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

June 18, 2013


Comparing Ardbog

Yeah, time to try the new Ardbog - everyone's already tried it anyway, but some friends keep asking me what I think. As usual, comparison should be reason, so we'll first have two 1990s of similar age, so distilled pre-closure and one very young, hopefully uerbernatural 2000 that may help us better detect and describe the manzanilla's impact on the Ardbog.

Ardbeg 1990/2001 (46%, Spirit of Scotland)

Ardbeg 1990/2001 (46%, Spirit of Scotland) Four stars A perfect aperitif at 46% vol. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: the 1990s usually hint at the 1970s at Ardbeg, only with less oily/greasy aromas in my opinion. This is no exception, although there’s a lot of soot and ashes at first nosing, before the whole becomes frankly coastal, with seaweed and iodine. At the fruit department, we’ve rather got fresh almonds, then lemon. Also a little fresh butter. A relatively light and fresh Ardbeg so far. Mouth: the salt strikes first, then we have a combination of lemon juice, smoked almonds and wee touches of plastic or maybe paraffin. That’s far from being unpleasant, having said that. Salted liquorice. Good body. Finish: long and extremely salty, it’s almost like drinking brine. Yeah, or eating tinned anchovies. Comments: it’s maybe not the most balanced Ardbeg ever and it lacks ageing, but it’s very ‘different’ from current offerings so very interesting. For Ardbeg exegetes only? SGP:366 - 85 points.

Ardbeg 11yo 1990/2001 (55%, Potstill, Austria)

Ardbeg 11yo 1990/2001 (55%, Potstill, Austria) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: less fresh coastal notes and less lemon, more motor oil and medicinal notes, such as tincture of iodine, mercurochrome, antiseptic… The smoke is more massive too, there’s also a little damp cardboard, coal, burnt fir cones, then more and more pine resin… And a large garden bonfire. Also apple peelings. With water: same, really. Okay, maybe more iodine, fumes… and some intriguing touches of cranberries and mangos arising. Mouth (neat): much more ‘classic’ than the G&M, that is to say sweeter, with the lemons and grapefruits in the front and the smoky stuff rather in the background. I mean smoked salmon, kippers and such. Much to my liking. With water: perfect, just perfect. Pepper, lemon, peated barley, green olives, kippers and basta. That isn’t much but balance is achieved. Finish: very long, brinier. Smoky/ashy aftertaste. Comments: a pretty perfect, very natural young Ardbeg. SGP:458 - 88 points.

Ardbeg 2000/2007 (62.6%, Daily Dram & The Whisky Fair)

Ardbeg 2000/2007 (62.6%, Daily Dram & The Whisky Fair) Four stars Colour: pale straw. Nose: a very different style, more estery, with more varnish as well, more earth, more roots, dead leaves, olives, brine… Having said that, it’s a little hard to assess because of the very high strength. With water: extreme dryness! Brine, fumes, burnt wood, coal, wet paint, cut grass, black olives, charcoal… Mouth (neat): this baby’s not that different from the Potstill anymore, it’s well the same kind of make, very zesty, with less smoke and, well, phenols than in older Ardbeg (1970s). But it’s very, cough, strong… With water: this is interesting, there are still quite some young fruits, signs of (relative) immaturity (pineapples and pears among others), but it’s already starting to become more complex, with a kind of green smoke, green olives, maybe capers… Finish: long, rough, salty. Samphires. Bitter aftertaste. Comments: rough and restless, very green, with a different kind of smokiness than in the old ones. It’s a greener smoke, in a way. An excellent, but very challenging youngster. SGP:378 - 87 points.

Ardbeg 'Ardbog' (52.1%, OB, 2013)

Ardbeg 'Ardbog' (52.1%, OB, 2013) Three stars and a half So a vatting of ten years old Ardbeg ex-bourbon (60%, I've heard) and ex-manzanilla sherry (I've heard 40%). Not sure it's cask strength, and not too sure the manzanilla wasn't simply a finishing. Remember manzanilla, which I love, is usually pretty extreme, bone dry sherry. Colour: gold. Nose: the very dry sherry is very obvious in this context, that is to say after the ‘X-fill’ versions that we just had. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been this loud, had I tried it ‘solo’. That translates into a combination of fresh walnuts, curry and probably curcuma, which is kind of funny, while the original distillate is a little shier. Having said that, the manzanilla makes it kind of more complex than the others, but also less ‘Ardbeg’. Whiffs of exhaust fumes and tar. With water: ginger liqueur, vanilla and sawdust. Some newish oak comes through. Mouth (neat): the difference is even more striking on the palate. There is some lemon, a sootiness, grapefruits, kippers and such but also these walnuts, this curry again, notes of bitterish liquorice wood, some raw tobacco and something I’m not too fond of because that screams ‘newish oak!’, ginger. With water: indeed, it’s some pretty active oak that does most of the talking. Ginger, curry and other spices. Finish: long, spicy, gingery. Cardamom powder, tannins, coffee beans, maybe hints of bacon. Comments: while the previous ones were distillate-driven, this is rather oak-driven in comparison, and it’s not only the manzanilla that talks. It’s very good whisky – of course – but I still prefer Ardbeg au naturel, if I may say so. SGP:366 - 84 points.

(With thanks to Konstantin and Marc)

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







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