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Celebrating Ardbeg Day With The New Ardbeg Spectacular!

Happy Ardbeg Day!

Ardbeg Day has always seemed like a distant dream to me. After all, it coincides with the broader Feis Ile (Islay Festival) that takes place in Scotland's most excitable region, Islay! The festival celebrates the distilleries on Islay and their shared distinctive regional style of smoky, peaty, coastal whiskies. It's often told to me as one of the best trips of any whisky lover's lifetime! There's parties, music, tasting sessions, all on an island full of great distilleries (Ardbeg being amongst them!) and folks who love whisky. And I'm over here in sunny Singapore - not exactly a drive down the road from Islay.

But this year, Ardbeg's bringing a slice of that over to my corner of the world!

This year (2024), Ardbeg hosted a little Ardbeg Day festivity that was opened to public - with a little refresher on the distillery itself, popcorn, photo spots, stickers and a tasting through the Ardbeg core range, culminating in this year's Ardbeg Day release - the Ardbeg Spectacular. 



If it hasn't been said, I am a big fan of the distillery. It was after all one of the first Scotch that I started out with - specifically the Ardbeg Blaaack, which was in turn the special release for 2020, and an expression that I still really enjoy till this day. Anyone who follows the whisky scene will know that Ardbeg is particularly known for its special Committee Releases (which is actually free to join and gets you into the Ardbeg store for limited editions - I'll chuck the link here).

And there's lots to love about the distillery. It's after all a distillery that has such an incredibly storied history - it's so popular today - with ups and downs, breakthroughs, closures and revivals, and has amassed for itself such an incredible fanbase. For Scotch fans, it's also a distillery that keeps you satisfied on the daily with consistently solid quality value picks in its core range, and enough Committee Releases to keep you excited through the year. And if you're seasoned, you've always got a great repository of vintage Ardbeg's of yester-decades around that are often touted as being some of the all time greats. There's lots to rally behind with Ardbeg.

So about this year's Ardbeg Day special (Ardbeg Day is 1st June this year, and is marked annually as the last Saturday of Feis Ile), the Spectacular, the theme this time is "Dark Circus", and it's a mix of ex-Bourbon barrel and ex-Port cask whiskies, and we're not talking finishes, even the ex-Port cask component was Ardbeg wholly matured in ex-Port casks (a first for Ardbeg!). It's bottled at 46% ABV.

Let's give it a go!

Ardbeg Spectacular, 46% ABV - Review


Tasting Notes

Colour: Gold

Aroma: Really nice richness, this definitely has more sweetness than the usual Ardbeg's, the sweetness being that of port wine, it's a thick fortified dark fruit sweetness that is backed up by honey. There's also some savouriness of BBQ, a gentle sweet smokiness, some light orange citrus zest, as well as leather, stewed plums, raisins and some nuttiness of crushed almonds. It's really aromatic, and also mellow and rich. With time, it brightens up to give yellow bananas, some rustic barnyard hay and animal hide, a touch of Cognac, with more yellow and black raisins drizzled in maltose candy and with more of that orange peel.

Taste: Medium-bodied. The herbaceousness of dried out kombu seaweed on the shore and dried oregano strikes first, it's bright and also mellow, backed up by good amounts of honey. There's a passing note of light touches of sweet Sherry, against that fortified fruit sweetness, as well as some rancio of nuttiness and leather. It's rather vibrant with scoops of maltose candy that melds with the herbaceousness. Not all that smoky here.

Finish: Sweeter here, more of that orange peel, some light ash is starting to emerge, but the kombu carries us through to the finish. Deep warmth.


My Thoughts

This was very tasty! I really enjoyed it, and given that it holds back on the (at times) alittle too strong Islay peatiness of smoke, ash, iodine, herbaceousness - I said "holds back", not that isn't there! - I think it'd be quite a crowdpleaser. It still keeps that Ardbeg identity with the moreish richness of big honey and BBQ, the fleshy yellow fruits, as well as some of that ash on the finish, but here that's given an added aspect of this sweeter and more concentrated fortified fruit that adds a side of dark fruit (along with some nuttiness and leather) to it.

What I found was that this does better with time and with sips - it takes some time to open up on the nose, and there's an intensity and quickness to the flavours on the palate, and so multiple takes at it gives the time needed to catch them. Which goes to where I think the Spectacular could be even more spectacular, being if it packed more intensity on the palate and held more of that Ardbeg tar and darker, dirtier signature flavours - be alittle more dark and drag me down to the its depths! But that wouldn't be very friendly, would it?

I really enjoyed in particular the nose, which had all that complexity and richness that comes indeed as a result of a combination of port wine and the classic Ardbeg profile - so you really get a strong sense of what it's exactly made of on the nose - there's lots to unpack, but ultimately I loved how rich and layered it was, very harmoniously cohesive as well with a nice roundedness given the big aromas. They really do jump out at you - it's that aromatic. So great intensity there.

Overall, superb nose, approachable and easy on the palate, nice vibrance, and should honestly be a crowdpleaser... even for those not yet acquainted with Ardbeg! Happy Ardbeg Day!


Ardbeg Day 2024 in Singapore was organised by Spirited SG in collaboration with Moet Hennessy.