Google Remembering Ardbeg

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


Facebook Twitter Logo
Guaranteed ad-free
copyright 2002-2017


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

March 23, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Remembering Ardbeg
Sounds a bit funereal doesn’t it? Although, that’s not the intention. It strikes me that with all these increasingly silly NAS Ardbegs designed to appeal to Rum and Gin quaffing ‘yoofs’ these days, it’s easy to forget that there was a time - not so long ago - when Ardbeg seemed to release nothing but a constant stream of influential and often terrific bottlings.


Now, I know it’s important to not dwell on the past but rather look to the future, but I’d say that one of the equally frustrating things is that Ardbeg still, in my opinion, makes great distillate. So it’s something of a double-edged sword that they don’t do more with it beyond the 10yo. Anyway, enough grumbling. Let’s try three older Ardbegs for a bit of Saturday reminiscing.



Ardbeg 17 yo (40%, OB, -/+ 2000)

Ardbeg 17 yo (40%, OB, -/+ 2000)
Sadly the L code on this one has worn away so I can’t provide any batch details, beyond saying that it looks to have started with a big ‘L’, which would suggest a bottling date of sometime between 1997-2001? How many whisky people began their journey with a bottle of Ardbeg 17? I remember it was a hugely popular bottling for many years. Colour: gold. Nose: It’s said that these early 17 batches used proportions of unpeated ‘Kildalton’ Ardbeg made in 1980. When combined with the rather measly bottling strength you can see the ‘lightening’ effect of this fusion. This one opens all on leafy tobacco, bonfire smoke, a distant tar bucket, pitch, sea water, some light antiseptic notes and gauze. Easy to see how this sort of profile was so seductive. Goes on with hints of sandalwood, crushed seashells and squid ink. Mouth: drier than I remember, and surprisingly salty. Lots of miso, soy sauce and wood ash. Some dried mixed herbs, anchovies, lemon juice on oysters, black pepper and some pleasingly straightforward peat. Smoked teas, beach sand, canvas and a little brine and medicine. Finish: medium. All on lemon infused olive oil, sea salt, white pepper, tar and herbal extracts. Comments: It’s the easiness of the whole thing that strikes most. No wonder this was such a runaway success - you could quaff litres of the stuff! Not the greatest Ardbeg, I always preferred the 10, but deservedly a classic bottling I’d say. Although, I think the earlier batches were better than the later ones - isn’t that so often the case?
SGP: 355 - 87 points.



Ardbeg 1990/2004 (55%, OB for Japan & UK)

Ardbeg 1990/2004 (55%, OB for Japan & UK)
Another one of these bottles that’s somewhat forgotten about these days, but I remember being quite a fan of this one when it came out. Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh brine cut with lemon juice, granny smith apples, bone dry cider and many mineral notes such as beach pebbles, chalk, ink and carbon paper. Lime zest, seaweed paper and freshly chopped parsley. Extremely pure and fresh. In time it develops towards raw smoke and freshly malted barley. With water: dried lavender, chalk, heather ale, mouthwash, mixed olive tapenade and some hot smoky grist. Mouth: big, fatty, mineral and smoky. Full of bath salts, pressed flowers, pot pourri, struck flints, newspaper ash, sandalwood and antiseptic. Some white pepper heat, Maggi seasoning (I adore Maggi, as Serge will attest) and menthol tobacco. With water: more autolytic with water, some slightly fermentary, sourdough notes, a more lemon-accented peatiness, raw cereals, smoke, ash, lemon juice and salt water. Really excellent with water! Finish: long, lemony, ashy, pure, precise and glistening with peat, chopped herbs, olive oil and brine. Comments: I’m quite thrilled that this is pretty close to how I remember it, and I still love it after quite a few years without having tasted it. In some ways it’s reminiscent of the early Special Release Lagavulin 12s. Purity, precision and power all rolled into one.
SGP: 367 - 90 points.



Ardbeg 13 yo 1974 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)

Ardbeg 13 yo 1974 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)
Let’s see if this wee Ardbeg withstood being ‘Gordon & MacPhailed’... Colour: amber. Nose: It’s really another world these 70s Ardbegs. A deep, salty and profoundly leathery peatiness. Dried herbs, antiseptic, mercurochrome, iodine tablets, cured game meats, dried mint, brine, hessian cloth and some drops of old Tokaji. Rope, wine cellars, waxed canvas, tar extracts, TCP, freshly kilned malt, black olives, umami. It’s soft but the sense of character and complexity is pretty unequivocal. Mouth: about as big as whisky can be at 40%. Pure peat smoke laced with antiseptic, iodine, aged lambic ale, gauze, mouthwash, medical tinctures, embrocations, seaweed crackers, BBQ char and mustard powder. The sherry has a clear and rather beautiful voice that sings in close harmony with the peat. Although, the salinity and coastal qualities are also equally vivid. Seriously impressive stuff. Finish: Thrillingly long, extremely tarry, salty, lots of roasted nuts and getting increasingly meaty, herbal and with these big gloopy, oily and medicinal qualities. Comments: It’s an old refrain, but just imagine this at 46% - or cask strength...! Anyway, as it is, it’s still a mighty and moving old Ardbeg.
SGP: 467 - 92 points.



Big thanks to Serge and the Thompsons of Dornoch.  



More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ardbeg we've tasted so far






Whiskyfun's Home