Google Seven Ardbeg black to black

Serge whiskyfun
Thousands of tastings,
all the music,
all the rambligs
and all the fun


Facebook Twitter Logo
Guaranteed ad-free
copyright 2002-2014


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

December 9, 2014


Seven Ardbeg black to black

So, Ardbeg. While the whole world seems to be waiting for news about what’s going to happen next year, as the ‘official’ Distillery will be 200 years old (just like Laphroaig – let’s hope that won’t be another Waterloo from a Frenchman’s POV), let’s try a little bunch of both newer and older bottlings. We’ll try to ‘go deep’… very deep…

Ardbeg 'Kildalton 2014' (46%, OB)

Ardbeg 'Kildalton 2014' (46%, OB) Three stars and a half An NAS version, so probably very young, from both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. It’s said that it’s not one of those very lightly peated Kildaltons such as the 1980 and 1981 from a good ten years ago. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I find this baby very clean, straightforward, sooty and ashy, with some sour lemon juice and plain seawater in the background, as well as just a touch of honey and peach syrup, just to make it a little rounder. It does not reek of VV (vulgar vanilla, eh), which is great news. Maybe also a little supermarket smoked ham (or liquid smoke). Mouth: starts rather sweet and gentle, hinting more at Coal Ila, before it gets a little smokier and ashier. Kippers and smoked ham again, a little pepper, a little mustard, then a little ginger from the oak. Herbal liqueur, drops of Fanta. I find this palate pretty simple and a little disappointing after the very nice clean nose. Finish: of medium length, with some sawdust and tea, then pickled gherkins and smoked fish. Fades away rather quickly. Comments: rather thin on the palate, while the nose was promising. May lack texture and body. I have to say I prefer the Ten, by far. SGP:446 - 83 points.

Let’s try another one, probably of similar age, at 46%...

Ardbeg 1991/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid, bourbon, cask #MM 2114)

Ardbeg 1991/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid, bourbon, cask #MM 2114) Three stars and a half A great story about the distillery by MMcD/Bruichladdich’s former owners on the label: “For several years we tried to persuade Allied to sell it – they finally agreed – but sadly not to us.” I’m sure the face of whisky would be different today, had Mark Reynier and gang managed to snatch Ardbeg Distillery in the late 1990s. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s not that different from the Kildalton, just a little more ‘violent’, a notch more estery (with or without the purifier on then?) and a little more medicinal, somewhat ala Laphroaig. Antiseptic. Wait, wasn’t the Laphroaig crew running Ardbeg at the time? Mouth: maybe not a fab Ardbeg either, but this is cleaner, straighter, sharper, more lively. I especially like these notes of marzipan and lemon marmalade, while the smokiness remains… a little soft. Some pepper, a little tar, a little lemon. Finish: good length. Smoked almond and lemon cordial. I’m sure the very creative Italian liqueurists do have such a drink ;-). Comments: one good step above the Kildalton, but it’s still not a total winner in my book. This session starts slowly, doesn’t it… SGP:447 - 84 points.

Now there’s a bunch of new very young ‘undisclosed’ Islayers that ‘could’ be ‘possible’ Ardbegs, let’s see…

Islay Single Malt 2007/2014 (53.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 315 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 2007/2014 (53.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 315 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: could be. I remember having tried the ‘refill’ part of the official Ten at the distillery two or three years ago, it wasn’t dissimilar. A touch of smoked coffee – does that exist? – then white cherries, fresh almonds, smoked fish, oysters, lemon juice, green apples…  and tarry ropes and hessian and graphite oil, and mercurochrome… With water: swims like a champ – an ashtray with fins. Very ashy, very smoky. Mouth (neat): smoked plum spirit with a dash of salt and drops of seawater. It’s still got the sweet roundness of a young spirit at high strength, it’s got touches pears and oranges, and it’s very clean globally. Goes more towards smoked pear eau-de-vie after a few seconds, but it’s got depth. With water: perfect! This baby loves water, even when it’s wetter than a haddock’s bathing costume (copyright Sir Blackadder) it remains brilliant. Finish: long and extremely kippery. Comments: needs water. Don’t try it without water, or you’ll only get half of the experience. SGP:358 - 87 points.

Kildalton 2007/2014 (54.4%, Archives, hogshead, cask #9396, 170 bottles)

Kildalton 2007/2014 (54.4%, Archives, hogshead, cask #9396, 170 bottles) Four stars and a half Kildalton? That rings a bell… Colour: white wine. Nose: same whisky as the Liquid Library, more or less. Rather more than less. Same ultra-clean profile, with maybe just a little more ‘kilny’ touches. Raw peated malted barley. A little less coastal notes as well, less oysters… Wait, it’s not quite the same whisky, after all. With water: another ashtray, but it’s swimming all in seawater this time. Wonderful menthol as well, damp hessian… Mouth (neat): sharp, zingy, fresh, fruity, lemony… And rather smokier than its friend. A little hotter as well. Once again, the alcohol feels a bit, with an eau-de-vie-ish side. Smoked plum spirit? Not quite mature, but frankly good. With water: yeah, it really swims like a champ. We shall call it ‘Man-oh-doo’. Finish: long, superb, very ashy and saltier than its buddy. Comments: this one was a little fatter, maybe. High quality natural young ‘stuff’ without any woody makeup. SGP:358 - 88 points.

I insist, I have no proof that those were ‘begs, but let’s move on…

Ar5 (57.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014, 50cl)

Ar5 (57.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014, 50cl) Four stars and a half Suggestions that this could be Ardbeg are even clearer, aren’t they. I almost fell in love with Ar4 earlier this year (WF 90). Sounds a bit Star Wars, I know. Colour: gold. Nose: the oak’s much more obvious in this one, as it starts with strong notes of sawdust and vanillin. The miracle is that the spirit is soon to take over, to kill any excessively oaky aromas, and to display a half-coastal, half-medicinal profile. Bandages and mercurochrome on the beach! You may add a little tiger balm for good measure. With water: perfect marzipan smoke whelks grapefruit combo. Mouth (neat): it’s a little brutal, I have to say. Lemon lime and citron juice without one single drop of water, as well as that feeling of fresh oak that was there in the nose at first nosing. We’ll wear it down in the end, we will!... With water: there, seashell, almonds, salt, smoked salmon, liquorice… Finish: long, coastal and almondy, with a kippery signature. Comments: only the wee oak that was a little too noticeable at times (and for me) will prevent me from going to – or over – 90, but it’s great Ardbeg for sure. So… SGP:358 - 89 points.

Sherry? Sherry!...

Ardbeg 1991/2014 (48.9%, Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14054, 185 bottles)

Ardbeg 1991/2014 (48.9%, Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14054, 185 bottles) Five stars This one from Geert Bero’s Ostendian Connection. Ostendese? Geert is one of the largest Ardbeg collectors in the world, and his bar (and hotel) is well-known amongst whisky lovers. He’s also one of the kings of shrimp croquettes, a talent that’s less and less hidden. Colour: dark gold. Nose: not a sherry monster, rather a very lovely leathery nose, that also combines cigars, polished woods, camphor, pinesap, black olive brine and a few drops of oyster sauce. Should go well with sushi ;-). I could go on and on but that’s not needed. A very complex nose that starts a little ‘narrow’, but never stops getting wider and more complex. Time is on its side. Mouth: exactly the opposite. This is immediate and evident, quite massive, even a little thick, very spicy and kind of ‘infused’. Bitter oranges, leather, tobacco, Mandarine Impériale, a little chocolate, some pepper. And cloves, caraway, liquorice, menthol, a slice of black truffle (from the sherry cask I presume)… It’s not that immediate after all. Finish: very long and almost ever-lasting. The strength is not the highest but the spirit’s quite thick and ‘dominant’. Some kind of heavy cough medicine in the aftertaste. Comments: not quite a prima ballerina, but this very imposing style just… beats the humblest taster. I know, not a bad thing. SGP:467 - 92 points.

All right, let’s have a very last one. We’ve pretty much covered the 2000s and the 1990s, time to go back to the… not the 80s, not the 70s… rather the 1960s! After all, Christmas is close.

Ardbeg 24 yo 1965/1990 (54.4%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Ardbeg 24 yo 1965/1990 (54.4%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Five stars There weren’t many 1965 Ardbegs, and frankly, the official 1965 from a few years ago was a little poor. IMHO of course. Colour: white wine (h.u.r.r.a.y.!) Nose: immediate, instantaneous, obvious. I’m not sure it’s all down to direct-fired stills and own maltings, but this is Ardbeg as ‘we’ used to know it fifteen years ago. Instantly recognizable, fatter, oilier, greasier, more phenolic, with this feeling of old garage, of dipping your nose into the engine of an old Ferrari (works with Renault or Volkswagen too), of old parchments (I imagine), old oils, old toolbox… I’m sure you know what I mean. This is the kind of nose that made Ardbeg a ‘grand cru’ in the old days, and I believe this style’s been lost, although I’m not sure it would appeal to modern drinkers who seem to favour sweetness and fruits. With water: more of all that plus tiny aromas such as ‘wet clothes’, ‘well-affined oysters’, ‘old chartreuse’ and ‘grandpa’s old pipe’. Mouth (neat): a brute! Not as wide and complex as I had hoped, but this feeling of salted and smoked liquorice is quite amazing. What a big spirit after all these years spent both in wood and in glass! Other than that, we’ve got some tar, or rather a pitchness (excuse me?) and, well, even more tar. Even some pepper, as well as some lemon juice, pine resin (drops), a mustardy side… I’m sorry, but ‘wham!’ You may call the anti-maltoporn brigade. With water: not too sure, there’s a lot of seawater, and that may have become a little ‘too much’. Drinking the cup while swimming in the sea. Yes, any sea. Also almonds, kippers and oysters. Finish: long and very salty, resinous, tarry, liquoricy, lemony. Comments: superb. Fat peat. Not quite 95-material in my book, but we’re very, very close. Also the kind of dram that teaches us the difference between an excellent whisky and a work of art – and why one shouldn’t use the upper part of the 100-scale too freely. I know, business is business and people have bills to pay. Printers and all that. SGP:467 - 94 points.

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

(and thanks Franco and Geert)







Whiskfun's Home
Whiskyfun's Facebook page Whiskyfun's Twitter page Whiskyfun's RSS feed