Decided to put two power-hitters against one another – The Ardbeg Supernova 2014 vs 2015. One, in my opinion, is a touch better than the other.
Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 55% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 94
The Supernova is one of the whiskies that made me fall hook line and sinker in love with Ardbeg. Specifically the 2010 Release. I had just started drinking single malts and had a brief glimpse into the world of Islay peat monsters.
But there was really nothing that prepared me for the onslaught of smoke and peat that greeted me when I first dipped my nose in the glass. What the bloody hell is this sorcery? I’m certain I said out loud.
And there began my love affair with high strength, phenolic, smokey powerhouses. I managed to procure the increasingly rare 2009 but have yet to give it a go. I’m still waiting for the right moment to uncork that.
So it was lovely news when Ardbeg announced the 2014 release (or SN14 as it is known). After much waiting and haggling I managed to pick up a couple of bottles wanting to open them on a special day. And that day came in the form of my first trip to Islay for the Whisky Festival. So I decided to try it for the very first time on Ardbeg Day sitting by myself on a bench somewhere on a farm in Islay.
The setting could not have been better.
Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation at Ardbeg, went through some of his peatiest whiskies in the warehouse and pulled out a mix of ex-bourbon and some ex-sherry to put this 2014 release together.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a strength of 55%
Nose: Peat. Lots of smoke. Salt. Brine. That gorgeous Islay grist. Green grapes. Pomegranate. Some type of licorice. Melon rind. Guava. Cut grass. Mixed herbs. Garden peas. Black pepper. Bitter dark chocolate. A touch of cherries. This is, as promised, a smoky powerhouse on the nose. But thanks to the sherry influence has a touch of something sweet too.
Palate: Rolls over the palate nicely without causing any pain. By the way I’m drinking this at around 10AM in the morning and it’s still going down smoothly. Lots of barley. Hint of oak. Smoke. White pepper. Greens. Melon. Mild sugarcane sweetness. Green lime. Tobacco. Brine. Linseed oil. Red chili chocolate. Deceptively smooth and balanced to drink.
Finish: Comes back up again to stay. Peat. Soot. Ash. Powerful.
Overall Comments: This is a great study in balance. The 125ppm works wonderfully well with the sweet. The soot is complemented by the fruit. This is, not to put too fine a point on this, one of the great Ardbegs of late.