Review: Islay-Session III. – Three SMWS-Ardbeg

After a bloody rare steak (its smoke still filling the room), I feel like having some Ardbeg. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has released some really decent bottlings of the cult distillery recently. Let’s give three new ones a go: I am focusing on differences again in this head-to-head (not on typical aromas in detail).


Ardbeg 13 y.o. SMWS 33.102, 10.1997 – 2011, 2nd-fill Bourbon Barrel, 223 btl., 55,2%

Comment: A bit more on the spicy side than the others (white pepper, chili), also more citrus aromas (orange, lemon, lime) coming through. Oysters, chalk, rope, pine resin, camphor, big peat smoke and bonfire, later even latte macchiato coffee and minty menthol join in. It is very hot and spicy on the palate, begging for dilution. Water makes it a classic fine Ardbeg with great balance and brings out the leather.

Score: 89


Ardbeg 11 y.o. SMWS 33.104, 31.8.1999 – 2011, Refill Sherry Butt, 538 btl., 55,7%

Comment: A round and voluptous version with quite some toffee, raisins and a store full of new tires. The discrete sherry takes away the edge and some peatiness as well. Somehow winey. On the palate it is more peppery than expected, but soon the sherry’s sweet notes soften the catch a bit. It keeps jumping between these two worlds until the hot spice wins.

Score: 85


Ardbeg 11 y.o.SMWS 33.109, 8.1998 – 2011, Refill Sherry Butt, 468 btl., 55,6%

Comment: Very close to 33.104, also a load of new tires, but more herbs and camphor and a bit less toffee. Discrete sherry influence in the nose causing that rounding effect again, but this is peatier than 104 – sulphur and iodine make this one more interesting. It has a good balance in the mouth without losing character and ooommpphh. Later raisins and resin show up. I love the flinty and spicy finish. Not bad at all, I must say.

Score: 89

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