Whisky Advocate

Review: Ardbeg Alligator

July 11th, 2011

This is a review of the Ardbeg Committee’s Alligator release, but I’m being told that it’s the same whisky as the general public release slated for later this year.

Ardbeg Alligator, 51.2%, $95

Similar to standard Ardbeg 10 year old, except that a portion of the whisky was aged in heavily charred barrels (referred to as an “Alligator” char). An aggressive whisky—even for Ardbeg—with a leathery texture throughout. Dynamic too, with coal tar soot, bourbon barrel char, espresso, cocoa, licorice root, smoked fish, and hint of ginger. There’s a nice creamy vanilla underbelly to balance the aggressiveness and (at least partially) muzzle the Alligator. — John Hansell

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

31 Responses to “Review: Ardbeg Alligator”

  1. Josh West says:

    I’m jealous. I went Alligator huntin’ as soon as this arrived in the U.S. but all bottles had been scooped up the minute they landed on the shelf :-/

    • I actually got my hands on two bottles from Europe along with two Talisker 57 North bottles. I have not been able to sit down with either yet, but I’m chomping at the bit! I plan on reviewing them on my blog once I do.

      Good luck on your hunt, Josh!

      • Josh West says:

        Hey Scotch Finder,

        I was just reviewing posts about the original Ardbeg Alligator Committee release, as I’ve just tasted the general release, and I came across your response. I wasn’t able to find the Committee release bottling… but I did get my hands on some of the general stuff. Its a shame there were only 1,000 bottles of the committee release sent to the U.S. Made it incredibly difficult to track down, of which I was unsuccessful. I was late by only a couple days of when it hit shelves in Massachusetts…

        Did you like the Talisker 57 degrees North? I’m going to Europe soon and debating on whether to pick up a bottle!

        • The Talisker 57 North reminds me a lot of the regular 10 year. This is not a bad thing since the 57 North is cask strength! I am going to be throwing a Talisker Tasting party soon to see how they all match up against one another.

          Basically, my answer is YES, you should definitely pick one up. I was really upset when I came back with 9 bottles from Scotland and that was the one that got away. I’m surprised that John Hansell hasn’t mentioned it yet. I went to the Park Avenue Liquor Store recently and they hadn’t even heard of it.

          I have gone rogue with my scotch whisky blog and left blogspot for my own domain, If you get a chance, please stop by and drop a comment or two! Sounds like you are one after my own heart. Let me know if you end up picking up a bottle and what you think!

  2. Peter D says:

    John, how would you characterize ‘gator as compared to Uigeadail and Corryvrecken? Of late, I’ve found myself gravitating towards Corry first and Uigeadail second; personally, I find the (peat)bog-standard 10YO to be a little harsher that I generally prefer.

  3. Brian B. (brian47126) says:

    Wow, I am shocked (in a good way) on your score. When I tried this at the release party I thought you would say it scored an 88-89. I was basing this on your score for Rollercoaster. I thought this dram to be similar in the body to Rollercoaster; abet, with a softer finish and initial taste.

  4. bj reed says:

    The taste is very similar to the 2010 Festival Bottling of Ardbeg that I got my hands on thanks to friends in high places – The barbecue sauce that oozes out really surprised me – pleasantly I might add.

  5. MaltMartyr says:

    To me, a disappointment for Ardbeg standards. A rather dry dram for those who like it that way. I recall Glenmorangie going in that direction with Finalta. Warning to Lumsden – turn the ship around or you’ll really end up in the Corryvrecken. You can’t go wrong with Ardbeg, but I’d avoid Alligator or Rollercoaster. I prefer Supernova and Corryvrecken as hands down favorites! Don’t get me wrong, I love Ardbeg, but not this expression. It’s locked up and waiting for Bonhams.

    John, it’s too aggressively dry for me. I like it stellar or wet! I repeatedly tasted it, but bought it for collection purposes.

    • John Hansell says:

      That was my initial thought: too aggressive. But like I said above, it grew on me. But let me say that this is a very aggressive whisky. And it’s certainly no Corry.

      • Red_Arremer says:

        Over what period of time did it grow on you John– Do you have a bottle?

        • John Hansell says:

          I taste every whisky at least twice before rating it. I tasted this one a few times over a period of a week. However, the very first time I had it was with Bill Lumsden during lunch.The first time I had it (informally with Bill) I liked it less. But when I did my formal review (with more focus) I found more to like.

    • Brian B. (brian47126) says:

      I like my Ardbegs young and fiery–rollercoaster was one of my all time favorite bottles. I can see why some would not like this one; however, as a representative of the other side of the spectrum, I say keep the young ones coming.

  6. JWC says:

    i got one bottle. tried it. liked it and have been trying to get another. great to hear that the general release version will be the same. that info saved me a lot of time and trouble (and probably money). thanks john.

  7. Matthew Soutar says:

    Recently bought 2 bottles of the committee, opened it with a few liked minded friends and we all loved it! I’d call it aggressively smooth….maybe due in part to the bourbon influences present. Loving that Lumsden et-al are experimenting with a solid brand and not losing themselves or the character.

  8. mongo says:

    i don’t actually find it particularly aggressive. or for that matter particularly impressive–though i’ve only tried it three times so far. i would have rated it in the 85-86 range–it’s far below the uigeadail, corry and anb, in my opinion. and in recent blind tastings i’ve been doing of young cask strength islays it didn’t crack the top 3 once. a bit of a lesson to me to not rush out to chase sexy new bottlings (i ended up buying two). not that i regret the purchase–it’s a very good whisky–but it’s nothing i needed to get two bottles of right away.

    • mongo says:

      i should clarify that i’ve spent serious time with 2 ounces of it on three occasions. the smaller head-to-head tastings with other young islays are additional, but not serious evaluation sessions.

  9. George Jetson says:

    To me on a QPR basis, this one just doesn’t make the grade. If it sold for what the TEN is going for, I’d probably think better of it. I am riding the sweet spot of ANB at the moment and the AA was a bit of a let down. Smoke and mirrors comes to mind. If your make isn’t up to par, get creative with the barrel. It is unfortunately sort of the rule-of-thumb on Islay these days. I am sure the collector frenzy and ebay craziness will no doubt drive many in this direction, but it is a pass on future bottles for me. Give me an honest Ardbeg I can enjoy without qualification.

  10. MaltMartyr says:

    As stated, Ardbeg usually puts out a wonderful Islay Whisky. For those who have yet to try Beist, I’d recommend you find that bottle, first. For those who have not tried the Ardbeg Ten or Uigeadail, I’d encourage a full run of Ardbeg expressions before crowning this raptor. Alligator is a drier whisky for an Ardbeg. I believe that Moet Hennessey will attract fewer new single malt drinkers to both Ardbeg and Glenmorangie with expressions like Alligator and Finalta in the NAS Category. Alligator is drinkable, but I await the return of an affordable Ardbeg 17 y.o.! And what about Lord of the Isles? For me, Alligator is 87 pts on average. To me, It’s pricey unless you crave drier single malt.

  11. Jerome says:

    I love Ardbeg, but I’ve generally not enjoyed the recent Ardbeg “let’s bottle young whisky and give it a cute name so we can charge a lot more for it” marketing ploy. The exception to this was the wonderful Corry (the L9’s, not L10’s). I do have to wonder why a distillery that produces such solid standard OB’s feels that it needs to be this gimmicky? I mean, you don’t see Lagavulin going this route.

    • I agree with you on the ‘not liking the marketing ploy’ part. They only have a few OB’s since there is almost no old stock left. They simply haven’t got the whisky to release a 15 year old, or renew the 17.

      Financially its more or less the only way they can go at this moment, and some of the gimmicks are very good (Corryvreckan) and some are less (Supernova, Rollercoaster). I’ve not tasted this one yet but I’m quite curious on trying it.

      Lagavulin can’t really go any way since they are way too small to produce more than what they do 😉

  12. John Hansell says:

    I thought this would be a very polarizing whisky and it obviously is.

  13. Thomas W says:

    I live in Austria, Europe, so you would think it would have been easy for me to get a bottle. But due to some restriction Glenmo claim to have to do with the EU, I could not order one from them like before. (I could buy Laphroaigs Festival bottling with no troubles at all.)

    However, I am still not sure I actually would have bought one, had I been able to. I did like the Rollercoaster, but the 2010 Supernova went into a direction that I thought was way too youngish. So when Alligator was announced, I was rather skeptical; add to that the comparably high price.

    Now, hearing that the Alligator is a very dry whisky, I am intrigued again. If only the price was better…

  14. Bob Siddoway says:

    Some are saying too aggressive? Really? It’s a new Ardbeg, that’s pretty much expected with some of their recent more floral releases. It actually sounds like something I would really enjoy. While the standard Ardbeg 10 is one of my very favorites, I do sometimes wish that it was “kicked up a notch” in terms of aggression, more like how the Cask Strength Laphroaig 10 is compared to the standard version. But then again, I’m a sucker for high proof whisk(e)y and in-your-face flavors. This sounds like it may be exactly the sort of whisky I love.

    Now if I can just find me a bottle so I can go sit beside a campfire at night in the woods sipping it down…

  15. John,

    As much as i Wanted to love this one, I just liked it.
    It’s not shipping to Israel, so i only had a wee sample. It’s better than the 10 year old, straight on IMHO, but compared to the Uigedail or Corryvreckan, which are stunners, this one is a few points below. I’d say 85, in a 1-100 for me.
    Not bad, but not great also. In par with the RC, which was in my opinion more complex.

  16. […] vanilla underbelly”. Go hunting at WhiskyFest, and until then, you can read more about it here. Published in: New York WhiskyFest San Francisco WhiskyFest Whisky List New York Whisky List San […]

  17. Mikko says:

    I bought this one yesterday from finnish Alko. With the 92 € price tag it is a bit overpriced, but very well made artisan whisky.

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