Tasting 7 Ardbegs (well, really 6 with one that is supposed to be an Ardbeg)

Ok, truth be told, I am no Superman.

Really, I’m just a guy who had some time on his hands and decided to taste seven, count them, seven Ardbegs in one sitting.  Just so you know, I am not one to get drunk.  In fact, I avoid it like the plague.  I’m a total control freak and loosing control in a drunken frenzy, is just not my bag.

So, how did I taste seven Ardbeg whiskies with out getting trashed?  Water, food and a nearly 3 hour tasting event.  I did it alone too which, for a tasting of this size and scope, I preferred.  I didn’t want anyone to influence what I was tasting.  Try it sometime. It’s like solitaire with booze.

Even though I posted tasting notes on some of these whiskies prior to this event, the notes below are new notes.  Why would I post new notes on whiskies I’ve already posted about, you ask??  Well, things change, moods change, etc…  Also, and more importantly, I tasted these whiskies one after another and my guess is that there was influence from one whisky to the next.

Oh, one last thing, Gal of Whisky Israel and I did a joint tasting of the Ardbeg Rollerocaster via Twitter and that posting will go up within the next week or two.  I did notice that my individual tasting of the Rollercoaster and this tasting with the other six Ardbeg whiskies was a different experience.  Watch out for that posting!

Alright folks, I’m done with the preamble and I’m ready to taste:

Ardbeg Ten Years Old – Islay region – 46%ABV – 750ml bottle$45 | £33 | €38

On the noseBright lemons right up front, sand-in-your-toes – a jog on the beach with the spray of ocean in your face (Awesome!), peat smoke (quite sweet), celery salt, rubber boots.

On the mouth Chewy peat, there’s such a beautiful element here, lemons, fruit, something a bit synthetic, warming, oak and boat tar.

FinishBright and quite pleasing, tingly – what a great entry level whisky.

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist – Islay region – 46%ABV – 750ml bottle – $79 and up | £64 | €71

On the nose Peat (quite warm at that), grassy but increasingly fruity, some sour milk notes (baby vomit?), oak a bitter fruits (genepa?).

On the mouth Pure sex, dried fruits, raisins, prunes, nutty, oily, warms my body, delicate peat smoke.

Finish Still as short as I remember but, that’s Ok.  It’s all in the palate for me anyway.  Wait, those oaky notes I remember are back as is that warming feeling on the sides of my tongue.

Ardbeg – Indy Bottling – Cheiftain’s 1998 11yr – Islay region – 46%ABV – 70cl bottle – Not sure of the cost – sold out at all locations I frequent…

On the nose Oh, you’re an odd little Ardbeg aren’t you?? — Dirty peat, earthy, lemons (but not a bright lemon scent, more meringue and actually, a bit more like grapefruit than lemons the more I sniff), wood chips (almost a cedar-type quality to it), grassy.  There’s something else here too that I just can’t place. I can’t think of the scent but I’m getting images of an autumn state fair in my head every time I sniff and think about it…  Man, this is going to bug the crap out of me.

On the mouthA strange entry here, fruits all up front (citrus ones and they’re running the gamut), the peat arrives here kicking all of the fruits out of the way.  This is quite dirty and earthy (me like!).

Finish A nice warming peatiness here, some nuttiness I did not pick up anywhere else, long.

A Special thanks to DH for the sample of the Chieftain’s Ardbeg.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan – Islay region – 57.1%ABV – 750ml bottle – $79 and up | £60 | €70

On the nose Ah the brine!  Love it.  Love this Corryvreckan nose.  Big ABV but again (as in my previous post about it), I can keep my nose in the glass until I pass out from lack of oxygen, oak, tar, sweet peat smoke, nori seaweed, low tide, bursting with citrus notes!

On the mouth(Let the cask strength begin!)  Big peat attack but quite sweet, very oceanic (low tide), salty, tarry ropes, after the first three whiskies I’m not getting the dried fruits in the palate that I got the first time around (palate fatigue? I don’t think so.  Am I drunk?  I hope not.)  Let’s try again – there it is – pruney, some root veggies here now (parsnip): awesome.

FinishLong, they say diamond last forever.  This must be the diamond of the whisky world. Peat stays in your mouth for sure.

Ardbeg Supernova 2009 – Islay region – 58.9%ABV – 750ml bottle – $130-200+ | £200 | €233

On the nose Big, sweet and lemony.  More so than the 10yr (to my nose). Large peat, charred lemons (I imagine), rubber notes, beach ball leaves beach to have a swim in the ocean, lovely.  This nose would scare the living shit out of most people, me thinks – it attacks you!

On the mouth Here we go y’all – this is the most peated Ardbeg there is at 100ppm.  Let’s see what happens.  Ok, being that you’re reading this now means I didn’t burst into flames.  Here’s what actual happened – Ooof, it’s like the Ardbeg 10yr on steroids.  Bursting with lemony sweetness, brine and, of course, peat but it’s not the burnt piece of toast I expected.  Theres a purity here that’s quite remarkable.  Thin mouth feel but, hey, that’s Ok with me, the flavors are great.

Finish like the sides of my tongue are being tattooed with peat and using a lemon rind to get under my skin, some nice oak notes too.

A special thanks to JJY for the sample of the Ardbeg Supernova.

Ardbeg Rollercoaster – Islay region – 46%ABV – 750ml bottle – $79 and up | £50 | €58

On the nose I know that there are some younger whiskies in the make up of this expression but the nose (to me) doesn’t feel as young as I expected.  Peat for sure but it’s sort of a sexy nose (not biting or brash which I usually associate with younger peat), strawberry jam, citrus (of course!  this is Ardbeg people!), heavily salted stuff.

On the mouth Quite savory compared to the sweetness of the other Ardbegs I’ve tried.  Salted pie crust (if there were such a thing), peat, lots of peat, some fruits rear their heads here (strawberry, pomelo), charred wood, cherries now and some tobacco.  I am loving the Rollercoaster more & more!

Finish Medium long, this is at the perfect strength if you ask me.

Ellenstown 10yr Cask Strength – Islay region – 46%ABV – 750ml bottle – $45-$75 (could not find a UK/EU source)

On the nose Soapy, peaty nose, sugary (almost candied), some boggy notes come through (trout fishing at the local pond with my dad circa 1982), not as briny as some of the others I nosed, a bit grassy – not as nice a nose as the others but you brought me back in time and I like that.

On the mouth A light brisk walk on the beach, quite citrusy and purely delicious.  I’ve had this as a stand alone an “liked it” but next to some of the others whiskies I’ve been having, I now “love this”.  Quite a nice expression we have here.  Back to the flavors: Some sour notes pop up but overall there’s nothing but sweetness and peatness, a few **very** light rubbery notes but mostly a more natural feel to this one.

Finish A great length here, some grassiness on the finish alongside oaky notes and lemon grass.

Vatting of all seven expressions – this is like the Voltron of whisky here!! – Cost: Priceless

On the nose Very briny, much like the Corryvreckan!  Some tannic – almost winey notes here (like a really dry cabernet, dry & fruity), quite the salty nasal attack here.  Big, big peat!  something almost candy like (think the sugar from Pez Candy with out all of the artificial fruits), stinky shoes.

On the mouth Big punch of peat!  Awesome mouth feel – more oily than any of the individual Ardbegs.  The taste of the smell of an outside grill, woody (oak), vanilla bean ice cream (clear out of the blue some creamy notes came through), freshly-washed-and-hanging-to-dry-clothes.

Finish Oily, just like the mouth feel, big peat!  A cornucopia of citrus fruits.  Heaven.

In sum This was an amazing experience.  I was quite happy to taste the Ellenstown alongside the other whiskies.  Doing so improved that expression like you wouldn’t believe.  With regards to the Airigh Nam Beist, I was told by a few people not to taste it along side the younger Ardbegs as it’s magic would be lost.  To this statement I say: Bullshit.  If anything, tasting the beast alongside the younger Ardbeg whiskies made the Airigh Nam Beist stand out in a very positive way.

So, which whisky won?  I have to say that my own personal vatting was my favorite expression (Woo Hoo, I win!).  This being said, you will never have a chance to taste the JSMWS Ardbeg so I will now have to suggest another winner.

Drum roll please….

Ardbeg Corryvreckan – even though I prefer older, sexier peat, the Corry is so well balanced and complex.