Ardbeg Ardbog: 52.1% abv
Background: Here’s another Ardbeg for the peat lovers out there. Very lovingly named Ardbog, this whisky is another statement from the Islay powerhouse that introduces a different style into the mix. Oddly enough, although you won’t see it on the front of the bottle, the back of the bottle drops a hint that this whisky is 10 years of age. Maybe the expensive tag on this bottle doesn’t sound 10 Year-like? Another unique thing about this whisky that sets it apart is that all of those ten years are spent in ex-Manzanilla sherry casks. Although we have tried a lot of sherried whiskies, Manzanilla is a sweeter, less frequently used variant that has yet to find its way in one of our reviews. A theme of the Ardbog is to emphasize the historical relevance of peat, which explains the surplus of fossils and random artifacts presented on the packaging. Apparently, if you drank Ardbeg during that History final, you might not have failed. In any case, Ardbeg has been active in releasing limited edition variants and now we have to find out if it’s worth your limited budget.
Nose: Although the nose is initially pretty overbearing, there are some interesting notes that come out without water. There is a grilling smoke smell that emanates from the glass, with savory, meaty flavors present up front. This includes campfire wood and sweet maple. This whisky is in essence completely reminiscent of a family camping trip up north. There is some sweet apple on the nose, with brown sugar and candied bacon also adding sweetness. The sherry presents itself on the nose with a molasses-like, concentrated Cognac and rum smell. There is a tinge of spice in the nose, but it is very subtle. There is also a light cigar aroma in the whisky. Ultimately, the nose is very dense and rewarding, but it can be challenging to extract flavors with the high alcohol.
Arrival: The arrival is spicy, syrupy, and doesn’t hold back on the peat. There is a really concentrated peat and ash flavor, complimented by the subtle sweetness of the Manzanilla sherry. The spice is close to clove and black pepper. There is some black tea flavor that comes through as well, but it is hard to pick up too much due to the high concentration of alcohol. There is some molasses in the arrival.
Body: The body carries the peaty, ashy flavor from before, but also takes on some salty, briny character in the whisky which is very enjoyable. Salt water is present, but there are also a high level of tannins as well.
Finish: The finish is fantastically peaty, with a strong, dry tobacco and ash finish. There is a grainy character as well, but it is very limited. There is certainly alcohol heat present, and drives a quick finish. The sweetness is not substantial through the finish.
Nose: The nose certainly doesn’t become tame with a few drops of water. It is very lively still, but reveals some desired complexity in maltiness, light cinnamon and brown sugar, sea salt and
Arrival: The arrival is more pleasant after adding water. Clove, nutmeg and cinnamon become pretty dominant in the arrival, with tea leaves and dried nuts also present.
Body: There is a lot more spice in the body after adding water. The wood is very dominant, and there is dry vegetal notes that take place in the whisky. The peat is very strong in the body, and it tends to be a bit more aggressive after adding water, where the alcohol isn’t just covering the smokey character.
Finish: The finish still remains relatively bitter, taking on the tobacco, tea leaves, slight sherry and woody notes to it. The whisky is slightly leathery, and the vegetal notes from the body carry into the finish. The finish offers up some complexity in tarry, medicinal notes. Some of the phenolic character is very strongly present in the finish, and dwells.
Final Comments: Admittedly, this is a very tough one for KCM. This whisky has challenging aspects to it, and it presents itself as a very dense whisky, but I can’t seem to avoid the fact that this is lacking in some complexity. When I compare this to Uigeadail, it doesn’t really compare, in all honesty. It is a good whisky, and I really enjoy drinking it. In fact, it grew on me. I was initially pretty disappointed with it, admittedly, but it still lacks in some spark. I don’t believe a fan of sherried peated Scotches would really frown on this bottle, but I just fail to want to pick this over the standard offering. That being said, it wouldn’t hurt somebody to try this whisky, and if you’re a fan of Ardbeg, this isn’t far outside the range of accessible whiskies.
Why you’d buy it: You like the monster peat, high proof stuff, and Laphroaig isn’t your style.
Why you wouldn’t: Ardbeg Uigeadail