Ardbeg Rollercoaster 57.3%
The nose. Peat. Obviously. That lovely peat that's made from licquoricey toffee apples, with a sickly sweet twist that might slightly cloying to some? Smoke and raisins rubbed on banana skins.
Ignore the Ardbeg hype, the fanboys and the haters. Sit up. Take the biggest lungfuls you can muster, close your eyes, and imagine yourself on a rocky, seaweed-ridden coastline with vicious sea spray mingling with morning Sun.
Now let the waves fade out, and migrate to a warmer, cosier place - that cottage that's literally a stone throw away from the sea. The evening fire's burning in late Autumn, and the apples are in season. Stewed apples for desert. Woodsmoke enveloping you. The sea, the fire, the food on the table, you - it all becomes one.
Taking a mouthful, the 57.3% hits you right in the cheeks at first, sorting the men from the boys. It's dry, tingly, bitter. Peat, of course. And red grapes, heavily-dried Autumnal fruits, some curry hints, and some weird memories of strawberry bootlaces. Carry on holding it there, nursing it, riding the crash of the waves. Then a suggestion of cocoa gets left behind as the burn fades out.
Going back for another few heavy lungfuls, the cocoa is still there, mixing in with cigars this time. Another mouthful crashes into the gums.
I add a dollop of water as I figure it can take it, but get a whiff of decay in the glass which takes me aback. I think it's the peat coming through stronger. With water it feels… lacking. Impotent. Like I've just told a clown to take his make-up off and have a nice chat. This is Ardbeg Rollercoaster - if you're going to drink it, then it's SUPPOSED to laugh in the face of dental hygiene, surely. (It's not even a macho thing - I'm the skinniest, most lightweight guy I know. It's all about the experience, innit?)
You know what this reminds me of? New make. Raw spirit. Smoke and peat and dried fruits like you've just licked the inside of a chimney made from apples.
It's Ardbeg. It's been 10 YEARS already - seriously? When did I get old? But this is a weird sort of blend - it feels like a back-to-basics, strip-everything-out release. Sure, it has subtlety, and enough subtlety to justify the price tag IMHO. But it's a subtlety that is second fiddle to raw, in-your-face chutzpah.
And that, reader, is what makes Ardbeg Ardbeg.
@allanmb: Thanks for the comment - oddly I don't think I'd disagree with anything in it though :) I would probably give this a higher overall score too - I'm still working out my "range" but probably somewhere around the 89-92 mark. The 4-part Connosr scoring system (which I think I'm trying out for the first time here maybe) weights the 4 parts equally - but this is probably a good example of where 1 or 2 "make" the whisky.
I found the finish a little lacking - could have been more interesting given the intense hit at the start, and didn't find the overall balance as good as others - yes there's an amazing "raw subtlety" going on here, but I guess I define balance as a kind of "progression" from one flavour to another.
So yeah, if you're reading this and thinking "Hm, only 80?" then ignore that bit :) This whisky's all about intensity and Ardbeg, go and try some now :)
I have to disagree with this review. This is one solid Ardbeg, forget Uigeadail, Corryvreckan, heck even Lord of the Isles. Rollercoaster offers the most complex Ardbeg this side of £500. The mix of different ages and casks is evident. Try a sip and you might pick up on tarry, tobacco pouches. The next sip might hit you with seaweed, salt and coastal notes. One thing, you are guaranteed a solid whack of peat. This is one heck of an Ardbeg which needs to be tried. My personal score would be 95, it doesn't get much better than this!