I came into this one with low expectations, I’ll admit it right up front. That had less to do with Ardbeg’s ability to create a decent young malt, and more to do with the fact that I kinda think most sub ten year old whisky tends to be a tad underripe and undeveloped. I expected brashness, a bit of a new make-y character, and not a lot more.
Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.
Long months before Wee Beastie landed on our shores, it had already sparked a frenzy among the slavering peat fiends ’round here. The shop was so inundated with requests that we had to set aside a separate binder to manage all of the pre-orders and special requests (yes, yes, we still do some things in the ol’ analog way at KWM). And no matter how many times we shouted that this one was now a permanent fixture in the core range, it didn’t seem to quell the hunger (or thirst?). Perhaps part of that early pursuit was a weary and schooled intellectual approach, suggesting that many consumers are now aware that a new brand always puts its best foot forward (and often declines thereafter), but I think the reality has more to do with FOMO: fear of missing out. Ardbeg has cultivated legions of fans around the globe, and even with perpetual production (and an exciting new expansion!), the distillery is likely always going to be producing shy of demand.
As for the Beastie, I know I’m late to the party. Sorry ’bout that. Crazy times. But here we are. And fortunately, we have a dram of hella good young Islay malt in hand. Impressive beyond its years, and so much better than I’d hoped.
A vatting of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso casks, served up at 5 years young and 47.4% abv.
Nose: Yes, it’s peaty and quite feisty, as we’d expect in such a rambunctious youngster. Almond. Creamy lemon meringue. Warm welly boots and chlorine. Fresh pepper. Cold coffee. Something kinda like drinking mezcal in a barn. Pee in a pool. A very coastal tarriness. Bundt cake. Oat cakes. Oyster liquor and other fine briny things.
Palate: Very clean smoked peated grist. As mouthcoatingly smoky as you’d expect. Licorice. Key lime pie. Lemon cakes. Ladyfingers. Mint leaves. A bit of very-expected Granny Smith apple. And cough drops of some sort.
Finish: Long finish, primarily on chlorine, smoke and salt licorice.
Thoughts: It’s young, yeah, but it’s not spirity. An impressive – and ballsy – outing from our beautiful Ardbeggian family. Very much the distilled essence of Islay.
hello Curt, glad we are back to more frequent postings here. Very welcome.
As to the Beastie… I made the mistake of tasting it over half an hour. My first impression was
Wow, a decent Ardbeg at last. It reminded me of the Very Young on first nosing.
The second thought was, well the Very Young was deeper had more substance.
Sipping it made me realise that this was no very young, pretty far from it.
Then I wondered with every nosing and sipping what was happening in the glass.
After half an hour I was glad it was over, the malt had lost all coherence and had desintegrated over time.
The same happened to me when I tried Ardbeg Blaaack peoples version at 46%.
This one was described by a reviewer as “It fell apart beautifully”.
For me I can say that it was the case with both Ardbegs. I recommend the Beastie as a shot not as a sipping malt.
I haven’t tried it (and every Ardbeg is out of stock in Ontario according to LCBO anyway), but I seriously give them credit for the age statement and the price level, if it comes in under the price of the Ten. Maybe Ardbeg finally gets it, or maybe the hype has run its course with this brand, at least with the introductory stuff. I’d probably buy one at $75-$85, even though any claims that it’s the “most peaty Ardbeg ever bottled” could maybe be substantiated with a PPM rating.
I trust both Curt and Kallaskander, so I’d be curious to try it for myself; at five, and nothing against Ardbeg in particular, I could see this stuff falling apart rather quickly. Given the recent Scotch Boom, maybe the issue’s in the casking.
hello Jeff… thank you for the trust. I tried it only once so it is the impression of one moment – even if that moment lastet too long.
In the sense that casking is part of whisky production it is one of the issues.
The other issues are optimised barley strains and optimised yeast stains – optimised for yield not taste or character.
Optimised fermentation of less than 48 hours and optimised processes from mashing to distilling. That started with computerisation in the 1970s. You have optimised cask mangement – only think of xy seasoned casks and so on.
All that optimisation – apart from peating levels – gives us a very uniform almost arbitray new make so that Benriach for example hat to put all new 10 and 12 yo OB standard bottling into virgin oak and two more kind of casks.
That kind of whisky is made since the begining of the 21st century and is sold as premium here and at a premium where you live.
Wheras premium is a price point at your place here premium is understood as a measure for quality. A nice play of words by the whisky industry.
I think it’s a good analysis.
With the industry still in a profit paradox over whether discussed/undiscussed duration of maturation actually matters to the finished product or not, variation is whisky is now confined, at least theoretically in ad copy, to how many different “types” of casks are involved in production – even if they aren’t involved for very long.
Variation is NOT found in any of the over variables that have been systematically stomped out of the process upstream in the name of efficiency because it no longer CAN be found there. It somehow matters that a whisky was produced from grain raised on Octomore farm, but the last time I remember a whisky being based on a different strain of barley was the now long-gone Glenlivet Triumph. Add in predominant virgin/bourbon/something sherry three-flavour casking and it’s not hard to see how we arrived at the products, and market, that we have today.
I read somewhere the other day that one whisky blogger was taught by his mentor that price does not affect the taste of whisky.
We’ll see that production does neither one day.
Keep being optimistic..