Review: Two Ardbeg from Sherry Casks

From the new Society releases again, here are two nice Ardbeg in a head-to-head. You are in for a surpise when you read the outcome. But be quick, I guess they are as good as gone already.


Ardbeg 5 y.o. Scotch Malt Whisky Society SMWS 33.112 ‚Powerful, elegant and atmospheric‘ 20.12.2005 – 2011, 2nd-fill sherry butt, 252 btl., 60,8%

Comment: It doesn’t smell that young, quite a surpise. A rather typical Ardbeg on the mineral, green and farmyardy side again with nice citrus and Granny Smith apple notes. The peat, resin, smoke, burnt tires on hot tar, sulphur, iodine, discrete chalky oak from those refilled sherry casks (that go perfect with Ardbeg i.m.h.o.), mustard seed, chocolate, spinach and jet fuel aromas have some acidity to them. I am also getting sandy pebbles on the beach. Rather complex for such a youngster, not at all an alcohol-driven nose. The palate is a powerhouse, really punchy without being spicy or unpolished, no offnote here! What an Ardbeg! A monster without being rough. Long finish with big iodine, tires and soot! I used to say that Ardbeg takes some time to unfold, but this dram seems to be an exception. Impressive and very South Coast Islay. Water is not necessary but makes it more accessible to some fainter hearted natures.

Score: 90+


Ardbeg 11 y.o. Scotch Malt Whisky Society SMWS 33.115 ‚Man, that’s braw!‘ 31.08.1999 – 09.2011, refill sherry butt, 578 btl., 55,4%

Comment: This is less powerful and dryer than the 5 y.o. contender because the refill sherry cask has done a good  ‚rounding-off the edges-job‘ without being very obvious or sweet (unobtrusive in background) – a rather inactive cask like the one above has been used, but over 100% more time of ageing took place. There are nice white pepper and chili notes, eucalypt, nettles, pu-erh tea, plums, prunes, apples, peat, chalky oak, iodine, aromatic smoke and sulphur. Asian spices and chocolate join in on the palate with sherry traces and green tea – later plums and the peat-sulphur-iodine-combo. If the 112 is the mineral and fresh Riesling from Rheinhessen, this one is your typical Barossa Shiraz (in wine analogy terms speaking). I prefer the Riesling this time.

Score: 89

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