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Winner of World's Best Single Malt at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards, Ardbeg Galileo seems to be a controversial bottle. Marketed as a celebration of Ardbeg sending whisky into outer space (Really. Really? Really.), this was distilled in 1999 and matured mostly in ex-bourbon barrels, but also some ex-Marsala casks from Sicily, and bottled in 2012. I bought my bottle at Park Avenue Liquor Shop in NYC in October 2012.
The colour is interesting - pale gold but with a very faint reddish tinge to it; I don't think I've seen a colour quite like that before. The nose is classic Ardbeg peat smoke but with some mahogany behind it. Wet rubber boots, dark chocolate with sea salt, cherries and raisins. Fresh and invigorating but with depth. Water has a nice effect, bringing out summery fruits like strawberries and raspberries. After some time in the glass I get...dirty socks?
The palate is smoky with some hot spices, some caramel, a hint of grape. Pine needles, wet campfire, and behind that, dark cherries in syrup. Both mocha and lemon pith dancing together in the mouth. Like the nose, a very interesting balance between peat and sherry (yes, I know it's Marsala, not sherry. But if you had told me it was a sherry cask instead, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference). Water provides a creamier mouthfeel.
The finish is very long and deep, ashen and fruity at the same time - again, very interesting but here it's a little imbalanced, to my mind. This is a very interesting malt, with a lot going on - for the most part, the balance between peat, fruit and oak is well maintained. Not my favourite Ardbeg in the world (and surprising that it would win Best Single Malt), but a fascinating dram nonetheless - despite the annoying marketing hook. Next, as per a discussion going on on this site, I'm going to review the Uigeadail.