The Supernova is one of the whiskies that made fall hook line and sinker in love with Ardbeg. Specifically the 2010 Release. I had just started drinking single malts and had a brief glimpse into the world of Islay peat monsters.
But there was really nothing that prepared me for the onslaught of smoke and peat that greeted me when I first dipped my nose in the glass. What the bloody hell is this sorcery? I'm certain I said out loud.
And there began my love affair with high strength, phenolic, smokey powerhouses. I managed to procure the increasingly rare 2009 but have yet to give it a go. I'm still waiting for the right moment to uncork that.
So it was lovely news when Ardbeg announced the 2014 release (or SN14 as it is known). After much waiting and haggling I managed to pick up a couple of bottles wanting to open them on a special day. And that day came in the form of my first trip to Islay for the Whisky Festival. So I decided to try it for the very first time on Ardbeg Day sitting by myself on a bench somewhere on a farm in Islay.
The setting could not have been better.
Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation at Ardbeg, went through some of his peatiest whiskies in the warehouse and pulled out a mix of ex-bourbon and some ex-sherry to put this 2014 release together.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a strength of 55%
Nose: Peat. Lots of smoke. Salt. Brine. That gorgeous Islay grist. Green grapes. Pomegranate. Some type of licorice. Melon rind. Guava. Cut grass. Mixed herbs. Garden peas. Black pepper. Bitter dark chocolate. A touch of cherries. This is, as promised, a smoky powerhouse on the nose. But thanks to the sherry influence has a touch of something sweet too.
Palate: Rolls over the palate nicely without causing any pain. By the way I'm drinking this at around 10AM in the morning and it's still going down smoothly. Lots of barley. Hint of oak. Smoke. White pepper. Greens. Melon. Mild sugarcane sweetness. Green lime. Tobacco. Brine. Linseed oil. Red chili chocolate. Deceptively smooth and balanced to drink.
Finish: Comes back up again to stay. Peat. Soot. Ash. Powerful.
This is a great study in balance. The 125ppm works wonderfully well with the sweet. The soot is complemented by the fruit. This is, not to put too fine a point on this, one of the great Ardbegs of late.
@Nozinan, I think what @MaltActivist means is that he has a very different mindset when he tastes a whisky for reviewing purposes and when he drinks it "for the sheer pleasure." In other words, just to pour a dram and enjoy it in the moment without dissecting the nose, palate, and finish, etc.
For myself, I find both types of tasting immensely important. I love to spend a few hours analyzing a particular whisky; dissecting all the nuances I can plumb from its liquid depths. But that is extremely heady and intellectual.
Sometimes I just want to savor the aesthetic experience for the "pleasure" of a good dram. And for me that means without taking notes.
I find that one tasting can help the appreciation of the other.
@MaltActivist, thanks for the wonderful review. I have a bottle I am saving for my Anniversary. I opened SN2010 on my wedding night with my beautiful wife. Supernova holds a special place in my heart. I was a bit worried about this release as reviews have been a little mixed. I am glad you enjoyed it and look forward to comparing notes soon.
As an aside, the Supernova 2009 is one of my favorite whiskies ever. Open it on a special occasion that calls for dark, deep peat. Obviously, that was not a universally beloved whisky (and received a lot of criticism). Personally, I think Jim Murray was spot on with his review.
I still have a few samples bottles left of the 2009 and 2010 releases. I am looking forward to head-to-head one day.
@MaltActivist, super review, super whisky.
You, @Nock, and I are the "type" who really love this sort of whisky. Supernova and Octomore are my idea of peated whiskies. The only sample I've tasted of SN2009 was from @Nock, but the sample was already 6 years old, and you could tell that much of the glorious edge had already been subdued. The 2010 I have also repeatedly rhapsodized over, particularly because, like my very good friend @Nock, it represents a milestone for me with my wife. SN2010 was THE peated smokey whisky which won my wife over to liking peaty smokey whisky.
At this point I am sitting on about 1/3 bottle of SN2010 and two unopened bottles of SN2014.