This bottling is a classic of the Ardbeg range, indeed, quite a classic in whisky as a whole. Originally, it combined old Ardbeg sherry-casked whisky with young, muscular and smoky Ardbeg – a classic use of different ages to balance a whisky and create complexity well (and, a worthwhile use of a no-age-statement whisky!). However, the age of the sherry casks, many suspect, has dropped since the initial releases. Batches also vary – the best are among the best you can buy, and the worst make you really wish you didn’t blow all the money to get a bottle (though I haven’t had a terrible batch, but a few I would definitely not pay for, if not all of them – is any whisky worth the $180 you pay in Ontario for this? Whisky, as fabulous as it is…is just whisky, and there is much to be had at a lower clip than this one). You can tell what batch you have by a bottle code on the side of the bottle which will tell you what batch your whisky is from (see here). This code on this reviewed bottle is L61360 31/03/2015 1500312 18:45.
Nose: Smoke, lemon peel, seaweed, biscuit, cacao, and absolutely brilliant mineral notes which seem to grow and supplement so firmly the rest of this nose. And, too, we have iIodine and medicinal notes, with some firm boggy peat, too…with time, it sweetens a bit and some raisins come through. Light vanilla and ever-so-light custard, sherry, and vanilla emerge with time. 27/30 (90%)
Taste: Peat, and smoke, with the mineral element continued, and brilliant mouthfeel. A light sweetness, milk chocolate, and a dry sensation which makes the ashy smoke element come out quite a bit. The creaminess on the palate is nice, and there is quite a bit of dark caramel. The sherry is ever so lightly present, and adds brilliant complexity.As you get accustomed to the peat you taste more of the whisky you notice more of the sweetness underneath. But, a bit meaty and unappealing in places as well so it seems to me that not all the sherry casks did their best work. 25.5/30 (85%)
Finish: Spicy on the end, with custard, smoke, oak, and dry white pepper, caramel, vanilla, some earthy peat, and capers. On the end, lots of tobacco off a nice cigar – similar finish as a cigar, with the oiliness too! 18/20 (90%)
Conclusion: Good, but still not as good as the Ardbeg 10 which I tasted earlier this year (and is half the price!), or the Ardbeg 10 I had the previous year…indeed, that is a bit more of a consistent bottling in my experience, and of late it might even be getting better. However, back to this one – the minerality is what I really love – it’s well integrated and firm. 17.5/20 (88%)