Ardbeg Uigeadail: 54.2% abv
Background: Ardbeg is another Islay Scotch distillery. They are on the southern coast of Islay, and claim to produce the peatiest whisky on Islay, which is a pretty bold claim with all of the heavy hitters out there. The distillery is currently owned by Hennessy, and is one of the fastest growing Islay distilleries at this time. Ardbeg whiskies can be considered extremely fashionable, albeit this is for a good reason. Ardbeg has distilled whisky since 1798, but didn’t start producing commercially until 1815. Ardbeg’s flagship product is the 10 year, but they don’t bottle this like Glenfiddich would. Ardbeg 10 Yr is bottled at 46% abv and is non-chill filtered, so you can tell this stuff is good. Uigeadail, on a different note, is a unique bottling of Ardbeg, aged in sherry casks. In 2009, Jim Murray made Uigeadail the World Whisky of the Year. So this stuff is pretty good. But we don’t trust it from others. Let’s find out for ourselves.
Nose: The nose here is a complex and dry, and there is some really interesting things happening here. You get the peat and sherry notes pretty instantly, with a very oily, slightly waxy aroma to it. There is a classic briny character to the nose, and even has some gasoline-type smell to it. Keep digging, and you’ll find cashews, rose, cranberry, wood polish, and slight oak. The contrast of these notes is pretty extreme, and this wouldn’t be a beginner’s nose, but it certainly is a revolutionary nose.
Arrival: This is a brutal start. Not in a bad way, but it is intense. The taste starts hot and spicy, with big cinnamon tastes. The oak tastes come through quickly, with some vanilla and thick oak notes, also cranberry and subtle apple sweetness.
Body: The body comes in with big peat, with the spice notes holding through. There is minor citrus notes, but is overtaken by ginger and dry spice. There is even some apple and molasses sweetness coming through in the body. Finally, you can find some smoked wood notes lingering in the body as well.
Finish: The finish is dynamic and smokey, with a big oily mouthfeel. There are still cinnamon and sherry notes from the body. The initial cranberry presence is back from the arrival, and the briny presence is prevalent as well. There is even some minty and gingerbread notes, with the molasses sticking around and black pepper as a residual flavor.
Nose: After water, the nose is much more balanced. This is an incredible balance, with some honey notes breaking through, the peat starts to blend in, and there is olive oil notes coming through as well. The nose is very pleasant now, and there is not as much burn.
Arrival: The arrival becomes nuttier after water, less spicy, and slightly peaty. The vanilla notes are big. Even after a substantial amount of water, there is no loss of flavor.
Body: After water, the body remains pretty well the same, but there are some berry-like bitterness to it, and also angostura bitters.
Finish: The finish, like the body, remains fairly consistent, with a little less spiciness. The finish is still very woody, and adds brininess to it.
Final Comments: Uigeadail is a statement to the maturation of peated whisky in sherry casks, and how good it really can be. It seems like sherry and peated Scotch doesn’t mix, and they absolutely can. This Ardbeg is powerful and complex, and it shows of a different side to a peated Scotch, where the main focus isn’t necessarily how peaty it can be, not to mention the craft presentation Ardbeg puts on all of their whiskies. There is no reason not to try this one, because in effect, you will learn something about Scotch from trying this whisky. At the price, we think this is absolutely a worthy buy, being one of the better Islay’s we’ve had to date.
Why you’d buy it: It is extremely well crafted and complex, and from a great distillery
Why you wouldn’t: You’re passionate about not buying good whisky