Try as you might, its impossible not to get excited when you taste a new Ardbeg whisky for the first time. Let alone a single cask bottling limited to just 242 bottles.
This is an 11 year old whisky bottled by SMWS - labeled "A foodie's delight" - and we had the pleasure of sampling it earlier this week.
The nose is classic Ardbeg but here the smoked almond notes are emphasised by a creamy oiliness. More medicinal tendencies controlled by her smoothness. A dry warmth like standing near sauna coals.
On the palate, peat? smoke? salt? Yes to all three but delivered in a creamy butterscotch wrapper resulting in something genuinely luxurious. The peat although pronounced has a gentle dry warmth, robust without being aggressive. After a few seconds a note of grilled fish skin comes in, some dry spice and something green and fresh.
Water emphasises her rich texture, she clings to and caresses the palate before the inevitable pang of separation. You hold her for while but in the end she has to go.
But her memory lingers, a long unhurried finish of rich peat and oak notes balanced with a satisfying and gentle sweetness.
Balance? Exceptional, this is an outstanding example of what an Ardbeg can be. She's no rollercoaster, too luxurious and controlled with intriguing depths. More of a big dipper.
Astonishing. Own her. Guard her jealously.
You have to be a member of SMWS to buy bottles, and with the Society releasing up to 20 different casks every month (from a range of 126 distilleries), there's plenty choice.
Some casks are more popular than others, a recent bottling from Skye Distillery 14 sold-out in 40mins. But the beauty of the single cask means discovering the 'Cinderella Whiskies' you may never have tried before.
But beware, its this journey of discovery that will leave you hooked (and usually wanting more).
I often pick up on leathery / fishy notes in Ardbegs so I get what you're saying.