Ardbeg is one of my favourite distilleries, despite the marketing department sinking their claws ever further into this great whisky.
The problem Ardbeg has, is that the Uigeadail is such a brilliant whisky for a reasonably reasonable price and that any special editions struggle to equal, let alone surpass it. These are some recent special ones from WFNN in Groningen I was lucky enough to attend.
The 17yo in particular I was fascinated to try, as Jim Murray himself admits to being the whisky’s maker. He gave it 92/100… While the packaging is a great example of throwing objectivity out the window, with tasting notes on the whole Ardbeg range from Mr. Murray and quotes from the whisky bible expounding the many virtues of this most wonderous of drams.
Ardbeg 23 Twenty Something 46.3%
Nose: Subdued after 23 years, faint smoke, grapefruit citrus, cooling spearmint, candied lime peel, chimney soot. A bit closed off.
Taste: Instantly soft lime followed by subdued smoke, peated malt, some grapefruit, oily, doesn't have the complexity though. Lovely mouthfeel.
Finish: Medium length. Shorter than I'd like, that peated malty taste and then a citrus grapefruit hit.
1993/4 distillate. What is there to say? A let down for such a price. Although its great whisky, it doesn't hold up to Oog.
Ardbeg 17 40%
Nose: Everything I wanted from the 23 on the nose. Very expressive Ardbeg, lovely complex juicy lime, slightly tropical fruit, peat still very present, pickled lime curry paste (the one you get with your poppadums in UK Indian restaurants). Very nice nose Mr. Murray.
Taste: Soft and clean, subdued smoke, lots of lime, then the smoke builds with quite some power for 40%, creamy oak, nice oily mouthfeel.
Finish: Medium length. Loses power rapidly, lime and creamy smoke.
It seems Mr. Murray knows how to put an Ardbeg together! I think this was an earlier version, as I’ve heard that these got a little less peaty over time. I dread to think how good this could have been at 46%!
Ardbeg Rollercoaster 57.3%
Colour: Light Gold
Nose: Classically Ardbeg but with more soft herbal notes, lime peel, spicy curry paste, coriander, clove, dark liquorice, quite 'tight' but good.
Taste: Huge, intense peat, very very big and spicy, curry paste and pickled lime, ginger and coriander, then more creamy and soft into the finish.
Finish: Long length. Much softer suddenly with more lime, creamy and oily.
A committee release made up from a vatting of casks from 1997-2006. Reminds me a little of Corry actually, but another example of a ‘special’ Ardbeg not holding up to the original range. Its just a bit too much power and not enough of the usual Ardbeg finesse.
Average Score: 83.8
Distillery Ranking: 4th/64 places
Up/Down: No movement
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Scotch Reviews #597-#599
Whisky Network Reviews #709-#711
Network Average: 74.6
Best Score: 94
Worst Score: 12
60-64 Just About OK
65-69 Ok to Good
75-79 Very Good
Full Disclosure Disclaimer: I currently work as a Brand Ambassador for Penderyn Distillery. The views expressed here are purely my own and do not reflect the views of Penderyn Distillery or The Welsh Whisky Company. I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can but feel free to take my reviews with as big a pinch of salt as you like. Furthermore, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. You can find more on my scoring here. I apologise for any seemly low or 'bad' scores given with my system and I am sorry I can't say only nice things. Please keep in mind that I am ethically compromised and I am unable to produce 100% unbiased reviews.