This is, in my opinion, the last of the good special release Ardbegs. I haven't cared much for the stuff that came after like the Day, Galileo and the AuriVerdes - though I quite liked the Ardbog for some reason.
Unashamed in it's approach it is brash and hard hitting but if you look close enough has a gentler, softer side to it as well.
The spirit is essentially the standard 10 year old but finished in heavily charred barrels to give it a stronger smokier (barbeque) flavor. These new barrels were charred so much that they started cracking on the inside and began to resemble alligator skin.
Or as some intern in their marketing department likes to call it, Islay-Gator.
(I will pause now for you to softly facepalm yourself)
I tasted the 'Gator when it came out and remember being blown away by it. It was actually one of the first Ardbegs I had ever tried (yes, I'm very new to whisky!) and, boy, am I glad it was this smokey monster!
These notes are from a brand new bottle.
Nose: Lots of ash with a sharp citrus drizzle on top. Butterscotch on barbequed sausage. I like how the smokey sweets play in tandem and don't let one overpower. The peat rolls in next on a bed of faint white flowers but what surprised me a touch was the red candy/licorice which added that touch of exotic. Wonderfully balanced nose.
Palate: The citrus on the nose turns into a lovely bitter marmalade spread. There is peaty ash with a generous green chilli and black peppercorn garnish. The delivery is quite creamy and has hints of mint sprig.
Finish: Long with that same exotic red licorice and spicy oranges.
This is a glorious dram and deserves the reputation it has garnered.