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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

September 27, 2013


Ardbegging again

I'm afraid this will be a rather dishonest session, as we'll use the excuse of a recent batch of Uigeadail to do a 'freewheeling' Ardbeg session, with a small bunch of old ones that we haven't carefully tasted yet. Let's see how far we'll manage to go...

Ardbeg 'Uigeadail' (54.2%, OB, +/-2013)

Ardbeg 'Uigeadail' (54.2%, OB, +/-2013) Five stars No I haven't got any laser codes or whatnot, but this one is recent for sure. The latest version I've tried was bottled circa 2010 and I loved it (WF 92). Colour: gold. Nose: it's not complicated, and I guess there's less super-old Ardbeg than in earlier batches anyway, but balance was found, with some straight smoke (exhaust) and then a combo of vanilla fudge, custard and lemon curd. A little wet paint as well, some leather and just a little tobacco. Maybe it's narrower than the first Uigeadails but so far, so good. And I enjoy these black olives that come out after ten minutes. With water: swims perfectly. Putty, almonds, seashells... Mouth (neat): it's perfect. Simple, but perfect. Impressive mouth feel. Lemon zests, bitter herbs, tar, brine and liquorice. It's certainly less rich and opulent than the first Uigeadails from ten years ago, but I'm not sure it's lost anything. I enjoy this more chiselled style. With water: smoother, with some orange blossom honey, but the tarry and liquoricy side remains big. Also kumquats and bergamots. Finish: long, with even more tar and smoke. Comments: by far my favourite current/recent official Ardbeg. I think the styles change a bit, but quality remains evenly high, if I may say so. SGP:458 - 92 points.

And now, let's unleash the old beasts!

Ardbeg 1979 (43%, Nisshoku Osaka, Japan, 490ml, +/-1995?)

Ardbeg 1979 (43%, Nisshoku Osaka, Japan, 490ml, +/-1995?) Five stars A very rare old bottling for a Japanese general store, unearthed by the one and only Mr Bert Vuik, the best, the most elegant and the most knowledgeable of friends. What's more, 1979 is a very rare vintage. Colour: gold. Nose: I know this isn't very PC, but this is an ode to lower strengths. In other words, if the spirit's big, it sometimes needs no high strength. Indeed, this is incredibly complex and yet it's very focussed and, if I may, 'accurate and exact'. The peat isn't immense (as was the case with most Ardbegs from the late 1970s) but this combination of fresh almonds, cider apples, waxed papers, leather cream, sea water and old Pu-erh tea is absolutely amazing. A Montrachet from the best (old) vintages. Mouth: incredible. Feels like 50% vol., with a very rare and unusual citrusy profile. I'd say pink grapefruits and citrons, plus some smoked salmon, other smoked fish, some kind of very old tar or pitch (long forgotten in grandpa's garage), some papers again (including a lot of ink), then something more medicinal with embrocations and camphor, apple peelings, walnuts... Of well oh well of well...  It's becoming drier over time, but it remains magnificent. Can you drink engine oil? Finish: amazingly long considering the strength, very phenolic and medicinal. Sap. Comments: yeah, old Ardbeg... What can we say? It's not whisky, it's a journey. Sadly, a journey through time. SGP:367 - 94 points.

Slim Cowell’s Personal Selection VII Islay 1980/1993 (60%, Slim Cowell)

Slim Cowell’s Personal Selection VII Islay 1980/1993 (60%, Slim Cowell) Five stars Google Slim Cowell, he used to be the man. 1980s are as rare as 1979s at Ardbeg. In fact the label does not mention Ardbeg but it's most probably Ardbeg, possibly a lightly peated one in the 'Kildalton' style. Let's see... Colour: gold. Nose: so yeah, Ardbeg. I wouldn't say it's lightly peated - at all - but what's sure is that it's a bit mono-dimensional, almost all on straight smoke at first nosing. Other than that, there's some antiseptic and touches of pears, which is unusual. A bit burnt as well (new make) but all that may come from the very high strength. With water: akin to the 1979 but the fruitiness remained there. Can you smoke pears? Or bandage pink grapefruits? Different, but very lovely, with something curiously Bowmore-ish now. Also more earth and roots. Mouth (neat): high impact, strangely bubblegummy Ardbeg. Smoke and jellybeans, a funny compo. Yet the mouth feel is perfect - as the jellybeans are lemon-flavoured. Also raisins and kumquats coming out, this must have been a sherry hogshead. Huge stuff. With water: becomes very dry and ashy, but some additional fruits are popping out. Pomegranates? It is, in fact, superb whisky. Finish: very long, on more smoked fruits and even some honey. The aftertaste is more coastal, around seashells, but after the aftertaste it becomes very ashy, just like if you had smoked a double-corona. Comments: a different Ardbeg. The smokiness is recognisable while the fruitiness isn't quite. Very interesting - whisky historians would love this funny beast. SGP:546 - 91 points.

I have the impression that we won't go very far today, these Ardbegs are fab but they can be a little tiring... But let's have one more, like, a 1974?

Ardbeg 1974/1991 (56.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #33.12, 75cl)

Ardbeg 1974/1991 (56.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #33.12, 75cl) Five stars Any gibberish would be supererogatory here (what?) Colour: pale gold. Nose: evident. It's evident whisky. Mind you, they built a brand around these casks. Bandages, camphor, seawater, smoked tea, kippers, grapefruits, new rubber boots, bicycle inner tube, cider apples, oysters, tarry ropes, horse dung, new leather, humidor, shoe polish, seaweed... Yes we're done. Masterly. With water (coz we must): these old Arbegs often used to exhale hints of white vinegar after water was added, and this baby makes no exception. Maybe even gym socks. It's the dark side of old Ardbeg, if you will. After twenty minutes, it's rather Parmesan cheese - yes it remains a tad unlikely. Mouth (neat): simply unquestionable. Very oily mouth feel. Stuns you, everything's absolutely perfect. Shhh... With water: oh noh! It became flat and dry, it's like crunching the Daily Mail or similar bog-paper (please excuse me). So, careful with water! Finish: long and great when neat, acrid and drying when reduced. Comments: fabulous Ardbeg, it's just that it hates water. A coastal malt, they said! SGP:458 - 95 points (when neat, otherwise it's rather around 70 - serious!)

... Session ends here...

(With heartfelt thanks to Bert and Geert)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Ardbeg I've tasted so far







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