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I'll start by saying that I'm one of those Galileo bashers, but having that, I do like Ardbeg Galileo. To put it in the simplest terms, it's a pretty good whisky. It's 49% alcohol and it has a nice balance of smoke and sweetness. It's good for sure, but it's not over-the-top incredible. It starts with the typical peaty Ardbeg nose, but what's more prevalent than that is a kind of freshly baked pan dulce smell with some faint touches of a certain herbaceousness. I like it. The taste though is just kind of meh. It's got some sweetness. It's a little bit appley and peaty. I guess I would have to describe it as the flavor of marsala, but I've never tried the wine or the chicken dish, and the finish is toasty and smoky but not any different or better than I could find with Ardbeg 10 or a lot of other Islay whiskies.
So what's the problem with this whisky? It's the price. If I remember correctly, I paid $90 for this, and it just wasn't worth the money. I feel that price is definitely something to take into account when reviewing a product. I'd score a $40 whisky differently than I would a $90 one such as Ardbeg Galileo. This whisky simply wasn't worth the price charged for it. It's a shame that Ardbeg seems to be heading in the direction of Macallan. Although it's not advertised nearly as heavily, it's trying to be a name, and these limited edition whiskies are capitalizing on that name, but in the case of Galileo, limited does not mean better. I liked it, but it's only slightly better than the 10 yr, and nowhere near as good as Corryvreckan or Uigeadail, which are much cheaper. I originally thought that this whisky was aged in space, but it was named as such to commemorate sending other, smaller distillate samples into space. Not that being aged in space would have made it better, but with the costs of space travel I would have understood the high price tag. The use of marsala cask was different, but not better than what we usually find in lots of commonplace whiskies. I can't say for sure, but I would imagine old marsala casks would be cheaper to buy than old sherry casks since there's so much demand from many distilleries for sherry casks and very little for ex-marsala casks. Having worked in the liquor industry, I've heard of marsala casks being used for anything other than marsala. I'm not saying they aren't, but it's definitely rare, and it does not justify Galieo's high price tag.
I recently bought a bottle of Octomore Comus. It certainly was not cheap, and they don't waste any effort in telling you of its record-setting peatiness, so it's not without its gimmickry, but after having tasted Octomore (although pricey indeed) I felt that I had purchased a whisky that was both unique and immensely satisfying. With Galileo, it's 'They used marsala casks. Ok. And now it's double the price of the ten year. Ok.' It goes to show you that different, or unique, or limited isn't necessarily better. It's kind of upsetting as I like Ardbeg a lot, and also Islay Scotches as a whole, but after having paid so much for a whisky that was so meh, I will be very weary of Ardbeg in the future.