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Ardbeg's X-Men Whisky, Fermutation!

What you need to know:

  • It looks like Ardbeg has a new release in the works, which will be made available on 8 February 2022, called Fermutation – Invasion of the Washbacks. Read the bottle’s origin story below!
  • It is going to be Ardbeg’s sharpest, zingiest and wildest ever.
  • This is the result of extended fermentation, which causes lacto-bacteria to thrive in place of yeasts, producing esters.
  • The usual Ardbeg fermentation time is 72 hours, this bottling instead underwent 3 whole weeks of fermentation.
  • Esters are what gives a fruitier, punchier flavor.
  • This is called lactic fermentation, similar to probiotic cultured drinks like Yakult and Vitagen.
  • One other famous distillery that uses the same method is Chichibu Distillery.
  • We think this bottle is gonna be sweeter, fruitier, and lighter, which should be well-liked.

 

Image Source: Ardbeg

Another day, another Ardbeg! Ardbeg has been on a roll with these special bottlings. This time they’ve called it Fermutation – Invasion of the Washbacks.

 

So this time the story goes something like this:

“The year was 2007. The Ardbeg Distillery was about to face one of its greatest challenges.

A broken boiler threatened the very existence of six washbacks full of precious liquid. Nothing could stop them fermenting past the point of no return!

The Distillery folk threw off the washback lids hoping for a miracle, and a miracle they received!

An invasion was taking place. Millions of tiny beings were descending from the skies and landing in the washbacks…

The longest ‘Fermutation’ in Ardbeg’s history had begun, transforming the liquid into the sharpest, zingiest and wildest Ardbeg ever!

Unbelievable but true!”

 

 

Hahahaha what did I tell ya? Sometimes these product stories are just so over the top. But props for trying though! I was fairly amused to say the least. It almost feels like whenever the slightest event happens, it becomes inspiration for a new bottling. 

“Honey, how was your day? Anything interesting happen at work?”

“It was fine, although someone slipped on a plastic bag at lunch. ‘Cos of that we had to have an emergency meeting to come up with a new bottle. We’re calling it Lunch Situation – Malt Panic. Y’know standard stuff really.”

Taking 100 steps back before we get to the aliens and whatnot, this Ardbeg is basically the product of an extended fermentation. Does that really matter or is this marketing fluff? Let’s find out. 

To start with, some of us might feel like we’ve heard about extended fermentation before. Putting on our thinking caps, it reminds us of none other than Chichibu Distillery in Saitama, Japan.

 

Chichibu’s Mizunara washbacks are what gives the whisky its fruity punchy flavors that are so well-loved. (Image Source: The Whiskey Wash) 

Chichibu is well known for its fruity, intense flavors which are the result of extended fermentation in their Mizunara washbacks.

So how does this work?

Typically the process of fermentation, which is done in big tubs called washbacks, is used to make alcohol from sugar, which is where your whisky comes from.

Ardbeg's usual fermentation time is 72 hours, but in the case of this mutant bottling, fermentation carried on for 3 whole weeks, enough to cause significant influence on the whisky.

 

"The outcome is a dram that tastes like pure science fiction. Peat and smoke meld beautifully with fresh, floral flavours, while sharp, more malty notes give Ardbeg Fermutation a uniquely zingy profile.”

 

Thus, with extended fermentation, the additional days of fermentation results in alcoholic content going up too much, causing the yeast that is responsible for turning sugar to alcohol, to become stressed out.

This allows lacto-bacteria (like the kind you find in Yakult or Vitagen) to thrive and makes the wash (the fermenting barley) become more acidic and ester-y. Esters are the chemicals that give off the fruity flavors.

This process is called lactic fermentation, or as Ardbeg calls it Fermutation – Invasion of the Washbacks. Very cinematic bunch.

 

I guess the tiny aliens Ardbeg is referring to are the lacto-bacteria?

These lacto-bacteria live in the wooden washbacks, which in Ardbeg’s case, are made of Oregon Pine. According to Ardbeg, it’s fermentation time is usually longer than most other distilleries due to the high phenolic content in their original malt.

This bottling will be bottled at 13 years old.

So there you go, the sharpest, zingiest and wildest Ardbeg ever!

 

Tasting Notes
 
Colour
Pale Straw
 
Nose
Fresh, floral, herbal and tart. Hints of mixed herbs and cedar wood. Very zesty, vibrant, hints of smoked orange and grapefruit, lots of menthol and peppermint. With water, powerful bursts of diesel oil, tar, fresh paint and aniseed. As this dies down, a memory of freshly cut hay, and the tiniest hint of something savoury, like yeast extract or bread dough.
 
Taste
A lively, vibrant, sharp, ‘zingy’ texture, leading into very firm, distinctive flavours – malty/biscuit tones, powerful aniseed, cardamom, antiseptic lozenge, sweet mint toffee and cigar ash.
 
Finish
Finally, a lingering, salty, firm aftertaste of mint, tar, oak tannin & leather.

 

 

 Oregon Pine trees are used for Ardbeg’s washbacks. (Image Source: Deschutes Land Trust)

My take:

While I typically find that the marketing stuff can be over the top, I do look forward to new releases (when they are affordably priced).

I think the difficulty for most drinkers and aspiring drinkers is being able to evaluate if a bottle is worth paying for, or to go right to the million dollar question, what exactly is this bottle about and if that is worth paying for?

Marketing hype aside, I do hope that distilleries can focus more on connecting the product story to what’s actually inside the bottle. I think if people understood it better, they’d be more friendly with their wallets instead of going ahhh another one?

I expect this Ardbeg bottling to be less heavy, less malty (than the usual Ardbeg), given that it probably went through a longer lactic fermentation, and so probably more accessibly fruity and light, which I think suits the palate of many drinkers. 

Especially rum and beer lovers, I think you're gonna love this one, since it enjoys the same sort of fermentation techniques used in those other spirits.

We’ll look forward to this one! 

 

@111hotpot