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Ardbeg hardly needs an introduction (especially the last decade since Glenmorangie PLC has been promoting the brand in nifty marketing campagnes) and I’ve tasted several expressions already, but not too many independent bottlings. Let us change that by trying a few. Let’s start with this very pale Ileach, bottled at drinking strength by Gordon & Macphail in their famous Connoisseurs Choice range. It is a refill bourbon barrel that was filled in April 1996 and emptied in September 2005.
The nose starts on peat and tar, but also struck matches and smoldering fire. Some obligatory seaweed and salt. But it turns sweet and fruity almost instantly, with liquorice, pear and – don’t laugh – strawberries! I took my time to be absolutely sure, for I could hardly believe it. But truly… smoked strawberries. It evolves further in the glass, showing a sourish side.
On the palate, it is rather soft and docile and, after the fruity start (apples and grapefruit, this time), becomes very salty. Peatsmoke plays second fiddle.
The finish is medium in length on citrus and light pepper.
This young Ardbeg surprised me mostly on the wonderful nose, but on the palate – while more than okay – couldn’t keep up.