It’s 12:15 am. May 29th, 2016. It is now the day after Ardbeg Day. Or perhaps I should say Ardbeg Night, as they’ve elected to brand it this year. Over the past few days I’ve been fortunate enough to taste both the Committee and general releases of this year’s bottling, ‘Dark Cove’. Unfortunately, however, I have no samples of either to review at this time, nor had I opportunity to set pen to paper and capture thoughts when I did try them. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll get another chance at some point. In the meantime I figured I’d go one better this eve, and – sticking to the theme – tackle four indie Ardbegs from the SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Society, that is).
I’ll be posting tasting notes for all of them in very short order, but let’s kick it all off with the earliest of the bunch. This 33.70 was a cask from several years back now. 1998 to be a little more precise. It was born of a sherry gorda that yielded 848 bottles (I know! Whopping outturn!), and bottled as a 10 year old. And I must admit that the name alone had me excited to try this one.
Unfortunately, high expectations and distillery fanboyism has led to disappointment as devastating as a wee boat smashed to kindling on a rocky cape. I came in expecting to sail high on this one (rich, dark natural colour, high strength, relatively mature age and from earlier (read: better) years) but my hopes were immediately tempered. Reality is a harsh mistress sometimes. This decader is heavy and cloying in thick caramel (which is bad enough) and nothing – not even herculean phenolic might – can completely temper the sulphuric undertones. Put as simply as possible: This was a real dud barrel. Such is the nature of the single cask game, I suppose. Disappointing nevertheless.
Nose: Syrupy, heavily sherried nose. Damp horse blanket. Almost a vague hint of sulphur. Too much caramel. Ok…definitely sulphur. Something reminds of young(ish) port here. Savoury stewed fruits (even a little tomato). Stale ashtrays. Wax crayons. Poor quality Roman Nougat. Smoke. Organic, mineral notes.
Palate: Ash. Smoke. Immediately drying. Bitter chocolate. More ash and tar. Salt licorice. Cooked greens. Oversteeped lapsang souchong tea. Caramel apple. Slightly syrupy. Very dry finish. And yeah…hints of burnt matchsticks.
Thoughts: Not my kind of Ardbeg. At all. Granted I am grossly intolerant of sulphur, but still. I had such high hopes too. This is just…no. Let’s move on.
– Images & Words: Curt