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.