Another year another Ardbeg Day!
Every year during Ardbeg Day, the Islay distillery has a special limited release in store for its fans, known as the Ardbeg Committee, which by the way is free for anyone to join on their website.
The past few years, we’ve seen Ardbeg increasingly getting experimental with different casks, Ardbeg Day 2018 brought us Ardbeg Grooves matured in ex-wine casks that were heavily charred, 2019 gave us Drum, which was matured in ex-rum casks, then 2020 we had Blaaack which saw Ardbeg being matured in NZ Pinot Noir casks.
Much of this is to inject some fun into the monolith that is Ardbeg. So what has 2021 brought us? Well for starters, 2021 will mark the conclusion of a 13-year tenure for Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager, Mickey Heads. Hence the 2021 Ardbeg Day release, titled “Arrrrrrrdbeg!” (that’s 7 “r”s if you were wondering), is dedicated to Heads and as such he is wonderfully depicted on the bottle’s label as the pirate captain of the ship, with Ardbeg’s mascot Shortie the Jack Russell, which used to run around Ardbeg’s premises, on his shoulder.
On to the contents! This time we have us some Rye cask matured Ardbeg! As with the past couple of years, it’s the first time we’re seeing (or sipping) Ardbeg matured in a Rye cask.
What’s that gonna be like?! Well we have as much a clue as you do, here at 88 Bamboo, we’ve never tried a rye casks, but from what Ardbeg has said, tasting notes include “a spicy mouthfeel with fruit and gentle smoke” and “notes of smoked banana and pear, sweet toffee and that distinctive Ardbeg smoke”.
As rye-based whisky is more common in the US, most notably in whiskies such as Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, and Michter’s US*1, it’s not often we see it in Scotch. But from what we gather, rye is commonly associated with stronger more aggressive alcoholic punches, with spicier and pepperier flavors (white pepper crab bee hoon came to my mind for some reason, any good recommendations anyone?). This is supposedly characteristic of rye whiskies and is what tends them to the savory side. Aside from that, I’m guessing we can expect a longer finish, a thinner body and something closer to chilli padi.
It will be bottled at 51.8% abv, but as tradition, Ardbeg will release a higher proof version (51.8% abv) to its committee members, and then subsequently we can expect a lower proof version to hit whisky retailers for the broader market.
As always, we’ll try and nab some of them for our readers, so be sure to check our page regularly.
Moving on to the second piece of news Ardbeg has for us, Ardbeg is adding a 25 Year expression to its core range.
This follows the previous addition of the 19 Year Ardbeg Traigh Bhan to the core range. Well at least this time they saved us from looking like fools trying to pronounce some Scottish tongue twister (same feeling when I’m at IKEA). The Traigh Bhan was a big hit and with the new 25 Year addition, Ardbeg is certainly bucking the direction that most Scotch distilleries have been headed towards, which is to go for more accessible (well some of them at least) NAS expressions that are younger and therefore faster to produce in sizeable quantities and could potentially be priced more affordably. Keyword: could.
But back to the 25 Year Ardbeg, we knew it wasn’t gonna be cheap, given Ardbeg’s premium status, and so it’s not a shocker that this is priced at US$970 per bottle.
Much like the 19 Year Old Traigh Bhan, this will be released in limited quantities in batches.
The tasting notes Ardbeg has us expecting are:
Nose: Smoked cream, peppermint, toffee, fennel and pine resin
Palate: ‘Vibrant, hot peppery mouthfeel’ with flavours of sherbet lemon, carbolic soap and tar, creamy toffee, aniseed and chilli pepper
Finish: Long, mellow and lingering, with cream, fudge and antiseptic notes
Unfortunately, given the just very slightly excessive price range, we’ll have to give this one a pass. But if you do find yourself with a dram of the 25 Year Ardbeg in hand, maybe your friend made some money off Wall Street Bets idk, do send us your tasting notes and we’ll be sure to share it on our page so the rest of us can live vicariously through you.
As always, Kanpai!