Ardbeg Uigeadail, 54.2%, $70
With the Ardbeg 17 year old off the market, it’s nice to see a new Ardbeg in the line-up. Uigeadail costs about the same as the Ardbeg 17 did but, with Uigeadail, you’re getting a much more interesting whisky. Uigeadail consists of a marriage of younger whisky (from 1990 and 1993) with much older whisky matured in sherry casks. The marriage works exceptionally well, with the younger whiskies providing the classic Ardbeg intensity many of us have come to expect, while the older whiskies contribute depth, maturity, and complexity. And bottling the whisky at cask-strength without chill-filtration ensures that none of the flavors are stripped out. This is an incredibly complex Islay whisky, with its bonfire smoke, brine, and peppered olive notes balanced by a taming sweetness of vanilla, marshmallow, and toffee. Interwoven notes of candied fruit and sugared almonds round out the palate. Incredibly long finish.
(4th Quarter 2004 Issue—Vol. 13#4)
Ardbeg (10 year old, 46%)
Straw-gold color. On the nose, sweet toffee, citrus notes, seaweed, and spice complement a powerful peat smoke infusion. In body, it is thick and oily. On the palate, a somewhat sweet maltiness up front is run over by a powerful peat smoke locomotive. Again, the whisky is enriched with citrus and pear notes, spice, and seaweed. The finish is powerful, long, and warming. The smoke lingers for minutes, if not hours.
Style: Islay single malt Scotch whisky. Price: high $30s. Available nationwide (imported by Brown-Forman Beverages, 502/585-1100).
If you like your Ardbeg to go to a phenolic extreme, you will cherish this one. This big, powerful whisky makes no apologies for its Islay roots. And the fact that this whisky is bottled at 46% ABV just makes this big whisky even bigger.
(3rd Quarter 2000 Issue—Vol. 9#3)
Murray McDavid (Distilled at Ardbeg, 1990, 8 year old, 46%)
Pale white wine color. Smoky, youthful aroma. There’s no surprises here—it definitely smells like a young Ardbeg. Big beautiful explosion of smoky, tarry flavors that evolve and seem to linger on the palate indefinitely.
Style: Islay single malt Scotch whisky. Price: low $60s. Available nationwide (imported by Barrique Wines, 773/275-1200.
This is the first Ardbeg release I’ve tasted since the distillery’s long shut down in the 1980s. After the shut down, they discontinued their floor maltings, so I was concerned that it might not taste like the Ardbeg of old. Ardbeg fans can let out a big sigh of relief. This one is big and gutsy—just the way we like it. My only criticism of this particular release is that it could have used about one or two more years in oak to tame some of the spirity nature of the whisky. Otherwise, this is wonderful stuff!
(2nd Quarter 2000 Issue—Vol. 9#2)
Old Malt Cask (distilled at Ardbeg) 1992 Vintage, 50% ABV, $125
(Reviewers note: this is an exclusive bottling to Park Avenue Liquors, New York, NY.) This is signature Ardbeg: young (but not too young), bold, and with an attitude too! Its flavors are reminiscent of crumbled peat thrown on a campfire, with notes of damp earth, pepper, and seaweed. Still, there’s a soft underbelly of vanilla sweetness that helps to tame this beast and provide balance. A peppery, kippered, smoky finish entertains long after the whisky disappears. Make this your last whisky of the evening.
(3rd Quarter 2004 Issue—Vol. 13#3)