For Ardbeg Day 2020 the Islay distillery launched a sheep theme. Ardbeg claims to be very different from all other distilleries on the island and therefor calls itself the black sheep. Well, well, the boys and girls of the marketing department really earn their keep. Still, it is a very interesting release, as the malt got a finish on Pinot Noir wine casks from New Zealand. Next to this limited edition Ardbeg also released a Committee Only bottling with cream colored label and at cask strength. We’ll try that one as well, but let’s start with the 46% release for us mere mortals.
Ooh, this nose is pleasant! At first I get the typical peat, smoldering wood, ashes and even Wellington boots – all typical for Ardbeg – but also some nice umami and dark & sweet notes. Think marinated ribs on the BBQ, blackcurrants, nougat with hazelnuts, paprika powder, coriander and a bit of caramel. This is a very good nose.
It is surprisingly creamy upon arrival. It bursts with fruit, ashes and pepper. It immediately sets the mouth aflame. The smoke becomes big, the berries dark and then suddenly citrus fruits kick in and the malt evolves towards the liquid ashtray I have so come to love. The dark and sweet notes of the wine remain present, but clearly plays second fiddle now.
The finish is long and chockful of ashes, then turns very dry. A bitterness appears at the death.
I’m not fond of Ardbeg’s marketing strategy and therefor sometimes try to find flaws in the product. I know, silly and narrow minded. And wrong. Honestly, this Ardbeg is absolutely delightful.