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Tonight - my birthday dram! Now entering my 41st year, I thought I'd celebrate with this incredible whisky. I had a sample at a tasting @Victor gave, but I bought a bottle the first opportunity I could find. I think this is the first Ardbeg I've owned (and so the first Ardbeg I've reviewed).
One of the three Kildaton-area distilleries (the others being neighbours Lagavulin and Laphroaig - what a trifecta!), Ardbeg was first licensed in 1815 and was used almost solely in blends. It was mothballed in the 1980s but slowly came back, helped along by being purchased by Glenmorangie in 1997. Since then, it has come back with a vengeance and is now recognized as one of the very top distilleries, with it's core 10 Year Old as well as various other more premium expressions.
And The Corryvreckan? Well, it's the second largest whirlpool in the world (google it - neat pics!) The packaging will tell you the whole legend of the Viking going into the whirlpool for his ladylove, and how it relates to the whisky, blah blah blah. Excellent example of romantic marketing (which Scottish distillers excel at). But what about the liquid?
It is a shimmering light golden colour. A fantastic nose: lemon, peat, seaweed, pine needles, wet dog. Medicinal. Hot, light and very pleasant - fruity citrus notes carried by the gentle peat smoke. Water accentuates the seaweed and iodine. Just smoky enough to carry all the other elements beautifully.
In the mouth: wow. Extremely mouth drying yet also oily. Very smoky (a wet, clingy smoke) but behind that, some light honey, light brown sugar, milk chocolate, lemon tart, grapefruit, very briny. Water makes it sweeter, which goes miraculously well with the rock salt and peat, makes it much fruitier. Stings the lips and dries the mouth. Extremely complex whirlpool (there's that marketing again!) of flavours: salt, smoke, tart, sweet - incredible. I'll be sitting with this for a while...
The finish is long but not too long. The smoke hangs back and allows the sweet maltiness to come forward. The balance of this whisky is perfect. Each element is slightly different yet complements the other in total harmony. This is as good as it gets. This is why I always come back to Islays - nothing on Speyside comes close to this (well, except the Macallan 1946, which was peated, so there ya go). And this is why Ardbeg remains one of my top distilleries. Slainte! And Happy Birthday!