Guaranteed to sell out in a flash, this Show special Ardbeg was matured in a single ex-bourbon hogshead for 20 years before being bottled at 57.2% ABV. The label ‘An Ever-changing World of Order’ shows a mechanised ‘whisky factory’ which features machines doing all of the work (lifting, moving, disgorging and bottling) that previously humans would have undertaken. Judgement day approaches.
When I first saw the asking price of £399 there was a sharp intake of breath. The last Whisky Show Ardbeg (bottled 2 years ago and 2 years younger – go figure) clocked in at £299 – but despite flying off the shelves didn’t prove to be the flippers paradise that clearly they expected it to be. On SWA, to date, all but one bottle has hammered for less than the original RRP. As such, and particularly with the price of the recently released OB Traigh Bhan (£200 for a 19yo), this feels pitched at a level to actively dissuade the flippers and to only really appeal to die-hard fans of the distillery and its idiosyncratic distillate.
Nose: Smoked preserved lemons and swimming pool changing rooms (steamy with menthol and floor cleaner) are joined by beach shingles, smoothed pebbles and smoked golden caster sugar. Running throughout – cough syrup and Vicks Vapour Rub together with pine resin and overt wood smoke. Dilution reveals salinity together with candy necklaces (a great juxtaposition in aroma), burnt toffee and overdone honeycomb.
Taste: Oily, fatty and viscous in texture. Lime juice arrives on the palate first, together with a healthy sprinkle of sea salt. Following quickly are beach fires, shingle and sand and smouldering logs. Chocolate ganache follows together with soothing medicinal vapours and a selection of tinctures and bandages. Water introduces tar and mentholated lemons whilst also expressing burnt, but still silky toffee.
Finish: Long with sustained oiliness, lime zest and an alluvial combination of aggregates and coal dust.
Very well composed older Ardbeg with particularly notable ABV integration. Perfectly drinkable at 57.2% and equally happy diluted. As expected for the level of maturity, the distillery profile is substantially calmer than it presents in other bottlings – but nevertheless it is expressed throughout and punctuated by a well-judged citric pang. Scored for quality – not for the fairly eye-opening price.