What you need to know:
- Ardbeg's Feis Ile 2022 release seems to be out, with the labels appearing on the US alcohol tax databases.
- This release will be entitled “Ardcore” and is a “smoky, spiky spirit fit only for the most Ardcore of fans”. Hahaha points for creativity.
- The labels tell us it is made with black malt barley, and to expect dark chocolate, brittle toffee, aniseed, charcoal, and that this will “punkture our palate and trash our taste buds”. Yikes.
- This will be bottled at 50.1% for the Committee Release and 46% for the mass release. They will be NAS.
- Read on to find out what that’s all about. We break down what the whole fuss of Black Barley Malt is all about.
- Psst, it’s a collaboration with beer brewery Brewgooder, whom they partnered with last year to make a porter brew.
Ardbeg's 2022 Feis Ile Release.
Ardbeg is on a roll with their one-off releases. Seems like Ardbeg's 2022 Feis Ile bottling will be the new Ardcore.
From the depths of the US TTB databases, we find two sets of labels for the Ardcore, the first is above, and the second below.
Most noticeably one is bottled at 50.1% abv which is likely to be the Committee Release, which can only be bought from the Ardbeg site as a Committee member (as always, I remind everyone that it is completely free to join), and the second weighs in at 46% abv, which will likely be the one retailed to the public. This will be an NAS release.
Front label. (Image Source: US TTB)
On the front label we see this:
“Created with Black Malt Barley, Ardcore is a first for Ardbeg, and probably whisky. Aromas of Dark Chocolate and Brittle Toffee clash. While amped up notes of Aniseed and Charcoal elbow their way to the fore. It’ll Punk-ture your palate and trash your Taste Buds. This is Ardcore.”
The labels for the likely mass release carries the same text except the colour scheme is nicer...oops... I mean different.
Taking a moment to collect ourselves, let’s try breaking this down.
Black Malt Barley is actually super heavily roasted barley malt. How heavily roasted you might ask, well almost to the point that there is a real risk the barley catches fire. Large, full-sized barley kernels are selected so they can withstand the heavy roasting. It is then roasted in a kiln for about 4 hours in excess of 200 degrees Celsius.
As you roast the barley more, it takes on a darker shade. Kinda like suntanning I suppose. (Image Source: Jay's Brewing Blog)
The effect is that this causes the malt to lose a significant amount of its weight and also develop a deep, dark color.
This type of malt is typically used for porters, stouts and also “dunkel” versions of Pilsners. Guinness stout is a great example of the use of black malt barley.
That explains the tasting notes of dark chocolate, brittle toffee, aniseeds and charcoal, which are notes you can find in the likes of Guinness stout as well.
Dark ales or pilsners likely contain some of that black malt barley. Guinness stout is a good example. (Image Source: East Troy Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism)
Now, next up! What’s with the whole hardcore “punk-ture” your palate, trash your taste buds bit? Edgy much?
Well, apparently Black Malt Barley has a pretty intimidating reputation it seems. It appears that it is described as the following “black malt lends a very sharp, acrid, burnt flavor whose harshness is beyond that of both chocolate malt and roasted barley” and its use is advised as being done “sparingly”. Oof.
The barley is malted so intensely that it is almost at the point of burning. Is this just some maltsmen's cover for falling asleep on the job? We jest. (Image Source: Great Fermentations)
It seems like Black Malt Barley simply has a very intense harsh taste that can throw off the flavors of whatever you’re making with ease. So why even use the stuff? Sounds like uranium to me.
So to that point, it also appears that when used properly, it gives a rich, intense and highly aromatic roasted flavor and that its bitterness and acidity can be “brightening” and lend what you’re making some sharp zingy high notes. This could potentially be used to balance out deep, mellow, heavier, thicker flavors, like that of porters of stouts! After all, what everyone looks for is complexity and balance. The last thing we want is for our drink to be too one-dimensional and boring.
Back label. (Image Source: US TTB)
Black Malt Barley can also lend deep fruity notes such as currants, blackberries and sultanas, which can be a good contrast to round, malty flavors. In the beer brewing industry, they call this giving the beer some “elbows”. We see that in the Ardcore label as well.
Lastly, the drying quality that brightens the finish of the beer is also desirable as it gives the lips a light puckering sensation that makes you want to go for a second sip.
That…actually sounds pretty good honestly.
Alright, so what else do we spy on these little labels. So far we get that Ardbeg is doing something along the lines of porters, stouts and beers, and on top of that what’s with that “punk-ture”. It seems to be a little nod to a conspirator of sorts to this release.
Brewgooder's Clean Water Lager (Image Source: Brewgooder)
That reminds me of Brewgooder. Come to think of it the blue label that reads Ardcore is even the same blue!
Winding the clock back a year, some might recall that Ardbeg had a little collaboration with Brewgooder project that sought to raise money for water charities.
This gave birth to the Shortie Smoky Porter! A dark beer with a proportion of Ardbeg peated malt the in mix.
The Smokey Porter done in partnership between Ardbeg and Brewgooder was a great success, how could it not? The label is ridiculously cute! (Image Source: Master of Malt)
The limited-run Smokey Porter was a huge success and that’s just awesome for these charities. Warms the heart and the belly. How better could it get?
So it seems that now is Ardbeg’s turn to incorporate something of Brewgooder’s into the mix. And there we go, we have the Ardbeg Feis Ile 2022 release (to be confirmed obviously).
The Ardcore will use malt typically used for porters to make some outstanding whiskies.
Let’s hope this doesn’t actually puncture or trash anything.
We’ll revisit this in 2022. Till then.