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

January 21, 2021


The return of 1970s Ardbeg

We cannot survive without a few Ardbegs every once in a while, even if the great times of the 1970s distillates are now long gone. As they say in social media, those were the days… But let's see what we have…

Ardbeg 10 yo (46%, OB, rotation 2003, for duty free, 1 litre)

Ardbeg 10 yo (46%, OB, rotation 2003, for duty free, 1 litre) Five stars
Most probably some early 'Allied' distillate, made by the Laphroaig crew to keep the equipment fit while the distillery was virtually closed. Colour: white wine. Nose: a very medicinal Ardbeg, with fairly huge whiffs of vaseline gauze and tarred bandages at fist nosing, with something slightly musty and some tarry ropes, old hessian bags, fisherman's boat, petrol… All that is very older-Ardbeg indeed in my book. Tends to become cleaner then, almost lighter, and rather all on lime, with a little beach sand and chalk. One green olive too, brine… All in all this is brilliant. Mouth: a little gentler, perhaps, grassier and even more on lemon (drops) for a short while, but the smoke's unleashed then, with rather huge tarry notes, this feeling of eating the content of an ashtray, and just quite a lot of natural rubber, with a Talisker-like pepper in the background. This sure hasn't much to do with the current -albeit just as excellent – Ardbeg Tens, which are less fat and deep. Finish: rather long and fat indeed, with more rubber. Also tar, kippers, and salty olives. Comments: not the 1970s, but… stay tuned…
SGP:367 - 90 points.

Ardbeg 26 yo 1993 (49%, Quaich Bar Singapore, The Islay Giants, 257 bottles, +/-2020)

Ardbeg 26 yo 1993 (49%, Quaich Bar Singapore, The Islay Giants, 257 bottles, +/-2020) Five stars
This one's dedicated to the friends of Quaich Bar, which is obviously pretty charming and a rather thoughtful touch. Now the whisky might be a little more brutal… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: really very different, as I'm rather finding a lot of raw wool at first, mud, seawater, kelp, then lanoline, Woolite, brake fluid, engine oil, waxed papers, then rather cut hay and grass… In short almost no citrus this time, rather pretty huge notes of 'a walk on a beach on Islay'. Your choice. It's perhaps also a little more reminiscent of the 1970s. Mouth: sweet and sour at first, with quite a lot of smoked water, sour apples, seawater, almond paste, as well as pieces of tangerine and even oranges. Orange drops, Fanta. Some walnuts would join the dance later on, a little mustard too, which, together with the saltiness, would then make you think of a good bone-dry manzanilla. No sweetness of fruit left whatsoever after two or four minutes. Remains pretty 'lanoline-y'. Finish: long and salty, waxier too. Brine, oregano, something chalky again. Grapefruits are back in the aftertaste, with a later onset of granny smith apples. There's even a drop of honey! Comments: not quite an instant winner but give it a little time and it would become splendidly complex. Class Ardbeg, reminiscent of the 1970s indeed.
SGP:456 - 92 points.

Everything goes well so far, no?

Ardbeg 22 yo 1998/2020 (56.5%, OB, Rare Cask for Benjamin Tan, second fill oloroso butt, cask #50, 500 bottles)

Ardbeg 22 yo 1998/2020 (56.5%, OB, Rare Cask for Benjamin Tan, second fill oloroso butt, cask #50, 500 bottles) Five stars
A very interesting bottling, first matured in refill bourbon for six years, then transferred to sherry for some further sixteen years of maturation. In other words, this baby started its life as a potential Uigeadail, but luckily, it wasn't disgorged and went on aging quietly in warehouse #3, at the Distillery. Well that's what I understand. Colour: mahogany. Nose: you're instantly reminded of some kind of smoky coffee, then metal polish, then pipe tobacco, then old copper kettles. Umami's hovering over all this and we cannot wait to add water. Neither can we not think of the first Uigeadails indeed, which stormed Whiskydom when they came out. With water: it's like a sea turtle, it swims better than it walks. Old coal stove, cocoa, black cigars, the tiniest drop of acetone ever, bitter oranges aplenty, and this thing that's always brilliant, 'new electronics'. Vegetal extracts are also showing up, soy sauce, umami sauce indeed… Mouth (neat): very focused, compact, almost pungent. Heavy walnut cordial, tart lemon juice, cocoa, ground coffee, Worcester sauce and 'sucking an old penny'. Which no one should do, naturally. With water: smoked rancio, walnuts in all their possible forms, bone-dry armagnac, chocolate and coffee, then meaty, malty and vegetal extracts and sauces. Maggi, Kikkoman, Bovril… Oh and have I mentioned smoke? Finish: very long, not stuffy – not light either – with a blend of smoked tea with all those yeasty sauces and extracts we've mentioned before. Rather some nutmeg in the aftertaste. Comments: it's a thrill to compare the Quaich and this one, for they are so different and yet remain within the same family. Same super-high quality in my book.
SGP:367 - 92 points.

Since we were mentioning the 1970s, here's a *new* one!

Ardbeg 40 yo 1979/2020 (51.5%, Signatory Vintage for Kirsch Import, bourbon barrel, cask #9859, 24 bottles)

Ardbeg 40 yo 1979/2020 (51.5%, Signatory Vintage for Kirsch Import, bourbon barrel, cask #9859, 24 bottles) Five stars
There were so few bottles of this that I believe this expression flew right under the chatterati's radars when it came out last year. But we have it , he-he… Possibly the oldest Ardbeg ever bottled. Good, the OB 1965 was 40 too if I'm not mistaken, but it wasn't that great, was it.  And this is quite a (well-deserved) coup for Kirsch Import. Not sure if that was all what was remaining in the barrel having said that, but that's very possible. Colour: gold. Nose: it went towards piney aromas, clearly. Lovely on the nose, the palate 'might' be more problematic then, but one thing at a time. So I would mention teak oil, sauna essences, then rather Barbour grease, old embrocations, camphor, artemisia, drawing gum, things like that. Some leather polish too, spearmint cordial, acacia gum… It's gathered many tinier aromas throughout the years, mainly ones that aren't very common in everyday life. Now, we agree the concepts of Ardbeg 40 and everyday life do not quite fit. With water: no changes. Perhaps a little more hessian – hessian's certainly not unseen in old Ardbeg, and some orange-scented candles. And dry almond paste, which is rather Ardbeggy too. Mouth (neat): a miracle. It is piney and woody, acetone-y, varnishy, even pretty bitter, but for some reason all that remained under control and very well-mannered. There's a very lovely dustiness, reminiscent of an old library – or there, of an old warehouse – then many notes of old-school middle-European herbal drinks. Underberg, Jäger, Unicum, Fernet Branca, Cynar… All that without one single microgram of sugar, rather with a big waxiness. Paraffin. Some lemon keeping it tight and bright, that's a miracle too. With water (we're trembling…):  ah, no, on the contrary, lemon and mint take over, this is almost 'young'. The smokiness gets also more obvious, while it wasn't before, while it's also getting more medicinal again. Cough medicine, also some unexpected notes of apple liqueur, which would keep the tension on. Menthol and pine resin do that too, obviously. Finish: unexpectedly long, tight, not fragile at all, and never too dry. Menthol in apple liqueur, with a smoky twist. More or less that. Only the aftertaste is a little 'oaky' as such. Comments: two miracles here. First the fact that it was so fresh, and second, the fact that I've also got a sister cask, #9861. But I just do not know for whom that one was bottled. Can you help?
SGP:474 - 91 points.

Yeah well I'm afraid we've been flying a little high. But too high? Never!

(Merci Benjamin, Des and KC)

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







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