Google Four Ardbegs from four decades

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

October 7, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

Four Ardbegs from four decades (probably...)

Time for some Ardbeg. We’ll try three different ones from the 1990s, 70s and 60s today. But first, a wee aperitif from the 2010s (I’m assuming), but a quick one because I know Serge published notes for this one quite recently...


Ardbeg ‘An Oa’ (46.6%, OB, 2017)

Ardbeg ‘An Oa’ (46.6%, OB, 2017) The latest release in Ardbeg’s storytime series...Colour: Chardonnay. Nose: Quite a pleasant nose at first. All on soot, kelp, light waxes, machine oils and various medical notes. Some Ardbeggy tarriness as well. Lemony, coastal, some rope, some smoked mussels in brine. A chunk of sawdust squirms its way to the surface but otherwise solid. Mouth: Good texture. Full of lemon oils, peat smoke, beeswax and some nice camphory aspects. Reminiscent of some good mid-1990s casks actually. More brine and a little wood ash and some new American oak. Finish: Medium length, probably quite a young whisky, but a well disguised one at that. Citrus rind with kippers and peat oils. A little flourish of tar towards the end. Comments: It’s better than a number of the other silly story name releases in recent years if you ask me. Ardbug, or Zipwire, or Black Hole, or Perpendicular or whatever they were called... Anyway, this is perfectly tasty juice that actually tastes like Ardbeg, and I think the strength works nicely. SGP: 456 - 85 points.



(Serge’s score, see September 28, 2017, SGP:555 - 85 points.)  


Ardbeg 10 yo 1998/2008 (57.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #33.69, ‘Smoked fish and black leather’)

Ardbeg 10 yo 1998/2008 (57.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #33.69, ‘Smoked fish and black leather’) I think the SMWS and Blue Peter must have the same gardener (Serge, if you don’t get that joke it’s only because you didn’t grow up watching children’s TV in Britain in the 1990s). Colour: Straw. Nose: This is creamier and fatter but also drier and leaner. A more pristine and razor edged coastal style. A cup of mint tea with a slice of lemon then cigar ash and wild garlic curiously enough. Some shellfish notes such as oysters and whelks. Otherwise a little tight. With water: Lemon, brine, capers and damp coal hearths. Mouth: Weighty and ashy at first with notes of fresh lemon and lime, parsley and a jagged minerality. White pepper gives it quite some heat. With water: becomes earthier and the peat takes on a deep, bass-like quality. Some mustard seed and olive oil, a little vinaigrette perhaps. Grows smokier and ashier with time. Finish: Long, dry, coastal and with more gristy peat smoke and lemon notes. Comments: It’s great distillate, although I think these latter vintages lost something of the classy medical / tarry qualities of the early 1990s. Still lovely whisky though. SGP: 357 - 86 points.



Ardbeg 13 yo 1975/1988 (54.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Special Selection, Intertrade, 543 bottles)

Ardbeg 13 yo 1975/1988 (54.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Special Selection, Intertrade, 543 bottles) Needless to say, expectations are high... Colour: Rosewood. Nose: Another galaxy! There is an equal pitch between the fruit of the sherry at first with these immediate notes of dates, stewed sultanas and raisins with a lacquer-like, wraparound peat quality. It’s a dense, sticky and hugely tarry nose redolent with many dried herbs, mushroom powder, wet earth, balsamico, roses and cherry cola cubes. Gets beautifully minty with time. Quite magnificent and unmistakably 1970s Ardbeg. With water: Heather, dunnage, hessian, sack cloth, mercurochrome, iodine drops... Anti-maltoporn brigade and quick about it I think! Mouth: Aargh! The most astounding purity of peat that only these kinds of Ardbegs can seem to muster. Sarsaparilla, root beer sundaes, maraschino cherries, fig rolls, medical toothpaste, some green and tropical fruits weave their way to the fore with a bit of time. With water: Some rancio, some minerals, some soot, many different manifestations of peat, various tarry aspects. You get the idea. Anti-maltoporn brigade still required. Finish: A great, booming echo of billowing peat smoke, dark, sherry drenched fruits and these winnowing drifts of kippers mid-smoking, black olives, rosemary flatbread and preserved lemons in brine. Comments: Not surprising. An old masterpiece by G&M. What else is there to say really? SGP: 658 - 94 points.



(Serge’s score and notes back in 2007)



Ardbeg 28 yo 1967/1995 (53.7%, Signatory Vintage, Pale Oloroso butt, cask #575, 548 bottles)

Ardbeg 28 yo 1967/1995 (53.7%, Signatory Vintage, Pale Oloroso butt, cask #575, 548 bottles) This bottle was being poured at the Whisky Show in London last weekend. On the stand promoting the Whisky Show Old & Rare in Glasgow next February, in case you’re interested... (is that against the rules Serge?) Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Equally majestic as the 1975 but totally different again. This is a forest of resins, precious hardwoods, ferns, bracken, moss and then honeycomb, blossoms, medical tinctures, natural tar, gentian root,  aged mead... the list could go on a long time. Sublime complexity and elegance. The peat has morphed into the most staggering mix of herbal and citrus liqueurs, delicate farmyard and mechanical aspects with qualities such as bergamot and a fragrant quince jelly note in the background. With time goes more towards coastal notes as well. Motor oil, crushed sea salt, grilled langoustines. A poem. With water: a subtle but perceptible elevation in beauty. A single drop just seems to make everything a little sharper and sing a little more exquisitely. Mouth: The peat is louder here but also deep and outrageously silky. A velvety sheen of gorse, wildflowers, ointment, orange peel, earth, smoked oats and mint jelly. With water: disgracefully beautiful! I think probably best not to go on from here... Finish: Endless. A cavern of earthy and bubbling peats, farmyard and seashore notes alongside more classical Ardbeg hallmarks such as natural tar, old rope and dried seaweed. Comments: It’s easy to balk at the prices paid for these bottles now but when you taste them again you understand: these bottlings were liquid art in many ways. Beautiful; haunting; unrepeatable; infuriating; emotional. SGP: 656 - 96 points.



(Serge’s score and notes back in 2006)



I can’t resist this little digestif after that astonishing Ardbeg...



Laphroaig 31 yo 1966/1997 (49.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1094, 210 bottles)

Laphroaig 31 yo 1966/1997 (49.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1094, 210 bottles) One of a number of utter legendary Laphroaigs by Signatory. Colour: Light gold. Nose: This is the sort of whisky that comes out to meet you half way to the glass. The fruit is kind of overspilling the rim of the glass. A library of tropical fruits: papaya, banana, mango, passion fruit, pineapple. But then also these myriad coastal aspects such as sandalwood, beach foam, seaweed, salt. Then gentle peat smoke, resins, ointments, old medicine cabinets, long aged yellow chartreuse. Another nose that you could write a book about. (but we won’t you’ll be pleased to hear) With water: goes a little more towards citrus. But that’s all I’ll write because the rest would be gratuitous. Mouth: What can you say about this kind of whisky. It stops you in your tracks. A perfect concentration of fruits, seashore, simmering and undulating peats and a drifting farmyard aspect in the background. With water: further gratuity! Finish: Kind of heartbreakingly beautiful. A long waltz into the night with someone you love but will never see again once its over. (I know, get a grip Angus!) Comments: Nothing to say really. Maybe one point less than the Ardbeg but we’re splitting hairs. New distillers should try to taste these kinds of whiskies for inspiration I think. SGP: 556 - 95 points.



(Thanks to John at the great Musa bar in Aberdeen. Also to Uncle Hans and (I suppose) to SSS.)








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