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Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Blasda. You can't peat it.


What a weekend. Mid-October and the weather is fantastic. Highs in London of 21 degrees centigrade. Mother Nature is inviting you down the park to play Frisbee and drink Pimms. In October. Let's just confirm here; October. The 10th month in the Gregorian calendar, just TEN WEEKS away from Christmas and I'm in shorts. Could things get any stranger? Well. Yes. They could. Because this month sees the release of Blasda, Ardbeg's "lightly peated" whisky. So, last night a few folk gathered together at an intimate do in the Whisky Exchange shop at Vinopolis, London Bridge where Ardbeg's Distillery Manager Mickey Heads took us on a journey from the new, lightly peated Blasda through to the Ten Year Old, the Uigeadail, Single Cask bottling (cask 1375 from 1974) and finally 2 strange drams, direct from the warehouse. We have previously done notes for the Ten and cask 1375 and there will be tasting notes up later for the Ugi and the two cask samples, but for now let's kick off with the much anticipated Blasda:

Ardbeg Blasda - NAS - 40% - 70cl

What we learnt about this bottling last night was that this batch contains 35% 1st fill and 65% 2nd refill bourbon casks. Let's get our nose into it, then:

N- light peat (no surprise there), grapefruit juice (Echinacea), light mint, vanilla pods, cucumber, waft of smoke. This was the first dram of the evening, and when returning to it having gone through the Ten, Ugi and some single cask stuff you really smell the youthful, light nature of it. It becomes more like silver Tequila (Silver Patron) and, if you are used to big, heavy Ardbeg noses it is something really quite different (even from young Ardbegs such as the Very Young). Is this a bad thing? That is for you to decide.

P- Here we go then. Now for the "money shot". How is this going to go down on the palate? And... it is in the mouth... its gone! Hang on. No it hasn't. It is still there. But it just gives up. It enters like an elderly Morris dancer on a light and breezy summers day into a country pub. Fresh, crisp white clothing, some light bells ringing and lots of colourful ribbon waving, there is a hint of the gentle vanilla pipe tobacco which their friend had been smoking about an hour before. However, once the action starts they can only keep up with the dance for a matter of moments before their knees give way and their back goes. Not enough strength to see it through to the end. And that is the main problem with the Blasda. For all the light hints of Real / Traditional Lemonade, freshly cut grass, peat and minted green peas, there is just not enough strength to carry this through. 46% vol would have been much more helpful for the palate.

F- The finish is pleasant with touches of red chillies and vanilla ice cream (mr whippy style). Then it is all over.

O- So, what do we make of this curious release from a distillery that has worked so hard to build a brand of its smokey and meaty whiskies. Well, Blasda is not a bad whisky. But its just so far away from "Ardbeg". This is the ideal supermarket Ardbeg. Maybe it should be renamed "(bl)ASDA"! It is a good introduction to peat. A gentile take off into a world that most people find difficult to get into. It is, as someone on our table commented, an Ardbeg with stabilisers on.
Pictures from the night on The Whisky Exchange blog here: