Ardbeg. One of those distilleries I have a love/hate relationship with. I’m rather fond of the distillery itself and the base distillate they produce but I’m less than enthusiastic about the over-the-top branding with all the flannel and the special releases, it just doesn’t appeal to me. These days I might get a bottle of the still very good TEN every once in a blue moon when it’s on sale but I ignore the rest. That also includes independently bottled Ardbegs. At one point Ardbeg was a distillery you HAD to buy casks of if you wanted casks from one of the higher-valued distilleries in their owner’s portfolio. These days independently owned casks are rare, sought after and priced accordingly. In my opinion and experience, the only somewhat sanely priced bottler of Ardbeg remains Cadenhead’s – and even their current prices are above what I’m personally willing to pay. So I guess this is already sold out in most markets but thanks to the shop in Vienna (who miraculously still seem to have stock, according to their website, at the time of writing) I was sent a wee sample to have a wee nose and taste…
Age: 25 years
Limitation: 216 bottles
uncoloured / not chill filtered
Oh wow, this has lost none of its smokiness in the 25 years since it was filled into a cask! Peat smoke with iodine, sea spray, seaweed-covered wet pebbles (lots of minerality!), a dash of lemon concentrate paired with spicy pepper and a hint of ginger. A hint of malty sweetness can be found in the background. Very minimalistic and spirit-driven in a very good way (unless you like your peaty drams to be drowned in
Very consistent with the nose! A burst of pepper on the arrival with tamed, iodine-laden peat smoke, salty, tangy, briny sea water, pebbles. Bandages from the Bowmore hospital washed ashore at Port Ellen, perhaps? Err, sorry, ignore my mind going crazy there for a second. Ahem. On the second sip, I can notice a very apparent dryness, which suits the character, and a very slight, malty sweetness. Yep, a very austere malt, letting the distillate shine even after all these years.
Slightly dry with a pepperiness upon swallowing before the iodine peat smoke starts to appear, followed by briny notes. All elements linger for a long time. Do I really have to brush my teeth tonight…?
A very austere whisky. 25 years in the cask have rounded off the distillate and filed away the hardest edges but the cask hasn’t contributed too much flavour. A big, distillate-driven, briny, peaty, iodine-infused whisky. My preferred style of peated whisky – but it might not be for everybody!
Overall Score: 90/100
Sample provided free of charge by the Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop Vienna. No other compensation was provided.