It is Ardbeg Day – finally. What a big machinery of viral/guerrilla marketing was revved up for that to refuel the cult-like following of this wonderful distillery. So be it, it was done well, let’s join in.
However, I won’t push a wheelbarrow with peat to apply for the purchase of a young bottle, neither will I welcome a ship in a port with its peaty load nor am I becoming a rocketman – I am simply going to taste two exceptional drams from there just as the Gods of Ardbeg wanted it. This is how I obey, that’s my way of creating cult. But thanks for the invitation, guys.
My friend Michael – who deserves knighthood for this – gave me two samples of Ardbeg Single Casks that still mature at the distillery in Sherry Hoggies: a 1975 and a 1998. Something special already. As I own the empty sister, Sherry Cask #4716 bottled for Germany in 2002 (this cask sits in my cellar and was used for an Ardbeg rematuration), this is even more special to me. Let’s taste:
Ardbeg 1975 Refill Sherry Hogshead #4714 (sampled 27.09.2011, 45,3%)
Nose: Wow, what a great start for Ardbeg Day – it has the perfect balance and smell of good old Ardbeg from sherry
casks with enough power. I love the deep peaty tones, the soot and the iodine along with notes of chalk, sulphur, tires, overheated power transformator, herbs, tealeafs, camphor, cocoa, milk coffee, plums, pepper, oyster, sea air, lemon zest and other citrus components, also only a little wood (dark plank). Close to perfect, I would say.
Palate: Very similar to its nose, but milder, not a powerhouse – it could be a bit heavier for my taste. This also translates into the mouthfeel which also is a bit thin. However, the finish brings a growth of flavours again.
Finish: Now we’re talking! The magic is back, consisting of iodine, soot, sulphur, deep-toned peat, tires and plums. Nothing but great.
Comment: This work in progress should be taken out soon, but it also won’t suffer from becoming a 40 y.o., who knows what is planned with it. Some people say it won’t be bottled at all. Why that is, I don’t know. The old showcase cask? Whatever will happen, I wanna be part of its future 😉 .
Ardbeg 1998 Refill Sherry Hogshead #2722 (sampled 27.09.2011, 53,9%)
Nose: Altogether the same DNA (deep peaty aromas, soot and put-out campfire, dirty tires, lemon zest, camphor), but with the usual hints of post-1997
elements like aloe vera, agave and other cactus’s juice. I am also getting aromas of Pu-Erh tea and pine resin. The sherry is very discrete but helps in terms of complexity.
Palate: Displays a good balance, this is not a wild beast yet it retains good power of spice and peat and the aromas mentioned. I can taste its potential.
Finish: Mainly on soot, peat, matchstick sulphur and tires but the complete nose appears in the distance after a while. And here it is, late but there: Chocolate and French roast coffee. Aaaaahhhhh.
Comment: This cask is pretty close to the old style, especially in the finish. I am quite convinced that it will come close to the old Ardbeg quality when it is over 20 years old – if they let it sleep.
With some patience, we will get wonderful old Islay drams like the 1975 from above again. Along with Port Charlotte and Kilchoman, Ardbeg will be stellar when it becomes older. The future is bright. Aside from that I think that inactive refill sherry is just the perfect wood to age Ardbeg for more than 15 years.
P.S.: In November there will be an Ardbeg Vertical Tasting in Regensburg …