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.
For some reason I’m becoming increasingly fascinated by the various expressions coming out of Springbank. And so the Hazelburn 12 fits right in!
The thick legs running down the side of my nosing glass confirm the presence of something sugary so it’s no surprise that the first nose is a melted bowl of honey butter. As I savor the comforting aromas a second nose whisks me away to a field of green with delicate daffodils dotting the landscape. But then a slight muddle of musty moss is thrown my way – like a forgotten pantry filled with sack after sack of baking flour. Strange. Desperately I peek outside and discover a tiny bundle of crackling heather. The nose is not perfect but it’s certainly intriguing.
The quite silky, medium bodied, delivery brings with it a rush of dry spices. Reminded me of a box of star anise I have in my kitchen cupboard. As my palate tingles under the spicy assault there comes the promise of a sweetened sugary syrup bringing with it some order to the proceedings.
The slightly bitter finish is held together by a not so unpleasant touch of fennel and aniseed. Let it linger a while longer and you can feel a thin chocolate wafer come out of no where.
While I’m generous with my praise I know many who won’t like this type of unusual flavor profile. And that’s too bad because I think flaws build character and this whisky is just that.
Rating : 85