Wednesday, June 20, 2012
New release - Ardbeg Day
The Ardbeg distillery produces some of the peatiest and smokiest whiskies in the world. It is located on the south eastern coast of the famous Scottish whisky producing island of Islay, which is famous for producing the smoky, peaty style of whisky. Ardbeg was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall, although records show a distillery operating on the site as far back as 1794. The current owners are drinks company Moet Hennessey, who took over in 1997. The distillery is small with a capacity of just one million litres per year. The range of single malt whiskies from Ardbeg has built up a cult following of whisky drinkers across the world.
The Ardbeg Day whisky is a limited edition of 12,000 bottles and is a marriage of two different styles of Ardbeg, which have been re-racked in ex-sherry casks for the last six months. It has been bottled at 56.7% ABV and is priced at £65 a bottle. The special bottling follows the tradition of previous years having been released to the Ardbeg Committee members first. It is also on sale in the network of Ardbeg Embassies (of which there are now over 100 worldwide). If you haven't joined the Committee yet, then you can do for free by visiting www.ardbeg.com - you can also find out the location of your nearest Ardbeg Embassy on the same website.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale golden yellow and the nose is pungent and full of vibrancy. There are plenty of honey and vanilla aromas, but the stand out feature is the heavy earthy peat smoke. This tends towards coal tar soap and petrol fumes with extra time in the glass. There are also hints of ginger biscuits, oat cakes, cinnamon, candied peel and raisins.
On the palate this feels clean and fresh, while initially being quite fiery and a little oily. This oily feeling coats the mouth with heavy notes of robust malted cereals (think of oat cakes especially) and rich, thick earthy phenolic peat smoke (imagine damp moss). This smoke becomes more reminiscent of hot tar as it develops, moving away from the earthiness. It is only once these prominent notes begin to fade that other more subtle notes appear - honey, vanilla, dried apple, raisins, toasted nuts and hints of dark chocolate and bitter orange. Further depth and complexity is added by some drier and spicy notes - think of earthy ginger root, cinnamon and oak.
The finish is very long with the slightly bitter smokiness hanging around the longest. It is wonderfully dry, spicy (think of those wood spices again) and mouthwatering after some initial honey and vanilla sweetness fades. There is also some chilli-like heat.
The high alcohol level lends itself to adding some water. With a small splash the whisky becomes creamier on the palate with the chilli heat and bitter smoke softening, and the vanilla in particular becoming more prominent. The nose also changes in a very interesting way by exhibiting some yeasty/doughy and green apple aromas, along with a slightly floral perfume.
What's the verdict?
This is an intense single malt that is big, smoky and feisty. Fans of this style of whisky will undoubtedly love it as it exhibits everything that you would expect from it. The high ABV cask strength aspect exaggerates these aromas and flavours, making Ardbeg Day extremely expressive.
Most will probably need a drop or two of water to be added, especially those new to cask strength or very peaty whiskies. A lovely honeyed sweetness compliments the spicy and smoky notes almost perfectly. A fine effort from Ardbeg and more balanced than some of their other recent limited edition releases ... we have enjoyed our belated celebration of Ardbeg Day.