I doubt there’s a ‘buzzier’ whisky out there right now. Even still…and much as usual…we’re a little late to the party. I did get to try a couple drams of this on release day, but am only now getting ’round to sharing some proper tasting notes and personal thoughts. Oh well. I’m not even remotely worried about being first with these reviews; just the last one standing. 😉
Let’s take it back to square one for a moment or two. Each year at the end of May/beginning of June Ardbeg takes the whisky world by storm, launching their latest novelty limited release. A couple years back was the eponymous ‘Ardbeg Day’. Last year’s release was given the appellation of ‘Ardbog’. And this year we have ‘Auriverdes’. The linguists out there (of which I am not one) may recognize the roots of this one in the Latin ‘auri’ for gold and ‘verdes’ for green. Aside from the immediate and obvious connotations (gold liquid in the green bottle), there’s a deeper resonance with this choice of name.
2014 is the year of the World Cup (in fact, we’re smack dab in the middle of WC fever as I write this). This year’s host nation is Brazil, whose team’s nom de guerre just happens to be…yep…’Auriverdes’. Clever cheeky folks at Ardbeg, huh? Ok, ok…the Ardbeg to football connection may be tenuous at best, but we’ll let it slide so long as the end product is a good ‘un. But we’ll get to that momentarily.
Here in Calgary this year, our local Ardbeg Embassy and regional distillery representation pulled together a hell of an Ardbeg Day celebration. This was a joint effort between local LVMH representation (Charton Hobbs) and Calgary’s Unquestionable whisky champion (Andrew Ferguson). I won’t get into all details here, but before the day culminated in popping the cork on four and a half litres of ‘Auriverdes’, there was riot of an Ardbeg Day football (soccer) game, pitting team ‘Auri’ against team ‘Verdes’. Sad to say I can’t report that the good guys won (i.e. the team captained by yours truly) but that’s ok…I’ve always been more of an antihero kinda guy, myself. Either way…a very memorable occasion and launch for a very memorable dram.
Ok…media blitzing and marketing buzz aside…what makes this new evolution in the Ardbeg canon stand out? A new ‘innovation’ in the handling of the cask heads this time. Apparently one barrel end was lightly toasted to release more of a light vanilla influence, while the opposite was more heavily charred to elicit darker coffee-like notes. The cynic in me would like to elicit a hearty and dismissive ‘pfffft‘, but the simple fact is…you can’t argue with results. If that really was what was intended all along, it was a heartily realized experiment. The whisky does indeed carry these very characteristics, and quite at the forefront too.
Auriverdes is a return to a more mature (though I don’t believe this is all that advanced in terms of actual years) and somewhat lighter style. It takes me back to the Airigh Nam Beist from a few years ago. And I have to say that I like it much. VERY much.
Nose: Sweet, sweet peat. And smoke, of course. Anise…fennel. Salt, pepper and ginger. A substantial lime note. Touch of lemon too. Honeydew melon and other soft, faint fruits. Quite creamy. Those coffee/mocha notes that are being advertised everywhere are indeed here. With quite some vanilla as well. Ice cream-ish. Love the oak notes; those both fresh and burnt to ash. Great nose all around.
Palate: More lemon, with licorice, tar and damp ash. Surprisingly sweet and soft. Gentle smoke (well…gentle for someone accustomed to Ardbeg’s usual fare). Lively wood notes. Sharp coffee and dark chocolate (but not too heavy on these notes). Much going on here. Neat citric back end (is that grapefruit?!?). Also…more medicinal than I generally find Ardbeg.
Thoughts: Great balance on this one. A softer Ardbeg than the last few releases. And surprisingly…all the better for it. The nose, in particular, is lovely. Again…closer in style to the Airigh Nam Beist, I think. Will have to try the two side-by-side.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt