Ok. Back to these Ardbeg SMWS reviews we’ve not yet finished. A little off the beaten path, but tons of fun. With this ’33’ we’re moving into somewhat more familiar Ardbeg territory, but still only at the periphery in some ways. Yes, it’s monstrous (and probably offensive to the sensitive) but it also bears a softer, sweetness that might surprise those looking for the signature whomp of Kildalton’s heavyweight champ. The closest profile analogy I can give here is Serendipity meets Corryvreckan. If you were fortunate enough to have landed a taste of Serendipity back in the day you’ll know the subtleties I’m hinting at.
Part of me thinks Ardbeg is actually a tough malt to screw up. Such is the nature of a great distillate and talented stillmen who recognize the ideal cut points of the spirit run. And nowhere is this more evident than when you see the flawless spirit hit a clean bourbon barrel and then be rocked to sleep for a few years. The last part of the equation is plucking it from the cask at its true apex age for delivery to the bottling line. In this instance it was the Scotch Malt Whisky Society who had final say in when it was bottled, and fortunately they chose a good time for it. So as I said…with this one – an eight year old – we are indeed in familiar Ardbeg territory.
Now that’s not to say this is completely typical, but it does bear all the hallmarks. Feisty, smoky as hell, earthy, citric, coastal. You know the drill by now with Ardbeg. Bigger than big. The fact that LVMH owned both Ardbeg and the SMWS at the time this one was released may have something to do with the level of quality control. Who know?
Nose: Dough. Sweet candy notes. A hint of Play-Dough. Surprisingly creamy. Faint unlit pipe tobacco. Sugar cookies. Anise. Seems almost mildly-peated for an Ardbeg. Damp ash. Orange. Then orange and lemon zest.
Palate: Soft arrival, surprisingly, then wham!! Sharp peat kick to the meat and two veg. (A touch of) Melon, with some lemon and orange. Then an explosion of smoke and licorice. Dark vanilla bean. Coffee. Meaty and plummy. Gets barn-y. Big earthy, peaty notes. Wow…the smoke keeps expanding outward. Very hot whisky.
Thoughts: Creaminess takes us into thoughts of the vanillas imparted form the French Oak in some batches of Corryvreckan. Must have been a very lively bourbon barrel. Almost like an Ardbeg vatted with a Tormore (I know…weird, aye?). I like the fruits, but this is definitely unbalanced. Extra point for the singularity of this one.
*Kelly Carpenter, founder of the SMWS CA saved this sample for me a couple of years ago. Thanks, Kelly.
– Images & Words: Curt