Ardbeg Supernova 2015

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 54.3% | Colour: Sunshine
Nose: 24 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 95

Review
The Supernova series is, in my opinion, why one should start drinking whisky. It is also one of the reasons I have tolerated Ardbeg’s nonsense of late. Because deep in my heart I, like all Ardbeg fans, know that hiding in those dank warehouses lie some stellar casks which, when expertly blended together, are going to set my soul alight.

And that is what the Supernova 2015 has done.

The fourth, and last, of the Supernova series this is quite possibly my favourite of the lot. The first one came out in 2009, then 2010, 2014 (which I had the pleasure of tasting at 9AM in the morning on a farm in Islay) and for the final time in 2015.

If you don’t already know it’s significance let me tell you real quick. In 2011 Ardbeg, with the help of a company known as NanoRacks, decided to send some new make and oak shavings inside a capsule into outer space to test what effects micro-gravity had on maturation. They kept an identical sample here on mother Earth and, once, the space sample returned Dr Lumsden released his findings on how the two samples differed.

Why would they do that, you ask me? Well, because they’re attention whores, that’s why. But not just any attention whores. Attention whores that can also create one hell of a whisky.

The 2015 version doesn’t have much literature but I know it’s a blend of ex-sherry and bourbon casks made from 100 PPM malted barley. There’s no age statements but you know it’s rather young. Which is fine as long as it tastes like this.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 54.3% ABV

Nose: Very soft peat. It’s there but you have to fight for it. Touch of ash. More iodine and TCP in here compared to earlier ‘Novas. Almost like a delicate eucalyptus. Touch of the standard Ardbeg coastal salt. Rock salt. But then the sweetness. The really nice rounded sweetness which envelopes the smokiness and the saltiness and almost makes you swoon. Milk chocolate. Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. Now there’s fruits. Citrus fruits. Not sharp citrus. But a softer, sweeter citrus. Pineapples. Lime. Orange candy. Stick with it and the earthiness is next. You can almost taste the barley. The wild mushrooms. The Islay earth. This is an essay in balance. 24/25

Palate: That ashiness again. Soft peat. Sooty. Great delivery. The first palate is surprisingly savoury. I mean it’s more savoury than I expected it to be. But then the sweetness breaks through mid-palate. Like sunshine. On an overcast day. Pineapples. That sweet citrus again. Lemon and lime. Touch of spice. White peppers. And in the midst of it all – some good quality oak. 24/25

Finish: Nice and long. Chewy. Oily. White pepper. Oak. 23/25

Overall Comments: Phew! What a ride. Absolutely loved it. Ran a head-2-head with this and the SN14 for a video review which made the differences and the balance really stand out. This is just a superb example of right cask selection to create something that will stand the test of time.

Rating: 95

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Ardbeg Supernova 2014

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 55% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 94

Review
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.

Rating: 94

Ardbeg Supernova 2010

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 60.1% | Color: Pale Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 |Rating: 91

Review
Ah, yes! The old school Ardbegs from the great forgotten era of 2010. Back when peat monsters ruled and the world was getting it’s first taste of NAS whiskies.

Second in line after the inaugural 2009 release of the same name this one ups the ante with an extra 1.2% of alcohol.

What is an extra 1.2% you ask? Everything! Just ask my stinging taste buds!

Definitely a youngish whisky (7-9 years if you ask me) with everything cranked up to maximum. Peat levels of upwards of 100ppm (other Ardbegs measure around 50ppm) and a very high strength ABV of 60.1%

I remember having this when it first came out and being suitably blown away. I was young and naive, much like this spirit, and easily overwhelmed. Now it takes a touch more to impress. And I have to admit the spirit does it’s best!

This review is from bottle code L10 070 16:22 6ML

Nose: Reminds me of the Still Young. That same youngish malt with classic Ardbeggian aromas. I know the peat here is cranked up but it still comes across as understated. Sharp lime. Lemon sorbet. Vanilla. Green apples and pears. Honey crust. Sugarcane. Let it breathe and it becomes more sooty. But with an underlying sweetness to it. Now with more herbs. Some cardamom. An essay in balance.

Palate: Lots of black and white peppers. Prickly green chilies. Lemon. Sugarcane. Dry honey. Slightly bitter oak. Melon. Mint leaves. Quite savory belying the nose. Fires up the tastebuds that’s for sure! Made me salivate. But the spices dominate. Is the high strength trying to mask something? Seems like it.

Finish: Oily. Tobacco leaves. Limestone. The same spices. Touch of smoke.

This is a fine dram. Need to sit with it for a while as it evolves. As of this writing I have not had the 2009 version which I’ve heard is off-the-hook. I’d love to make a comparison.

Overall great nose and finish with the palate marginally behind.

Rating: 91