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Well, it’s that Ardbeg time of year again. Whether you consider their annual releases cause for celebration or mere hype, they can’t be ignored. Nevertheless, I’ll give them credit for being the only distillery to make an honest attempt at creating something special on a regular basis.
Consider this a snapshot review. Comments are based on my third dram of Ardbog from a bottle I’ve had for two days, so any potential changes via oxidation haven’t had time to take effect. I like this expression, but it’s not on the level of Uigeadail or Corryvreckan – yet. Another few drams, another few months – who knows? If I notice any significant changes over time, I’ll add some thoughts in the comments section.
I strongly recommend this with at least a half teaspoon of water. Those who like the strong stuff neat will miss out on the sweet and creamy textures that emerge with a bit of added aqua.
Nose: Very dense, earthy, and smoky. There’s plenty of peat, to be sure, but not as much as expected from an Ardbeg christened in honor of the peat bogs. I expected a peat wallop along the lines of a cask-strength Laphroaig, but the salt, dirt, wood, rubber, and roasted ham demand equal time. To balance out the rough stuff, there’s a hint of vanilla that emerges after a five-minute wait. I can’t say that I’m in love with this nose, but it’s certainly complex, unique, and interesting.
Palate: Very salty and meaty upon arrival. The Manzanilla-cask influence soon emerges, as do some caramel and soft citrus notes. On the downside, there’s more than a trace of something like bitter plastic that won’t go away. These flavors remain in the decent-length finish, as the peat returns in full force.
In all, I like Ardbog, but I’m not crazy about it (yet, anyway). It’s not in the Oogie or Corry class, but it’s probably worth the price tag if you’re a fellow passenger on the Ardbeg bandwagon.