A Tale of Two Uigeadails
30th Mar 2011
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Tasting Notes by Victor
Ardbeg Uigeadail is my favourite malt whisky. When I tasted the first bottle which I bought in September 2010 I went back to the store 5 days later and bought 3 more bottles from the same store off of the same shelf, because I was astonished at how good the Ardbeg Uigeadail was, and I wanted to have that wonderful drink available for drinking for a very long time. Three months later, as my first bottle was nearing the end, I purchased 1 additional bottle from a different liquor store. When my first bottle was empty I opened the single lone bottle which I had purchased the most recently. I sipped first in surprise, then in increasing horror as I did not experience what I had remembered of the flavour and the feeling of my first bottle. Upon further tastings over a couple of weeks the second bottle continued to give me exactly the same less than impressive flavour as it had with the first taste of it. First I asked myself whether this was the flavour that I had experienced from bottle # 1 and maybe my taste had changed in the interval that had elapsed. Finally I decided that I should sample bottle # 3, which had come from the same shelf as the sainted bottle #1. Low and behold bottle # 3 tastes exactly like all of my memories from bottle # 1 and gives me the type of transcendent experience that leads me to rate this whisky at 98 pts. To bottle # 2 I would give about an 86 pt rating, decent, but not at all head of the pack, or close to being an all-time favourite whisky.
Nose: for bottle # 1 & 3, the nose is very brightly perfumed, like carnations with rosewater, peat, pleasant sherry and some briny and medicinal elements. For # 2 the nose is duller, lower pitched, less floral, and sort of muffled in its expression.
Taste: for # 1 & 3 the sweet sherry and the strong peat, medicinal, and briny elements combine into an amazing bright integrated fabric. There is a sort of harmony being played out here between the very high soprano notes of the sherry, and the bass earthy notes brought out through the peat and the briny/iodiny elements. You can still taste some nice malted barley here, sort of closeted between the high winey and low earthy notes. For bottle # 2 the sherry notes fall completely flat. They are not soprano or even alto, but more bass-baritone range. The sherry here is not bright, is not very tasty, and does not offer the beautiful contrast to the bass note elements that is afforded in the other bottles. The overall effect of sipping # 2 is heavy, almost leaden.
Finish: for bottles # 1 & # 3 the finish retains all of the spectacular flavours equally strongly for a very long time. For bottle # 2 the sub-par sherry flavour actually deteriourates somewhat into the finish, and becomes both sour and less tasty. The finish here is also rather long, but it is not balanced, and not so very pleasant.
Balance: # 1 & # 3 have everything going for them in all departments. Bottle # 2 is not very balanced, not nearly as pleasant tasting or as appealing to the nose, and then gets somewhat less appealing on the finish. At the end of this experience I am extemely optimistic about the quality of my remaining 3 bottles of Ardbeg Uigeadail, but am completely in doubt about what I will encounter if I am to buy an additional new bottle of that whisky. This experience has led me to reassess some others' lukewarm reviews of Uigeadail, or those who felt that it needed water to open up. I go to water as a last ditch attempt to find a way to enjoy a whisky when I am not satisfied with what comes straight from the bottle. Maybe those others were drinking from the stock of bottle # 2. The summary observation I make from this is to remind myself that whiskies are living beings and not standardized widgets off of an assembly-line. There are definite batch to batch variations, and sometimes bottle to bottle variations. Sometimes those variations are of a very significant magnitude and can make the difference between an outstanding whisky and one which is merely mediocre. (My rating is of bottles # 1 and # 3)