Airigh Nam Beist, the ‘shelter of the beast’. Named for a legend that suggests something primeval and threatening lies in wait in this dark place (Loch Airigh) high above Ardbeg. This is a whisky that, while still 100% Ardbeg, is miles away from any of the other core expressions. Its delicate creamy complexity has made it the subject of adoration for many. This is closer to the ‘17’ (sadly gone now), though with a wee bit more heft in ABV.
Typical of this distillery’s philosophy, we’re given a whisky in its natural and beautiful naked state. Un-chill-filtered and bottled at a respectable 46% (though I ache inside to think what this could have been if left at cask strength). I suppose however, stocks would have been even more limited in such a case. Sigh.
The Airigh Nam Beist is a delicate and complex Ardbeg. Soft and creamy and rich in fruit. Grapefruit…pear…a touch of orange…keylime pie and firm fresh lemon. Smoke and creamy vanilla dance perfectly in step. A sprinkling of salt and maybe the finest dusting of dill. A drop or two of sherry as well. Restrained for an Ardbeg though of course peat and smoke, no matter how subtly woven throughout, are omnipresent.
Creamy, malty delivery. Smoke and toasted marshmallow. Unassuming brine and the barest hint of chocolate.
Three mentions of the word ‘creamy’ in one review…and an Ardbeg at that…what gives? Utterly true and completely at odds with what logic tells me to expect on this one. A perfect analogy I read (can’t remember where, and certainly can’t take credit) was eating ice cream on the beach. Exactly so!
Sadly, one more for the vaults. This is the latest Ardbeg expression to have its jersey hoisted to the rafters in retirement when it was succeeded (though not replaced) by the Corryvreckan. Though I realize stocks only stretch so far, the irrational sentimentalist in me mourns the loss of this one. The cautions were given early on to stock up, and I, like many others, neglected to heed the word. For the last two years I’ve been on the hunt. Fortunately a couple have fallen into my eager palms (but, man…I’ve paid dearly).
A couple of important notes:
First…this is the only Ardbeg expression to boast an age statement of greater than ten years in the recent range.
And second…distilled in 1990, and bottled from 2006 through 2008, you may run into 16, 17 or 18 year old vintages.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt