Part of the permanent Ardbeg range since 2008, Corryvreckan is created from a blend of standard Ardbeg and Ardbeg aged in virgin French Limousin oak casks. Smoky bacon and seaweed, plus dark berries, prickly spices, walnuts, lemon, and sweet peat on the nose. Sweet and savory on the palate, with more lively spice, woodsmoke, phenols, and licorice. The finish is lengthy, with peat, sea salt, pepper, and black coffee. Editors’ Choice
Cask #3145 is the lighter in color, and the sweet notes that balance the smoke and seaweed are not as deeply caramelized as Cask #3542. I’m tasting hints of shortbread and caramel, which show through the peat smoke, tobacco, toasted nuts, firm spice notes (cinnamon, clove, and mint), and lingering brine. Very complex. Price listed includes the entire Double Barrel 1974 Vintage set.
Launched in 2003, Uigeadail remains one of Ardbeg’s core offerings. Matured in a mix of sherry and bourbon barrels and bottled at cask strength. Peppery peat, warm tar, coffee grounds, machine oil, and black pepper on the nose. The palate is complex and rich, offering orange segments sprinkled with sea salt, dark chocolate, malt, and ever-present sweet peat. Nicely balanced. Lengthy in the finish, with smoky caramel.
Cask #3524 is darker, with notes of sticky toffee pudding and chewy caramel that firmly support the polished leather, cigar box, roasted chestnut, smoked seaweed, tar, dark chocolate, and, on the finish, espresso. A meditative whisky. Price listed includes entire Double Barrel 1974 Vintage set.
Ardbeg's first standard release in nearly a decade, An Oa is matured in virgin oak, Pedro Ximénez, and bourbon barrels, with component whiskies married in the distillery's French oak 'Gathering Vat.' The nose offers sweet peat, smoky lemon rind, ginger, and angelica. A soft and sweet palate entry is followed by hot peat, black tea, peppery cloves, and aniseed. Black pepper lingers through the long, smoky finish.
Ardbeg doles out occasional limited releases for their avid fans, but for nearly a decade the core range consisted of just three whiskies: 10 year old, Uigeadail, and Corryvreckan. The addition of An Oa, matured in a combination of virgin oak, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and bourbon barrels, and married in a French oak ‘gathering vat’ prior to bottling, marks a reason to celebrate. An Oa is a more approachable Ardbeg. It lacks some of the typical oiliness, but flavor and complexity abound with hot peat, black tea, and peppery cloves. Die-hard Ardbeg fans should have no complaints, and new converts have a real treat in store. Number 6 in the 2017 Top 20
Similar to the 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 a hint of ginger. There’s a nice creamy vanilla underbelly to balance the aggressiveness and (at least partially) muzzle the Alligator.
Classic ‘southern shores’ Islay from the onset: salty and medicinal on the nose, with smoked haddock, citrus fruits, and milk chocolate. The palate yields full-on hot peat, pipe tobacco, black coffee, licorice, and more chocolate. The finish is long and malty, with sweet smoke. Non-chill filtered.
Some of the best intensely smoky, peaty Islay whiskies are balanced with a foundation of malty sweetness. This whisky is an excellent example. A sinewy malt with the classic bold notes of kiln smoke, peat, tarry rope, and coal ash. Sweeter notes of honeyed malt, ripe vanilla, chocolate fudge, and toasted marshmallow temper and sooth the palate, along with background berry confit. The smoke lingers long on the palate. Ardbeg devotees will not be disappointed.
The 2018 Ardbeg Day limited-edition bottling includes a proportion of spirit matured in red wine casks which have been heavily charred, leaving deep grooves in the surface of the oak. Fragrant soft smoke, warm leather, and salty red berries on the nose; background charcuterie. The palate offers red berry fruits, vanilla, dense peat smoke, brine, and asphalt. Beach bonfires and black pepper in the sweet finish.
The follow-up to last year’s Ardbeg Day, here’s the cult distillery in its funkiest
guise with a nose that’s reminiscent (I’d imagine) of a frontier trading post:
all pitch, furs, and gun oil. Some mint hangs around in the background
alongside eucalyptus. This is an earthy, in-your-face Ardbeg with a hint of
box-fresh sneakers indicating some youthfulness. The mouth is thick and chewy:
wild mint, oily depths, and the slightly manic energy typical of Ardbeg’s young
years. Editor's Choice.
This is the bigger, spicier, and more complex of the pair (see below). A prickly start leads to heavy peat smoke, pink and Szechuan peppercorns, vanilla, dark chocolate, angelica, then seaweed. The palate is oily, with a detonation of gunpowdery peat, licorice, smoked eel, and a feral edge that adds grunt. Layered and complex.
Apparently this is the final Supernova release and the Ardbeg team has ensured it goes out with all guns blazing. Although it seems calm initially—there’s a minty and sweet spicy element to the fore—the smoke begins to push through in the guise of creosote, then sootiness which, in turn, mingles with seaweed aromas. The peat dominates the palate but there is sufficient oiliness to round it out and add layers of smoked fish, and dried grasses. Farewell.
This 23 year old expression was released for the Ardbeg Committee. It includes whisky matured in sherry and bourbon casks. Sweet asphalt, bonfire smoke, lemon sponge drizzled in iodine, and background cinnamon on the nose. Succulent, sherried, and chocolate-coated orchard fruits on the oily palate, with vanilla and sweet peat. The peat dries slowly in the finish, with developing licorice, kippers, and peppery oak
Pale and slightly flinty to start, with touches of Caol lla-style salt-washed rocks, but here there’s sweetness, while the smoke gives it a mezcal-like air; pears and burning wood (hot brake pads), minerality, then green olive and a light medicinal note. With water, sashimi-style cleanliness. The palate is rounded, with real olive oil, peppery sweetness, soot, and white chocolate. A real ‘palate whisky,’ filled with bare-faced bravado. A great Ardbeg.
Very dynamic, complex, and powerful. Here’s what I’m picking up, in somewhat descending order in taste profile: leafy smoke, coal tar, mocha fudge with dark chocolate chips, smoked olive, peppered seaweed salad, fruit (lemon, lime), genever, brine-tinged grass, and (with some coaxing) floral notes (violet?). Compared to last year’s debut release of Supernova, this one is certainly comparable, but I feel it’s a tad richer, with more leafy smoke and ripe barley. It also seems a bit more polished, less aggressive. I like it a little more than its predecessor (rated 89).
“Ardbeg in Perpetuum” would mean “Ardbeg forever.” It’s made up of a mélange of different casks: American oak, refill, French oak…and others. Intense, marine, with pineapple, wet moss, tar, cracked black pepper, and a nuttiness. The palate is oily, sweet, with smoked cream, balanced by a very pure acidity, then soot and char. Will the fact that it isn’t an extreme Ardbeg satisfy everyone? Probably not. Is it a bloody good session drink? Damn right it is. (200th anniversary bottling)
Murray McDavid (Distilled at Ardbeg) 1990, 8 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $65
Pale white wine color. Smoky, youthful aroma. There’s no surprises here-it definitely smells like a young Ardbeg. Big beautiful explosion of smoky, tarry flavors that evolve and seem to linger on the palate indefinitely. This is the first Ardbeg release I've tasted since the distillery's long shut down in the 1980s. After the shut down, they discontinued their floor maltings, so I was concerned that it might not taste like the Ardbeg of old. Ardbeg fans can let out a big sigh of relief. This one is big and gutsy-just the way we like it. My only criticism of this particular release is that it could have used about one or two more years in oak to tame some of the spirity nature of the whisky. Otherwise, this is wonderful stuff!
Distilled in the spring of 1996, this was matured in bourbon barrels and yields a nose of exotic spices, heather in bloom, soft aromatic peat, and grapefruit sprinkled with iodine. Well-mannered peat, brine, orange peel, vanilla, and black pepper on the palate. The finish is long, smoky, and peppery.
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 in it are. If you like your Islay whiskies young and brooding, this one’s for you.
Distilled at a time when the future of the distillery looked bleak. It is non-chill filtered and mildly herbal on the nose, with soft peat, muted iodine, and a sprinkling of pepper, plus warm leather. The palate is initially peppery, then vanilla and green apples emerge, along with aniseed and rich peat. Peppery to the end, with a hint of iodine and coal smoke.
Not an unpeated Ardbeg, but a new initiative to raise money for the Kildalton Project which supports community projects in south Islay. Smoke, but also real sweetness: hothouse peaches, mezcal, smoked oyster, sphagnum moss, a huge hit of vetiver, and coal tar. The smoke flies to the throat before fogging forward, while the sweet core (with added raspberry and cream, and mint) moves to the back. A worthwhile dram and a hugely worthwhile cause. Buy for either reason; or both. £120
This Ardbeg Day 2019 bottling was aged in bourbon barrels before a period of finishing in rum casks. Characteristic Ardbeg citrus and smoke on the nose, but with the addition of green figs, eucalyptus, antiseptic, and brine. Very smooth on the palate, with woodsmoke, mango, and papaya. Big peat and black pepper notes in the finish, underscored by tangy citrus. Ultimately, ashy smoke.
If I had to back one of the protagonists in Douglas Laing’s latest Duel of the Phial, my money would be squarely on the Ardbeg. The nose delights with oils oozing from the chestnut flesh of a grilled kipper, coiled rope on a trawler’s deck, and hot pressed asphalt, with a gentle background note of roasted peanut and millionaire’s shortbread. Medium texture: lemon and butterscotch, delicious fruitiness, and spearmint on the mid-palate. Clean, creamy with a baked lemon finish. £49
Identifiably richer, fuller, and smokier on the nose when compared to other young Ardbegs. While still prominent, there’s slightly less brine and seaweed, more earthiness, tar, soot, espresso, tobacco, grass, and chocolate fudge. The same goes for the palate. It starts out like a “slightly more gutsy than normal” cask strength, young Ardbeg (e.g., Renaissance) and, if you go into this experience expecting to be totally blown away by peat, tar, and smoke, you might feel a bit under-challenged initially. But the peat eventually builds to a powerful, lava-like crescendo and you realize that this is no ordinary Ardbeg. The length of the finish is seemingly endless; bold and warming. Through all this, there’s a soft underbelly of ripe barley and a vanilla sweetness to balance at least some of the tar, heat, and smoke -- something I admire in many Ardbegs. Bottom line: It’s an interesting, entertaining, and eye-opening experience. I like how mature it tastes for a relatively young whisky. But, like a whisky that shows just a bit too much sherry or oak, I think the extra peat, to a degree, masks the subtle complexities I admire in some other, lesser-peated Ardbegs, which is the only thing keeping me from scoring this whisky in the 90s. All smoky whisky enthusiasts should endeavor to try this at least once.
Let it be known that from now on, June 2nd will be Ardbeg Day. That’s fine by me, as annually we can enjoy delights such as this bold expression that belts you in the nose with coal tar and soot before bay rum emerges, lightening slightly into lime and hot green bracken. The palate is oily, sweet, and very deep. A growly bugger that lurches toward the shore and then spins back to the laurel bushes inland. 13,000 bottles.
Ar4 Elements of Islay (distilled at Ardbeg), 58.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $151
A touch of damp dunnage, some Ardbeggian soot, and plenty of jalapeño-style heat. Shows maturity and depth of character, with just-dead bonfire, ointment, and a sweetness, which here is like honeycomb. Water makes it bolder, with deeper smoke, while the palate has sweet wood, balanced (cigar-accented) smoke, and layers of salt, angelica, and plum. £90/500 ml
A proportion of the component whiskies has been matured in virgin Black Sea oak casks, while the rest has been aged in bourbon barrels. The nose is sweet, with warm cloves and soft peat; a hint of brine. When it comes to the palate—curious! Menthol and herbal notes, toasted oak, plain chocolate, sweet antiseptic. Mildly tannic in the finish, with subtle peaty spiciness. An herbal peat note lingers long.
Old Malt Cask (distilled at Ardbeg) 1992 Vintage, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $125
(Reviewers note: this is an exclusive bottling to Park Avenue Liquors, New York, NY.) This is signature Ardbeg: young (but not too young), bold, and with an attitude too! Its flavors are reminiscent of crumbled peat thrown on a campfire, with notes of damp earth, pepper, and seaweed. Still, there’s a soft underbelly of vanilla sweetness that helps to tame this beast and provide balance. A peppery, kippered, smoky finish entertains long after the whisky disappears. Make this your last whisky of the evening.
Maybe not as massive as its higher-strength brother (see above), but don’t think that this is light. There’s immediate grumbling peatiness, mixed with dark chocolate, lanolin, and tamarind, while the spiciness brings to mind tandoori food. There’s still the seaweed element, while the lower strength pulls things into a darker core—coal tar soap, damp moss. A very oily palate, that with water takes you onto the peat bog. Seashells on a fire and more smoke round things off.
This year’s Ardbeg Day bottling is named in tribute to World Cup host Brazil’s national colors: Auri (Gold) and Verdes (Green). Very restrained to start: grassy, sweet with vanilla pod, shoreline, and smoke wrapped in a woolen blanket. The palate shows more smoke, light chocolate, Ardbeg oiliness, and soot. It’s fresh and charming, but ultimately is a quarterfinalist beaten on penalties.
Released to celebrate the Ardbeg space mission, this is a mix of 1990 Ardbeg from bourbon and Marsala casks, and it’s the latter which make the running from the start. Earthy, with blackberry and fruitcake, and sooty peatiness in the background. While there’s a medicinal/herbal note with water, the palate has a damp wood edge. Fortified wine can work with peat, but here there’s a clash between distillery character and the Marsala cask. Sadly, a disappointment.
Master of Malt Darkness! Ardbeg 21 year old PX Cask Finish, 40.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $202
Finishing in octave-sized PX casks has resulted in the creation of an oddity: the world’s first Ardbeg cordial. There’s smoke, pigskin leather, and a sudden rootiness, mixed with damp woodland, stewing Victoria plums, and a weirdly lactic note. This continues on the tongue, giving an effect like smoked cream cheese dotted with raisins. Hmm…£120/500 ml