It’s hard to imagine that anything made by Ardbeg could be considered an underdog. Interestingly enough however, that is precisely the case with Blasda. Aggressively marketed as an unpeated Ardbeg (in hopes of broadening the appeal of Islay’s smokiest malt, I imagine), Blasda is Gaelic for ‘sweet and delicious’, so they say. Okay…can’t disagree so far. And what do I say? Well…I think launching a whisky like this took balls (with all due respect Ms. Barrie, I use this term metaphorically). Legions of adoring peatheads look to Ardbeg as the pinnacle of Islay malts, and rightfully so. The distillery rarely missteps.
So what happens when a distillery lauded for its bruising heavyweights (often at cask-strength, rarely below 46% abv and never chill-filtered) elects to release a 40%’er? And…uh…chill-filtered to boot?
Well…backlash. Lots of it. Derogatory names such as ‘Ardbeg Light’ were tossed around in the forums and unfair comparisons were made against its elder siblings. Of course when held up against the others in the core range this one comes up a little short in some of the categories you’d expect an Ardbeg to dominate. However…stop and listen please…however…this is a damn good whisky. Make no mistake about it.
Unpeated Ardbeg, huh? Not likely. Lighter peating…sure…that I’ll buy. Apparently this is still peated to about 8ppm (higher than Bunna and some ‘Laddie). First thing to hit the beak is a waft of peat and smoke. Fairly typical of an Islay dram. This is much more like a spritely young Caol Ila though, than an Ardbeg. The citrus here is more lime than lemon. Keylime pie…crust and all. This ‘lime-iness’ brings a little extra tartness and some rich green sweet notes. It is salty (of course) and its youthful ebullience carries a gentle prickle amid creamy waves. Neat. Refreshing.
Touches of oak sally forth on the delivery. I didn’t pick this up on the nose, but it is certainly a prevalent characteristic on the palate. In logical succession the oak brings some mild vanillins. Ebbing notes are soft fruit and wood. The finish is short, but not abrupt. Pleasant and charming.
I really like this whisky.
Now…I refuse to keep mum on this one…
As you know (or should by now) I am adoring fan. I count myself among the legions hopelessly devoted to you and yours. As such I feel I am in a position to say this (cause we only hurt the ones we love)…
I will accept an Ardbeg at 40%. I will also accept an Ardbeg which has been (shudder) chill-filtered. I will further accept that I have to pay handsomely for that green bottle I so adore.
I do NOT accept that the price point of a whisky such as this has to be as high as it is. Sadly I admit…it said Ardbeg on the bottle and I had to have it.
In the future please take this to heart.
One last thing…regarding that ‘underdog status…never forget…
“Little Davids strike hard and deep.”
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt