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The Rollercoaster is probably the most hyped whisky of the last few months. Long in advance the marketeers at Ardbeg had announced this Committee Release, that would be launched on Feb 15th. It’s release marks the 10th anniversary of said committee. The hype caused Ardbeg some red cheeks as the website – predictably – crashed for several hours. The rumours that only 3.000 bottles would be released was exactly that: a rumour. 15.000 bottles were created.
It’s a vatting of no less than 10 casks, all of them post-take-over-stock since 1997 (when Glenmorangie PCL became the owner of Ardbeg). The oldest cask is from 1997, the youngest from 2006 (after all, any younger casks would not yet be whisky, remember?).
Let’s see what’s in this bottle then (the percentage is NOT the ABV, of course):
- 1997: Second fill Barrel (9,5%)
- 1998: Refill Hogshead (12,2%)
- 1999: First Fill Barrel (14,2%)
- 2000: First Fill Barrel (10,9%)
- 2001: Refill Barrel (6,2%)
- 2002: Refill Barrel (8,9%)
- 2003: First Fill Barrel (11,7%)
- 2004: First Fill Barrel (10,6%)
- 2005: Second Fill Sherry Butt (10,4%)
2006: Refill Hogshead (5,4%) ---
2010: Rollercoaster! (100%)
For those who do not like to do their own math, my calculations put this dram at slightly under 8 years (not Legal age, of course, but average age). Not as young as I thought.
On to the tasting then:
I really took my time for this one. A little over 40 minutes to be exact. You can smell this Ardbeg is not that old, but it’s nevertheless rather complex. First a smack of alcohol and peat – although a lot less than anticipated – and then some brine, sardine pasta (if you’ve ever had lunch in a Portuguese restaurant you’ll know what I mean), lots of iodine, a little mercurochrome (the red stuff you put on your kids’ scraped knees) and even smoked bacon (weird!). But also some overripe banana and pears if you give it a little time. Finally, quite a bit of soot. What a combination.
My first gulp… GULP! Holy cow! The 57,3% knock me off my socks. Very powerful indeed. My salivary gland goes into overdrive! A lot of peat at first, more than expected after that nose, but very rough on the palate (hey, I’m still a novice, ok!). Also rather herbal, but I cannot decide which. Aniseed, maybe? A little wet grass too. Anyway, too powerful to me, I need water with this one (see below).
The finish is longer than expected, somewhat earthy with pepers and salt and even some cough syrup.
Adding some water reveals vanilla and green apples, but also rubber boots (that have been in a moist basement for too long). I’m sure about the aniseed now.
Yes, I like it much better with water. The alcohol boost is tempered making me enjoy this salty dram a lot more. It’s quite creamy now. The taste reminds me more of the classic 10 now. It’s a lot sweeter and less bitter than straight.
The finish is somewhat shorter now, but still sooty and sweet.
In my opinion, there is a big difference between the nose and the palate. I’m not sure how to score this one, since I like the nose better straight, but the palate diluted. Now what?