Colour: Pale Straw
There’s always a sense of excitement for all Ardbeg fans around June of every year. Because that’s the time when Ardbeg unveils its much anticipated release of that year. This year (2013) it’s the Ardbeg Ardbog – so named after the peat bogs that provide that familiar Ardbeg flavor.
Let me tell you something. There is simply no other nose quite like this one. It is absolutely sublime. Not just because it is delicious but because it constantly changes the longer you leave it in the glass.
There is first the familiar tar with the tiniest hint of burnt rubber sprinkled with a delicate puff of soot. The sweetness comes through next on the back of light chocolate-y citrus and a layering of delicate caramel. Don’t go yet because there is fresh grapes mulched with tiny sprigs of coriander next. Leave it longer and it becomes even more sweet. More daring if you like. The chocolate becomes more pronounced. The honey becomes darker and takes on a maple syrup quality. I have yet to come across a nose that is as complex as this one.
The palate is sweet fortified wine mixed with a lemony limestone consistency. It is smoky, peaty with finely chopped herbs and the tiniest hint of dank cardboard. Not in a bad way, mind you. Mull it longer and lovely chocolate cake dusted with cinnamon powder comes out next.
The strong oily finish is full of cloves and star anise rounded off with coffee beans and wood shavings.
This is a lovely dram and needs your undivided attention.
Colour: Young Sauternes
If anyone wants to know how to build a cult following have them intern with the folks over at Ardbeg. Who would have thought of sending new make spirit up in space? And then releasing an expression commemorating that? Say ‘hello’ to the Galileo.
I would like to say it has a typical Ardbeg nose but it doesn’t. I mean it has the trademark peaty smoke (which is more pronounced than it’s cousins) and strong honey notes. There is a slight saltiness with a touch of grass which gives way to a chocolatey fruit basket. But the smoke and the wood tend to overpower a little.
The full bodied palate is much more familiar though not as sophisticated as you would expect from this monster distillery. Intensely spicy amidst the dark chocolate, nuts and some citrus.
The rather long oily finish has slivers of phenol and aniseed. There is also, dare I say it, a drop of something bitter.
This is an increasingly rare bottling and a must in the collector’s bar. Even though I would prefer to admire it on the shelf more than on my palate it still is a very drinkable expression.
Besides I heard it just won the World Whisky Award for best Single Malt. I must be daft or something…
How can one distillery go through, what is fundamentally, the same process and produce expressions that are miles ahead of everyone else?
The standard Ardbeg 10 is anything but. Like a young savant it hides the most complex of personalities yet remains buoyantly youthful. As the tangy smoke rises from delicately grilled lemon zest roasting on the grill the chef brushes the main course of sausages with his own brand of special butter glaze. The sweetened smoky peat, mixed with a touch of tincture, remind you where this savant was born.
The palate is like eating a soft pudding under a haze of powdery volcanic ash. I never thought words like tar, soot and tobacco could be used to describe something so utterly scrumptious but then I’ve been proven wrong many a time. A juicy, brightly colored orange kicks in at the last instant re-affirming the massive complexities that lie in this delivery.
Smoked bitter gourd, a touch of medicine, tiny oak shavings and a toss of minty leaves finishes up one of the nicest and longest deliveries that have ever had the pleasure of cascading down my fortunate gullet.
How does one even begin to review what is arguably the best single malt in the world from arguably one of the best distilleries in the world.
Of course the nose is peaty and full of smoke! But what a brilliant nose. Underneath all the peatiness lies the sweetest, most delicious aromas of a citrus pudding. On top are the salty, iodine sea waves that keep lashing the shore and give this malt the most delicious of all noses.
The palate is simply perfection. It is sweet. It is salty. It is strong. It is gentle. There is spice. There is sweetness. There are salty oils caressing juicy nectarines. I don’t know where to begin. After tastes of tobacco and leather remind me of sitting in a smoky gentleman’s club. Exactly the kind of place where the Uigeadail would feel right at home. Finally there is the faintest hint of aniseeds to round off what is most definitely the way whisky was intended to taste.
Rating : 96
Very typically Ardbeg on the nose. Lots of peat delivering a good quantity of spices and licorice. The delivery takes you by surprise as you expect something gigantic but what you get is, in fact, very robust and approachable. There is a sweetness in there, maybe a touch of chocolate and with that you get the trademark Ardbeg spices on top of gorgeous smoky oak! Long satisfying finish. Another reason to move to the Islays.
Rating : 93