Past due here, I know, I know. Betcha thought I’d be jumping at the bit to share a few words on the latest Ardbeg. Being a so-called ‘fanboy’ and all. Every time I review one of these releases I kinda feel like I have to duck and cover. So be it. I hold steady to my opinion that no distillery in the world is putting out this high a level of distillate year upon year. Not every release is a knockout, but not a single one is bad. Ever. Actually, not one is ever less than really good. Contentious, I know.
Some out there are saying that this profile is a little too ‘manufactured’ (or some such sentiment), but this deep fruitiness is spectacular with the big smoke behind it. Really. Think smoke-infused jam or something of that ilk.
Grooves was matured in charred ex-wine barrels. As opposed to that wet-fill wine casking that all too often results in that weird sour winey tang at the back end of the development, in this case the sugars have been caramelized into the wood and come forth in a beautiful charry sweetness. Gotta say, I think Grooves is probably my favorite of the recent Ardbeg releases.
Nose: Surprisingly soft and jammy fruits behind big smoke and savoury BBQ notes. Charred pork in some sort of berry reduction. Smoked apricot (if only there were such a thing). Some ashy, sooty notes. A whiff of caramel. Jam on well-toasted bread. Damp smoke (as from wet wood). Hard cherry candies and real vanilla bean. With enough time in the glass…a whiff of well-toasted marshmallow.
Palate: Coastal and, yes, very Ardbeggian (that is a word. I refuse to hear otherwise!). Warm rubber and salt licorice. Dry and dark. Ash again. Smoked meat bark. Beautifully gooey and sweet.
Thoughts: Love it. No two ways about it.
– Image & words: Curt
46 %… meh
Just kidding…I’m sure that Ardbeg can pack a lot of flavour into 46%.
I’m curious as to whether you had a chance to try the Committee release. A friend gifted me a sample of it but I haven’t tried it yet. I really like toasted marshmallows and hope that’s not a prosuct of dilution…
Hmmmm…. Can’t find the age statement?!?
It must be on there somewhere; it’s not like the experts at Ardbeg would let on that something as important as age doesn’t matter to their products, or that age can be changed without altering the result (where would hallowed multivintaging be if that were the case?), or, ridiculously, that age only matters to some of their products some of the time. It’s certainly not that various people (some of them renowned “independent experts”) constantly give them or the industry a pass on any such nonsensical points and then bemoan all the less-than-stellar products that NAS is often heir to (while also avoiding the term NAS to make it all the more palatable). These things don’t happen in a rational whisky world, right? It can’t be that it’s just about money.
I’d certainly hold by my opinion that no distillery has adhered so tightly to premium pricing yet has mostly only delivered slightly above average products (say 85-89), particularly in the last little while. And, yes, a lot of this stuff is now promoted and bought simply on the basis that “it’s Ardbeg” anyway, which has tended to put concerns, much less comparisons, about performance and value on the sidelines in any case. Congratulations to them if they finally broke 90 (or even just beat the Ten) at only something like $180 a pop. Would a “bad” one be something that didn’t score 80? How many distilleries are putting those out, and how really contentious a question is that? Is Ardbeg the distillery that has done no wrong or that can (now) do no wrong? That, perhaps, could be a slightly more contentious question.