive peat, but the fruit has expanded too and now comprises apple, apricot and peach. But it is also much sweeter after this last addition of water.

Finish: Very long and intense, mainly comprising peat and fruit.

Overall Impression: Yes it needs water, but this is a very good Ardbeg with lots of peat, but also a surprising array of fruits. I like it!

My first encounter with this whisky was back in early 2009:

Nose: Those bilge pumps return again in a smoky kind of way. Not peat smoke, but more like a burning wood smoke.

Palate: Just too much alcohol and for me, too hard to really describe and enjoy like this.

With 5 drops of water (in about 3cl): Now the nose is more gentle and not so intrusive. It's also now more peaty on the palate with a great tongue-tingle and a long finish.

With 4 more drops: We now have a 'real' Ardbeg with a peat explosion in the mouth!

With 3 more drops: Suddenly this 'difficult' dram is transformed into a fantastic Ardbeg comprising peat bogs and winter fires.

Overall Impression: Quite subdued until you add water, then it turns into something very impressive.

Extra note: I was given this sample by someone who thought much the same about trying this neat, so he added water and found it to turn into something unbearably sweet. This was not my experience and after discussion, he put his own experience down to the effects of him being diabetic.
After a few days I revisited this dram and before I finished the last glass, I added more water than I would normally consider. Probably a little more water than there was Ardbeg in the glass. This immediately created the sweetness that had been described to me. It was suddenly almost undrinkably sweet, but then again I had added far more water than I would otherwise consider, just as an experiment.

 

   
   

AR2, The Whisky Exchange, 60.5% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

"Dram-atics" live review

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Yellow gold (9ct)

Nose: Initially quite subdued as it needs a little time, after which it surprises with lots of herbs, countryside and just a little farmy.

Palate: Very gentle peat, lots of fruit and even a little coconut.

With 4 drops of water: Intense fruit with a little more development from the peat.

With 4 more drops: The coconut bids farewell and leaves us with lots more peat, but a little liquorice is introduced to the finish.

With a further 4 drops: This is now acquiring a more maritime character with fresh Atlantic sea-air and sweet peat.

A further 4 drops: Is just a drop too far as this is now too reduced and weakened.

Finish: Long.

Overall Impression: This is a very unusual Ardbeg with a gentle and quite herbal character which only intensifies to peat and sea-air with a substantial addition of water. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not, this is a very good Ardbeg!

 

   
   

Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 15y, Oct. 1991, one of 358 bottles

Peat level 50ppm, Douglas Laing Masterclass at Munich whisky festival, Sat. 10th March, 2007

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

(picture shows typical OMC presentation, not exact bottle being tasted)

 
 

Nose: A gentle spring-time sea breeze over Islay; Gentle, soft, slightly sweet, faint peat and a little sea-air

Palate: Much more power than the subtle nose suggests, with smoke, peat and iodine.

Finish: Long, lively and dry.

With 3 drops of water: Much softer and more complex flavour with the appearance of some heather.

Overall Impression: Very good Ardbeg with a slightly different direction to the standard OB 10y.

 

   
   

Signatory, Distilled 22.3.1974, bottled 6.4. 1998, Casks 662 & 1034, bottle 50 of 362,  51.2% ABV

'dumpy' bottle presented in velvet covered case with clear front

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ to €€€€€

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich gold

Nose: A Winter evening in front of an open fire in my favourite Yorkshire Dales pub. This whisky has a delightful mixture of both peat and wood smoke on the nose.

Palate: An initial tingle of peat and smoke on the tongue soon expands to include a touch of warming apricot.

With 3 drops of water: The nose is mellower and the palate is slightly smoother with a strengthening of the peat and smoke which replaces the earlier fruitiness.

Overall Impression: I have never been disappointed with any 1974 Ardbeg that I have tried and this is no exception.
A wonderfully smooth whisky with much more than just peat and smoke.

 

   
   

Murray McDavid, Distilled 1991, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Colour: Very pale, almost like water.

Nose: Not what I expected. Lots of quayside and Scottish docks, but where is the peat wallop?

Palate: The peat is definitely held back by the sea and beach. This is very maritime and a most unusual, but very pleasant experience. This doesn't pack that typical Ardbeg peaty punch. It is more subdued. When drinking this I am standing in a Scottish harbour with fishing boats all around, bringing home their catches. If someone hadn't already claimed the name, I would almost call this fishky!

Overall impression: The flavour is unusual for an Ardbeg, but very distinctive. But the finish is quite short. If you want to try a rather different Ardbeg, then this is certainly one to try.

 

   
   

G&M, Connoisseur's Choice, Distilled 1974, bottled 1995, 40% ABV

The now rare 'old white map label'

Typical cost of this bottle; Originally €€€€€, now €€€€€

 
 

I am sorry, I can only offer very brief notes for  this one as when I tasted it, I didn't write full and correct ones.

What I can say is that when I tasted this one I felt it was the best Ardbeg I had tried up to that point, but that was before I had tried the Kildalton, 30y and Provenance which have all been superior to this.

This G&M 'CC' 1974 was filled with smooth, gentle fruit which I recall as being a mix of apple and apricot, but with a sophisticated peat and smoke presence in the background, not as prominent as in the younger 10y variant. I have since tried some other 1974 Ardbegs and I still maintain that I have never been disappointed by any of them!

If you get the chance to taste this, please do so and you will not be disappointed!

 

   
   

G&M, Connoisseur's Choice, Distilled 1975, 40% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€ (70cl, not mini)

 
 

Nose: Sweet peat with the Atlantic sea-air wafting across an Alpine meadow of perfumed herbs.

Palate: Smooth with a mixture of flora competing with gentle peat for prominence. This really is quite floral, whilst at the same time emitting gentle bursts of peat onto the palate.

Overall Impression: A very good Ardbeg, but not quite so good as the 1974. Having said that, it's still better than most!

 

   
   

Spirit of Scotland, 11y, distilled 1990, bottled 2001, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

 
 

Nose: Smoky, but rather weak and characterless for an Ardbeg.

Palate: Very smooth but again this is not an extremely powerful Ardbeg. The peat and smoke are there, but they seem to creep up on your palate from somewhere in the background.

With 2 drops of water in about 1cl: A little more smoke in the aftertaste, but otherwise not much change.

Overall Impression: This is far from a typical Ardbeg, but if you would like one with not so much ‘in your face’ peat, then maybe this is the one for you.

 

   
   

D. Laing, Ardbeg / Glenrothes "Double Barrel" 10y, 46% ABV

Is it Glenrothes, is it Ardbeg?

Typical cost of this bottle; €€€€€

"Dram-atics" live review

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Yellow gold (9ct)

Nose: Gentle smooth peat and quite maritime with salty, sea-air

Palate: Very smooth and malty but only very light peat

Finish: Again very smooth, very long and malty with only traces of peat

Overall Impression: The nose definitely tends toward Ardbeg whereas the palate is much more Glenrothes. Is it an Ardbeg? Is it a Glenrothes? Maybe? Individually, both of these are excellent whiskies, but together? Not really. This whisky can't decide what it wants to be and as a result I find it rather confusing and disjointed.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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