I had held off in putting pen to paper on this one for quite some time. A couple of years, in fact. The simple truth is that those reviews for that small select handful of whiskies that are simply stratospherically better than all others out there are much harder to write up. Much harder to express in sentiments that won’t come across as nothing more than gushing praise and salivation.
It’s no small secret that Ardbeg is my favourite distillery, and up until recently, when I was able to taste both 1974s from the Ardbeg Double Barrel release, this 1977 was arguably the greatest Ardbeg I’d yet encountered. That should tell you something as to its inherent quality. This one was a sort of a ‘where do we go from here?’ type thing. Once I’ve laid down the word on this one, I had wondered, is everything else a mere shadow? Maybe something akin to Plato’s forms? Well…here’s hoping not. And I like to think the Double Barrel releases from this Hebridean distillery are proof positive that that perfect dram…that holy grail of malt whisky…is as elusive as ever.
A certain whisky writer once opined in his sermons that 1974 and 1977 were special years for Ardbeg. While I may not agree with everything he says (or even much of it, to be honest) he was dead-on accurate in this case. Those looking for the snarling ferocity of recent Ardbeg cask strength giants need to approach this one with a completely different mindset, or simply look elsewhere. This is no Beastie, nor Supernova, nor ferocious ‘Gator. This is class, elegance and refinement.
Further…this is a sublime example of beautifully aged peat, vibrant fruity notes and almost unfathomably excellent composition. The balance struck here is simply magic.
Nose: Fruit with cream. Bordering on tropical. Melon…maybe peach. Chocolate. Vanilla and old cinnamon. Distant echoes of peat. Grains are noticeable, but sweet and bearing a faint fields-o’-barley nostalgia. There’s a gorgeous mild paint or rubber latex note here that you only find in well-matured casks. Cadbury’s chocolate. Oranges and other sweet orange fruits. Butterscotch. Aged and balanced smoke. Some more citrus.
Palate: Bright, very bright, with an absolutely great mouthfeel. And oh, man…the fruits! A lot of orange, and a mix that borders, again, on tropical. Mild peat and a building wall of smoke. Some smooth chocolate. Lingering and delicious.
ABV does it justice, at a respectable 46%, but man…to have this at cask strength…
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt