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Ardbeg is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and beloved malt whisky distilleries in the world. Founded by Alexander Stewart, Ardbeg’s first record as a distillery dates back to 1794, and commercial production began in 1815. During its long history the distillery was closed down on a number of occasions only to be reopened again by new owners each time. After having been mothballed in 1981 the distillery resumed production in 1989 and continued at a low level through to July 1996 when it closed again until the following year. In 1997 Ardbeg distillery was acquired by Glenmorangie plc (who shortly thereafter were taken over by Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) and production resumed. Ardbeg Uigeadail is named after the loch from which Ardbeg draws its waters and was launched in 2003. It is a vatting of Ardbeg expressions matured in both ex-Bourbon barrels and ex-Sherry butts and carries no age statement.
The nose is briny and fruity, with bananas and lemons coming to mind first, accompanied by soft peat smoke. After a while the nose changes and becomes sweeter, with vanilla and caramel getting the upper hand. With water the nose becomes mellow and slightly rubbery.
The palate is full-bodied and rich. Dark fruits and figs are followed by honey and a delightful nuttiness. Peat smoke comes into play alongside briny and phenolic elements. Adding water reveals smoked ham and brings out salty and earthy notes.
The finish is long and very warming. Slightly peppery notes are followed by dark fruits and figs. Peat smoke, salt and brine round off the experience, together with smoked ham.
By all means this is a wonderful single malt. I found the nose most fascinating as it changes markedly over time just by letting it breathe – quite extraordinary! The palate is luscious, with both peat and the fruity impact from the ex-Sherry butts vying for the top spot. However, be careful with adding water as too much of it will dilute the nose and kill off the salty and earthy notes that develop with just a few drops. A wonderful bottling, just one notch below my favourite, Ardbeg Corryvreckan.