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I have previously reviewed this (connosr.com/reviews/ardbeg/…), but when my wife bought me a bottle I noticed it was significantly different than I remembered and from my notes, so I thought a re-review was in order.
So some info - the Beast was distilled in 1990 and was bottled in three batches - in 2006, 2007 and 2008. I don't know what year my previous Beast was bottled at, but this one is the 2008 bottling.
It's pale so it looks to me like it was probably exclusively or mostly aged in ex-bourbon barrels and it's pretty unlikely to have had any caramel added - but take that with a grain of salt, I don't know for certain, but that's what it looks like to me!
The nose is rich, full of velvety peat with salty highlights over a toffee apple sweetness. Gentle smoke is there as an undertone - but it's a bit greasy, like from a properly fired up barbeque with maybe a hint of good tobacco smoke. There's some iodine in the background and a hint of citrous as well. Really intriguing and keeps modulating, with it being slightly different every time!
The taste is creamy but surprisingly light. Initially full of peat, smoke and brine, it quickly and gently gives way to vanilla and citrous (maybe pineapple?), some mint and hints of good olive oil. Dangerously easy to drink, and very moreish.
The finish is moderately long and gently warm, full of citrous, olives and a peppery saltiness come to the fore and are tucked to bed by a nice warm peat and barbeque smoke blanket.
This is genuinely excellent, and really drinkable. The finish isn't short (not even close), but I find myself wanting to get back to this much quicker than a lot of other drams. Bit expensive (and far too hard to find nowadays) to be a session whisky... ;)
Just goes to show the difference different batches/bottlings can make.