Whisky Advocate

Review: Ardbeg Rollercoaster

March 5th, 2010

I first mentioned this new release here back on February 5th, and if you follow the thread you can read about all the details. Basically it’s a marriage of ten different casks from ten different years (1997-2006).

I tasted the whisky first on Super Bowl Sunday, and offered my preliminary thoughts here (@12). My opinion has not changed. My formal review follows.

89 Ardbeg “Rollercoaster,” 57.3%, $ 85.00
Deep gold color. Very bold aroma of toffee, dark chocolate, diesel fuel-soaked soil, smoldering campfire, coal tar, clove, leather, fig, and dark berried fruit. More of the same on the palate, with seaweed, smoked haddock and cough drops emerging towards the finish. This whisky is very dynamic and exciting to drink. My only criticism: it comes across a little green on the finish, which keeps me from scoring it in the 90s. Still, it’s pretty impressive considering how young some of the whiskies are. And if you like your Islay whiskies young and brooding, then this one’s for you.

39 Responses to “Review: Ardbeg Rollercoaster”

  1. Gal says:

    Sounds up my alley

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    This is one of the most dynamic whiskies that I have ever tasted, but I agree that the youth on the end is no laughing matter. But to put that in perspective, I should say that I didn’t buy Corry and I’m not planning too, but I am still considering buying this.

    You could compare it to Signet, not that it’s as good, in that it shows Lumsden at his most individualistic, which is saying something.

    • John Hansell says:

      Indeed. Signet is a good comparison. Not the best Glenmorangie, but very creative and intriguing. Just like Rollercoaster.

    • Josh West says:

      Hey Red, were you able to find this whisky in/around Boston? If so, where at??

      Thanks man.

      • MrTH says:

        Joe Howell had some at Federal, but it’s long gone. He’s the guy to check with, though–he may be able to source some more.

        • Josh West says:

          Yeah, Joe always has the good stuff. I’ll check in with him.


          • Red_Arremer says:

            Btw Josh, that was you I bumped into in Blanchards a few weeks ago, right? How about we get together and taste some whisky?

  3. Seth Nadel says:

    For all the nonsense and the hype surrounding this product, you would have expected a score in the mid-90’s. I understand that Ardbeg is doing something different, but it causes a lot of problems for the consumer. Too much demand and not enough supply. The retailer is also going to overprice this item. I must get 30 calls a day about Rollercoaster.

    • MrTH says:

      The consumer seems to be doing it to himself–I was astonished at the level of hyperventilation over this on one of the whisky forums. My reaction to such feeding frenzies is to stand well clear.

  4. Ernest says:

    You make some fine points John. I really like it but I do see where you’re coming from in terms of it showing its youth. I know Ardbeg’s pricing for NAS releases is a tad high but you can’t argue the quality. For what it’s worth I believe I paid around $85 for my bottle from Julio”s Liquors.

  5. Texas says:

    It is selling here in Houston for $127. With everyone going bonkers over it I can see why it’s priced so high. Meanwhile the 10 and Uigeadail are reasonable at $48, and $85.

  6. bgulien says:

    My Rollercoasters arrived a few days ago, and I must say, it’s a nice whisky.
    I couldn’t find any greeness in the whisky, but then I am not a pro-taster.
    Normally “green” or young whiskies have a raw alcohol taste, that disappears with maturation, but I couldn’t find any of this.
    The finish is not very long though. With the Corryvreckan, you could taste it for hours. This one is gone in minutes.
    All in all, I find this a very good and balanced whisky. Compliments to Micky Heads

    oh and btw. It is still for sale in the Ardbeg shop.

    • John Hansell says:

      Well, let me put it this way. I did a side by side of Rollercoaster with the Fall 2009 release of Kilchoman, and they were remarkable similar in maturity. And the Kilchoman is much younger overall. True, the Kilchoman is surprisingly mature for its age, but I think you see my point here.

      • bgulien says:

        Yes, I do!

      • chef! says:

        Based on what John said I wondered if a Solera-type system would have benefited this whisky as the younger spirits typically take-on some of the old characteristics as they mature? I’m sure it was a matter of blending various aged casks and then letting it all mellow for a couple months. Am I wrong?

        • bgulien says:

          I suppose it went like you said.
          There were 1st fill, 2nd fill and 1 sherry butt 2nd fill) casks used for the various years.
          Also the percentage used from each year varied. From 2006 (the youngest) only 5.4 % was contributed.
          The highest was from 1999, 14.2 %.
          BTW, it was already bottled in 2009, see the code on the bottle L9 = 2009.
          So there was a big lead time before starting the PR.

  7. chef! says:

    I like young Islay whisky so I’ll definitely give it a try once I can get my hands on one.

  8. Geoff K says:

    Sounds like a unique whiskey. I am such a fan of Ardbeg and this sounds like a real experience. How does it compare to the Nam Beast?

  9. Texas says:

    If it was down in the 80’s, I’d definitely try a b’day present. $ way.

  10. Considering young Islays are all the rage right now, I suspect these’ll sell at a good pace.

  11. B.J. Reed says:

    I really need to compare with some of the other younger Ardbegs but I tasted it here at the Dell last week and again yesterday and I really do like it – depends on the water added as to how the flavor profile changes – Guess I am just going to have to do more work studying it! 🙂

    Bill Lumsden is here tonight and tomorrow so will quiz him a little about the idea of comparing with Signet in terms of experimentation and concept.

    • John Hansell says:

      Signet is creative in the types of malted barley and wood used. I think the creative part of Rollercoaster is doing the whole “one cask from every year for ten years” thing.

      • B.J. Reed says:

        Yes, remember Bill talking about it at Chicago Whiskyfest last year (Signet) – He is proud of the experimentation that led to the bottling.

      • I’m thinking next will be something along the lines of a blend from a bunch of different distilleries, all from 1990, or something along those lines. Might be an interesting concept.

  12. Tim F says:

    I liked the Rollercoaster – for me it’s not as good as the Corryvreckan (though few whiskies are), but I definitely prefer it to the Supernova. If you like youngish Islay malts, you’ll enjoy it. For all the hoo-hah over the fact that it’s technically a 3yo, it doesn’t taste too immature to me.

    My notes here:

  13. Patrrick says:

    By the way, does anyone knows how many of bottles of this whisky have been bottled?

  14. butephoto says:

    Loads. It’s still available on the website.

  15. […] of Ardbeg Rollercoaster – The Whisky Exchange gives it a more positive review than most, and John Hansell calls it a little green, but gives it generally high […]

  16. Matt Z says:

    Just showed up on the shelves here in NYC April 7th.

    Still looking for the Corry, though…

  17. johnnyweedram says:

    I just ordered 6 bottles of rollercoaster online. My cost is $100 per bottle. I’m in the Boston area and am willing to share, at cost, some of the 6 I have bought. reply in a post.

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