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Wednesday 23 May 2012

Ardbeg Day

The 2nd June marks a special day on the island of Islay.  As part of the the annual Feis Ile (which we are visiting again for the 6th year now) Ardbeg have decided to rename the 2nd June as an official Ardbeg Day.  Quite whether they've approached the Queen to get the name changed is another matter (she's quite busy at the moment, I believe) and I'm not sure it will count as a national holiday, for those of you having to work. However if you are attending the Feis this year, the line up, which Ardbeg have thrown together looks like a lot of fun indeed -  Olympic-themed japery including phenolic gymnastics, sheep tossing, (one of Joel's favourites) bog snorkelling (another one of Joel's personal favourites) and terrier racing (canine permitting)

Alongside the events is the traditional bottling, which is produced especially for the day.  In the past several years, the Ardbeg releases have been exceptional single casks and very limited release bottlings, resulting in long queues outside the distillery from an early hour.  We've been in those queues - dependent on the weather, it's actually quite fun.  This year will be a little different.  Although the heart of Ardbeg Day will be directly at the distillery, around the world, separate splinter events are happening from everywhere between Vancouver and Vietnam (quite possibly) and for the 99.999% of Ardbeg fans out there, the good news is that the bottling will be available across the globe from a number of Ardbeg Embassies just for the day.

1,100 cases of this special Ardbeg Day bottling will be produced (which in real-person-speak means around 13,000 bottles), so the outturn is relatively on a par with that of some of the previous Ardbeg Committee bottlings and also the Laphroaig Cairdeas bottlings, which were released alongside the Feis Ile.  The bottling is selected and married using several parcels of refill sherry casks, which were previously used for Uigeadail and the ABV will stand at 56.7%

We were lucky enough to spend some time with Dr Bill Lumsden this lunchtime and get a sneaky peak at the whisky, alongside several other expressions of Ardbeg including the 10 year-old and the mighty Alligator (which Bill describes as his 'Sweeney' version of Ardbeg, for reasons too long to explain in this post.)

Ardbeg - Ardbeg Day Bottling - 56.7% - NAS - 70cl.  RRP £60

Nose: Hearty notes of dry ginger, woody spices, hints of golden syrup and fragrant vanilla. With water, the spice notes develop and the sweetness gets more syrupy.  

Palate:  A superb dryness hits first (making one think about rich, dry Oloroso sherry) with more dried ginger, cinnamon, peppered meats, a hint of apple pie and a dusting of dark sugar.  With water, there is also a creaminess, perhaps reminding the palate of some of the Ardbeg bottlings of the last few years -  Uigeadail, Airgh Nam Beist and Alligator.  In fact, the dried fruit, chocolate gingers and orange zest notes are very reminiscent of the snappily titled bottling of last year. 

Finish: Lingering notes of dried fruit, with a touch of the ginger and a little menthol creeping in.

Overall:  Another highly drinkable Ardbeg, which sits firmly in the flavour camp of many of the distilleries favourite bottlings.  It is powerful without water, but doesn't lose its dynamic when a touch is added.  If you liked Alligator, you'll definitely enjoy this.  Question is, would you be prepared to undertake a bog snorkelling session for a bottle?   

I guess we would.  Zip up Harrison. We're going in.

oooh, what could this be? An Ardbeg Playing Card perhaps. Click on it for some fun, fun, fun...

oooh, what could this be? An Ardbeg Playing Card perhaps. Click on it for some fun, fun, fun...