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Monday 15 February 2010

Off The Rails...

Anticipation is a cruel and fickle mistress.
She has the ability to turn even the most ardent of stiff upper lips and steely resolves to a mushy, quivering puddle of over-excitement.

We're all guilty of being heavily seduced by anticipation fever, or 'Hype' as it is sometimes known.

In our other line of work, both Joel and I have been party to some of the most hyped up bands in the last few years- and yes, on occasion, we too have been sucked along for the ride.

Anyone remember these fresh-faced indie boys?


Around 1994, this collection of chisel-jawed clothes horses were the band name on everyones lips. Before they had even released a single record, Menswe@r appeared on the cover of Melody Maker magazine. They assured us they were going to restore the grand and noble fortunes of the British music business around the world, despite only ever previously performing together 2 or 3 times and possessing less than a handful of tunes. Everyone got suckered in and they signed a HUGE deal (one of the biggest in modern memory)


Nothing happened.

The buzz pretty much killed off the band, who clearly couldn't deliver under the weight of such lofty expectations.

Whisky is a cruel and fickle mistress.
She has the ability to turn even the most ardent of stiff upper lips and steely resolves to a mushy, quivering puddle of over excitem....

Ok. You get where this is going.

Today sees the release of probably this years most anticipated bottling and it's still only February. No doubt every Islay fan around the globe will have seen the recent online excitement over Ardbeg's newest committee release, Rollercoaster.

The tantalising countdown on the website was clever, helping to whip us all up into a frothing frenzy. A lot of this frenzy is based on the previous releases of Corryvreckan, and last years Supernova, which of course were absolutely wonderful whiskies. A new committee bottling stands for something- it's a benchmark of quality that will be judged by thousands of peat freaks from Calgary to Copenhagen. It also immediately gives the bottling an air of exclusivity, which the hoovers out there delight in. (Last year, a bottle of Committee Supernova was offered for Ebay auction BEFORE it had been released or the order secured by the unscrupulous seller)

Hats off to Ardbeg with this release though. The pricing is competitive and the out-turn is the biggest yet, allowing the many thousands of committee members a greater chance to grab one, which was heavily criticised last time. It's also one in the eye for the hoovers.
But the hype still lingers around the release. Is it really going to be a cracker?

Well, last week, we got to try it.

Would it manage to deliver like previous the committee bottlings, or would the massive weight of online expectation which has grown around the release devour any promise, like the ill-fated Menswe@r?

Buckle up... we're starting the slow, nerve jangling ascent....

Ardbeg Rollercoaster - Limited Committee Release - 57.3% - 70cl

Nose: Hot rubber, a big hit of malt vinegar, briney coastline, smoked meat (pastrami?) and some soot with a hint of mossy/mustiness. Hmmm. That vinegar is a tad off putting at first. Not bad though. With water, some more soot and very young peat starts to emerge.

Palate: Hot and spicy, with some sweet licorice coming through immediately- palate tingling. Again, this is clearly a predominantly youthful whisky. With water it grows in flavour, becoming peppery and slightly aniseedy, with a thin mouthfeel.

Finish: A very briney and short finish. This is all fanfare, but without much of a coda.

Overall: We love young whiskies here as those of you know, who saw us award Kilchoman's inaugural 3 year old release our 2009 BIG Award.

But I just don't feel that excited here i'm afraid. Compared to Corryvreckan and Supernova, (which were tasted alongside this too), it just falls a bit short. It has some balls, some grit and a little character, but it isn't that developed enough to make me grin from ear to ear. It isn't a massive disappointment, just not what Ardbeg committee bottlings have previously delivered... and that is a shame.

For those of you who missed out, don't start phoning the Samaritan's just yet...