I recently tasted a couple more Ardbegs. Some recent, some older bottlings but always fun. Here are my notes!
Ardbeg 2000 / 18YO / MoS / Cask 18010 /51.5 % Vol.
Beautiful, rich sherried color, this one! Beef stock, overripe oranges, christmas punch, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, old dusty leatherjacket, some menthol and camphor. “old english candyshop”. Refined and silky peatsmoke. Don’t expect a maritime young peatmonster like TEN or Uigeadail here. This one smells really old and mature.
Creamy and sweet. Spicy woodnotes follow up, salty peatsmoke expands on the palate. Dark chocolate with seasalt, bitter orangepeel, and a touch of mint tingling on the sides of your tongue. Great combination of aromas. All seems to fit in perfectly. Sadly, the finish is a bit short for a malt of this age and character.
What a nice MoS bottling this is. Finally a really mature, age-stated, sherried Ardbeg again. I think this one should be to many peoples liking. The price is steep, but you get an oldschool quality Ardbeg profile that you can not find in the official bottlings nowadays. For me the best MoS Ardbeg bottling to date. Only the relatively short finish prevents a higher score. I added 2-3 drops of water and let it breathe for around half an hour. The nose opens up and the sweetness on the palate is boosted. /90
Smokehead 18YO Extra Black / Ian MacLeod / Limited Edition / 46% Vol.
So this one is out since 2010, but sadly it’s mostly gone from retail shelves by now…
Salted lime peel! Fruity beeswax candles. Dry vanillapods. Even a hint of tropical fruits like mango or papaya. The peat is delicate but gives a salty and tangy edge to the whole experience. Smoky limoncello. With time, old leatherjacket and dried tobaccoleaves accompany the fruits.
A meaty, herbal and mentholated start. Oily and mature mouthfeel. The peat has cigarlike qualitys and you get the feeling of aged smoky mezcal with drops of lemonjuice. A simple, focused and rather delicious dram. Reminds me of the Caol Ila 25YO.
At the time when this one was readily available, it was a real bargain. All bourbon matured, no gimmicky Ardbeg at a nice age. What more can you ask for? /88
Ardbeg SMWS 33.74 / 1998 / 10YO / “A dirty dram for Mary Poppins” / 56.6% VOL.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is almost always Top Notch when it comes to Ardbeg. So let’s taste this older single cask. Hopes are high 😉
There are sulphury sherry casks that are absolutely horrible and then there are these rare instances where the touch of sulphur, the sherry residue and the peated malt just sing in tune to absolute perfection. Which is the case here: Tart orangepeel, subdued and salty peatsmoke, a bonfire on the beach, fresh seabreeze, wet flintstones, copper coins, Zippo lighter, grilled BBQ ribs, buttery corncobs, strawberry bubblegum, cooling menthol, green vegetables.
Pungent arrival on toffee sweets, lime, sherry and copper. Waves of black peatsmoke roll over the tongue. Very fizzy and alive. orangepeel, lime, liquorice, rosmarin, thyme, fleur de sel, a bit of sulphur, the ribs again. Chocolate mints and a nice astringent bitterness in the finish.
I have yet to find a bad SMWS Ardbeg. This one has quite a bit of sulphur, so if you can’t handle that, stay clear. I think, with this cask it was rather an asset than a flaw. /89
Ardbeg Rollercoaster / 2009 / NAS / Committee Release / 57.3% Vol.
This one was bottled in 2009 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the infamous Ardbeg committee. A blend of casks from ten different vintages, according to the backlabel, and bottled at cask strength. The secondary market prices for this one are of course insane these days.
Seabreeze, ozone, salted lemons, fishy peatsmoke, some vanilla, honey, ashtray, lychees, fresh, young, vibrant and very “modern Ardbeg”. My guess would be that they used predominantly first- and second-fill bourbon casks for the mix.
A fistful of Ardbeg! Pungent peatsmoke, vanilla, leather, tobacco, crushed seasalt, limejuice, liquorice, vanilla, mineral riesling, green grapes and seawater. Hits you like a hammer (or a rollercoaster ride) and then its gone.
Not too sure… Its a good one, but I have to say I expected a bit more. Maybe because of the high price nowadays? For around 80€, I would grab one no doubt, but the current pricing is absurd. Its good, not great Cask Strength Ardbeg, nothing more, nothing less. Taste- and qualitywise its very near to the readily available Corryvreckan. So I recommend you go for that one instead. If you are just looking to add to your collection, I wish you good luck in finding one at an affordable price. /87