Some days ago we tasted an Ardbeg bottled by Cadenhead’s. A similar malt, just bottled some years before, in 2008. The aim is to find differences and similarities between them. The beginning of the 1990s was a special time for the distillery, which was just re-opened after a decade of shutdown. This 20 yo was matured in an ex-bourbon cask and released in 186 bottles. We noticed that now on whiskybase it costs 320 euro!
N: the first, impressive sensation is the great similarity to the other Ardbeg. The only way to avoid the cut-and-paste is to focus on the differences. This is more austere, the vanilla is underneath. The smoke is slightly more faint, but there’s more burnt wood. The citrusy side is more green (lime and cedar). It’s an edgy nose, less easy, but the differences are not pronounced at all.
P: what a fantastic attack! We’d say this would beat the other 3-0 in a taste match. It shows an unreal balance, actually totally unexpected, between its parts. The sweetness is not limited to the vanilla, but it’s enriched by ripe yellow fruit (pear). Lots of lime again, wonderfully juicy. Licorice. On the other side, sea and peat are king and queen, very multifaceted. Burnt wood and chemical notes. In the end, a gorgeous saltiness. Nicely lively this 20 yo peat!
F: in the other Ardbeg, a finish of burnt tires followed a super-sweet palate. Here the rubber is burning wrapped in a nice vanilla sweetness.
Single casks like these are the main reason because Ardbeg is still a myth today, years after that golden age of distillation in the mid ‘70s. If the official production has been gradually standardised and it’s now a bit disappointing from the value for money ratio point of view (except for The Ten), independent bottlers still provide us flashes of majestic and true Ardbegness. An untameable whisky, powerful but refined and inviting. Pure magic: 91/100.
Recommended soundtrack: Godot – The fragrance of black coffee.