Ardbeg really takes a drubbing these days. Seems to be everyone’s favorite whipping boy. Now, I can hear the collective groans out there and know the immediate reaction will be something akin to ‘awwww…poor Ardbeg…fleecing us with NAS expressions and making a fortune once or twice a year with so-called limited releases’. The sentiment seems to be along the lines of feeling sorry for the Kardashians for not having any privacy.
Here’s the thing: I hate – as much as, or more than, most whisky lovers – this constant barrage of shitty NAS malts that are flooding the market, but the simple fact of the matter is that Ardbeg consistently releases bloody great expressions. Even those that don’t take the highest place on the platform are still miles better than most new whiskies hitting the shelves. Additionally, the prices, while frustrating over the past few years, are suddenly not far out of line with most other new releases. Not that that is justification, mind, but it is acknowledging that in this case at least the devil we know is consistent in terms of quality, while the others are suspect (at best).
The cynics out there will lambaste me for this one. So be it. I’m practically past the point of giving a f*ck. Anything positive I say about NAS expressions is seen as treasonous to the campaign against this initiative. I get it. Unfortunately my own morality when it comes to being honest supercedes any sort of agenda. Bloggers are constantly under scrutiny regarding their morality. I’d like to think I still have mine in tact. So let’s say it here and now, in hopes of deflecting some of the questions that will inevitably come afterwards:
This is an appeal to the folks at LVMH/Ardbeg:
Please start putting age statements on these expressions.
It is known and accepted that Ardbeg is generally served up fairly young.
That’s why we like it. Peat works well in youth.
Wear that number proudly.
I’ll buy. We’ll buy.
There. PSA over. Let’s get on with it.
Seems I may have liked this one more than some reviewers out there. Granted while I have been fortunate enough to try it a few times through others and at tasting events and festivals, and was given a sample not long ago, I do not have a bottle kicking around to work through and note the evolution over time.
Perpetuum was released in 2015 to commemorate the distillery’s 200th anniversary. I think most of us had our fingers crossed for a relaunch of the 17 to mark this special occasion (and unbelievable milestone!), but alas…it wasn’t meant to be (yet?). We do know that Ardbeg is now able to warehouse more than they are releasing, so hopefully team green is building up to some sort of healthy surplus of mature malt. Time will tell, I suppose, but my fingers remain crossed for a more advanced age-stated addition to the core range. At the time of writing, word has trickled down of a new Ardbeg 21 on the horizon. I can only imagine the cost and limited availability.
Perpetuum. Infinity. Or perpetuity, to be a little more precise. Gotta hand it to the marketing team here. There is always a clever spin at play. My own slightly more cynical point of view falls a little closer to Sage Serge’s thoughts, though, if I’m to be honest. But let’s let the whisky speak for itself.
BTW…I cannae recall the ages of malts that went into this vatting, but I think it was a marriage of 7 to 13 year old Ardbeg.
And did I mention how much I detest this being yet another NAS expression from Ardbeg?
Nose: Soft candied fruits. Lime. Ash and smoke. Soft doughy notes, indicative of a bit of aged malt in the mix. A little bit of pear and a little bit of lime. Maybe green melon. Vanilla softens things here. Still sooty, charry and all that. Y’know…Ardbeggian. But muted.
Palate: Now some licorice. Smoke. Earthy peat, but also very approachable for a dram from Islay’s heaviest of heavyweights. Wet charred wood. Salty and tingly. I love how soft and hard this is at the same time. A yin and yang malt for certain. Green apple skins. Citrus, of course. Charred scallop.
Thoughts: Ardbeg back on top. Nice to see some decently mature spirit in the mix softening things up.
– Images & Words: Curt
Went through several bottles of this. Even bought a 2015 Ardbeg Ten to compare (Perpetuum was definitely a step up). This to me is more like the Ten than the other releases, maybe a Ten v2.0. Did I enjoy it? Yes! Would I buy again? (It’s $70 vs $40 for the Ten). Probably. It’s not flown off the shelves here, so I can still grab a few, if I wish. However, I can get the 2015 Cairdeas for the same price, or Oogiedoll (sic), or Lagavulin 16. That makes it less attractive. At $55-60, hell yes! BTW, it doesn’t seem to change much with air, but as it’s pretty good when first opened, that’s not a big deal.
Yeah, poor Ardbeg; just like Diageo, they must have “run out of numbers”. It’s a point made (and maybe more widely understood) some time ago, but quality and pricing aren’t issues central, or exclusive, or even related, to the problematic rationale of NAS – which is why Ardbeg’s quality and price isn’t any kind of saving grace here, even in contrast to “this constant barrage of shitty NAS malts that are flooding the market”.
“Anything positive I say about NAS expressions is seen as treasonous to the campaign against this initiative”. Well, no, it’s just that, as we both know, you have nothing positive to say about NAS expressions here that actually PERTAINS to them being NAS; there simply is no possible, much less demonstrated, link between a product’s quality or value and the removal of age information, either at source or later – which is what’s fundamentally wrong with NAS in the first place: it’s a nonsensical loss of product information to the consumer with no benefit to anyone but the industry. That’s it, no more no less, all lamentations, sackcloth and ashes and slighted sense of self determination notwithstanding. The objection isn’t moral, it’s logical; you knew the “there are some good ones” argument was ridiculous years ago, yet while it’s no “justification” for the marketing, quality’s definitely presented here as some kind of mitigating factor in all BUT name. Better the devil you know really amounts to NAS “done right”, and NAS is flawed in any guise.
The stated goal of renewed NAS reviews here was “to swing a heavier hammer” against this marketing than could be done through silence. If reviews like this somehow “swings a heavier hammer” against NAS than your silence would, then maybe you should consider marketing as a career; you could literally write ad copy in your sleep (I know, at heart, we’re on the same side, but I just couldn’t resist – it was too funny). Readers will have to judge this for themselves, but I ask: does it seems likely that net sales of Perpetuum or other Ardbeg NAS products, or the creation of future NAS releases, will be discouraged by what anyone reads above? I’m sure that the folks at Ardbeg are really sweating the next one with negative reception like this. Before anyone gets all “Spirit of ’76” on me, again, it should be understood that the I’m not challenging anyone’s right to say what they like; what I’m talking about is the logical disconnect between tactics and stated goals.
My continuing objection to these reviews is that the visibility of NAS products amounts to promotion of those products and encourages more of that marketing as a result. If it’s implied, above, that said objection is somehow part of any supposed “agenda” to deny product quality by reviewing them unfairly or inaccurately, however, that is simply untrue; I just know that there is no level of quality that mitigates the marketing. I’ve always been honest that “there are some good ones”, but that’s as irrelevant to the problem with the marketing as it is true in and of itself; Ardbeg simply doesn’t do anything here that couldn’t also be accomplished while providing age information to the paying customer.
But… if the real plan is to let me swing the hammer while others do other things… well then, well played, and I’m happy to help. But does saying that make me a cynic, or just a hothead… or just a realist?
Probably a bit of all three.
this is recycling a post of me from somwhere else…
“It is a double betrayal this NAS business. Young immature and unripe whisky is fortified by older casks to make the offering palatable and to mask its lesser quality the older stuff in these bottlings is thinned down by whisky you hardly can sell on its on and in its own right. The NAS recepies are some of the secrets of the industry they’d rather not tell us. It is easier this way to keep us uninformed.
Why bother to age whisky in oak barrels at all? Why not got back to the good old times it was sold clear and unaged? That would cure the “ran out of” and the “haven’t got enough” argument in no time and for good.”
I was reminded of that line of thought when I read that you found “some decently mature spirit in the mix softening things up.”
Wish we had this more transparency doctrine in force already… or seen the success of Jeff’s campaign somewhere down the line..
It’s true – it’s the same industry people arguing for the virtues of multivintaging that disprove their own “age doesn’t matter” bullshit with NAS; multivintaging is BUILT on the idea that whiskies of different ages are different whiskies, so it’s obvious that age matters to whisky.
On transparency, I wish that John Glaser and Compass Box pursued the issue, and continued communication with their supporters about what was happening, with the same interest they did when they made their big publicity splash and wanted to be called heroes. If people are actually supposed to believe in this campaign, it would be nice to have a reason to.