I must say, it is not often when I get to taste more aged smoky Islay drams. And especially older Ardbegs are a rarity in my world. When I got a chance to acquire a sample of 36 years old Ardbeg, and the price was reasonable – relatively – so it was a straw I had to catch. I am a huge fan and enthusiast of smoky and peaty whisky, so the expectations are considerably high.
Small sample bottles are a two-way blade. Is 3cl enough for you to enjoy it? Purchasing a whole bottle would be a risky game, in case you don’t enjoy it. Has the sample gotten already a lots of oxygen? What if you want to share that with somebody? You do you get enough to get the real taste, or not? However, my conclusion is that I rather take a small sample, than forfeit it totally. When it comes to learning new tastes, getting to have some rarity in your Glencairn or just experimenting the samples are a great, and less expensive, way to move forward.
There is a lots of information in the label: The Old Malt Cask Commemorative bottling Ardbeg Aged 36 years, 60th Anniversary Bottling 43.5%. Searching around, I found that this has been distilled 1973 and bottled 2009. There has been only 94 bottles, and the price has been quite high.
But going down to the business. The nose. The nose is amazing. It is kind, aged, contains lots of wood, some fruits and sweetness. Thinking that these malts saw the daylight 1973, it is amazing to dig deep into the history. Very pleasant, very smooth and contains a classic manners. Nothing like Ardbegs these days, I would not recognize the distillery from the nose.
The first mouthful, reveals some Ardbeg elements but yet it is very far away from the modern version. It has spice, sweetness, absolutely no bitterness: this is extra smooth with smoothness on top of it! This is something you’d think an well aged whisky would taste like! There is no bite, just royal dignity and honor. The spice and the taste afterwards lingers in the mouth with style. Second and third mouthfuls only deepen the experience. This is a dram of Kings and rulers. While this is not Ardbeg as I have gotten to know it, this has a lots of story and history bound into it.
There is spice, fruits and lots of wood. Not wood like in those wood-whiskies (Darach-Ur, Triple-Wood etc) but this has much more in it. There is not just the oaken vanilla, but oak itself. Dark, ancient oak, that has seen wars and happiness. It has been bound to the barrels for years and eons, it has sailed the seas and came home. Finally it entered as a barrel that contained a excellent dram those Scottish wizards made.
In the after taste, the oak is strongly present with the spice. The taste lingers on the mouth for a long time and provides a pleasant feeling.There is nothing harsh in here, just pure whisky heaven. While I do love strong and hard whisky, this one gets a special mentioning in my books. One of the best I’ve tasted, showing me a totally different world in whisky tastes. The story adds to it, yes, but so it should. This is not a laboratory, this is the world of men.
I am very glad I got my hands onto this sample.