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Friday, 24 August 2012

Up, Up And Away. Galileo Blasts Off.

Blimey, this really is turning into a superb whisky week. From our BenRiach, to a bevy of Irish whiskies, comes a monster release.  For the past few months, peat fans around the globe have been trawling the inter web in search of any snippets of information on a brand new Ardbeg release.  Such is the fervour surrounding Ardbeg,  no other whisky brand seems to command such intense interest in the build up to a release.

As we've seen with Supernova, Alligator, Rollercoaster and the recent Feis Ile release,  expectation runs high and the peat police are usually out in force, on high alert and with riot shields and baton rounds at the ready, should the distillery not deliver on their promise.

The thing is, in our opinion, they always do. And then some.  Whilst a few out there didn't like last year's Feis Ile bottling, because of its strong PX connections, others absolutely lapped it up -  because it showed Ardbeg in a totally different light.   We can't think of a distillery in recent memory who seems to have as much fun with their bottlings - and give their fans something other than just the liquid itself to talk about.

Ardbeg's miniatures are also out of this world
But down to business.  Galileo eh.  After the news story a few months ago about sending some peated whisky up into space, comes another whisky staring at the stars.    Galileo, the man, was never adverse to controversy.  His theories on Heliocentricism (basically where a planetary system revolves round a sun, to provide life and warmth) absolutely infuriated the church and Galileo was effectively forced to toe the line.  Of course, his beliefs and teachings were pretty crack on and in addition to making huge strides in developing the telescope and compass, his theories on astrology and comets have helped redefine how we view our solar system today.

So a rebel at heart, a pioneer and a man unafraid to take a wildly different approach to his cause.

Ardbeg's Galileo hails from 1999 and like its namesake, aims to do things differently.  Taken largely from ex-bourbon barrels, the bottling has also included some casks of Ardbeg matured in ex-Marsala wine. Sweet, resonant, rich and full of heady fruit, Marsala wine doesn't cock about. Like PX, it will leave its imprint on even the most robust of whiskies, so they need to be used sparingly.

The great news is that with this Ardbeg, we can all party like it's 1999.  The balancing act of classic Ardbeg and fragrant fruit is exquisite and whilst it hasn't anything like Supernova's levels of peat (which, come on, was a little bit silly, wasn't it) it showcases a distillery at the top of their game once again...

Ardbeg - Galileo - Distilled 1999 - 49%   

Nose: Unmistakable Ardbeg, with wafts of cracked pepper, vanilla, some very medicinal soft peat, lemon zest, chopped nuts and sweet acacia honey.  But then something else emerges. The fruit begins to develop, with some softer perfumed notes at first, then something a little bit richer. Raisins and dates spring to mind, but only just a waft mind.  with a drop of water, the fruit develops and in comes a little spiciness and malt. (cinnamon toast)

Palate: Bang in with the classic peat, but with some vanilla ice cream notes, current buns (with a dusting of cinnamon) some lemon zest and a touch of dried fruit. Again, nothing too over powering but just enough to make its presence felt.  With a dash of water, it becomes creamy and sweet, with Caramac bars (Google them) and an emergence of fresh fruit salad. Superb.

Finish:  Lingering notes of malt, with a backbeat of smoke, pepper light fruits (over-ripe plums) and lemon zest.

Overall:  Well, they keep on doing it, don't they.  Another Ardbeg bottling that has balance, depth, doesn't stray too far from its roots, yet offers plenty more in spades.  It has maturity, where previous bottlings have disappointed and the influence of the Marsala is just sublime.   Yes, old Ardbeg is perhaps in the pantheon of THE all time great whiskies, but we really think that the distillery is hitting a golden era of production with bottlings like this.  

In the words of the great Freddie Mercury - 'Galileo, Galileo Figaro Magnifico...'

Ardbeg Galileo is officially released on 1st September, priced at around £70. For more details, visit