Friday, June 20, 2014

Esko’s Ardbeg 12YO 1994 Single Cask – the blog’s Summer Solstice Dram 2014

20140618-20140618103025-IMG_8780_small I got an interesting opportunity to catch in my net a rare bottle: single cask IB Ardbeg. I didn’t know much about the bottle, but that is was 12 years old, and it had a sherry cask maturation. The other whisky blogger, Mushimalt, wrote an article about this (in Finnish) and decided to call this one Esko’s Ardbeg. That article is found here. The story is, that “Esko” bought a barrel from the Ardbeg in 1994. He was to choose either a ex-bourbon or ex-sherry cask, and he chose the latter one: refill sherry cask. 12 years later it was the time to put the dram into bottles. For that, he chose Springbank distillery – who wanted to purchase the cask from him but he disagreed with that. They forged out the deal where Esko sold Springbank 60 bottles and kept the rest himself. So this is a really independent single cask Ardbeg, and most like a rarity in Finland.

20140618-20140618102222-IMG_8754_small The contents were bottled at the cask strength (59%). There are 120 bottles in total (I don’t know if that includes bottles Springbank purchased or not). I got a bottle without the label, which is kind of interesting and strange at the same time.

The Midsummer Night's Magic

Today is the Midsummer Eve. The Summer Solstice is near. And this is my choice for it’s dram. It is unique, strange and delicious. It honors the Ardbeg and the tradition. Also it is a tale to be told and heard. And since the summer is rather chilly in Finland (but it is still warmer than during average winter! There are no ice coverings on lakes!) the peatfire of Ardbeg adds to the mood of this mystical night nicely.

The clues

Oils form up after a graceful wait and start creating fantastic paintings on the surface. The nose breaths fire, smoke and oil to the air. It is strong, untamed and a bit sweet too. But the sheer power is very present and filling the surroundings with it’s promise.
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The start of the palate is easy, but soon it roars through the mouth and mind. The power is overwhelming. At the first tries, this reminded me of the legendary Octomore Orpheus, but it is not there anymore. This stands on it’s own, once it got some air to breath. Smoke is different than what I’ve encountered usually, it is indeed more pure and burning clean. Peat is not that prominent and it feels less manufactured. There are sweetness and bubbling fruits that make randomly some appearance.

After a few sips, your mouth starts to get adjusted to this one’s power. There are more complexity than before, layers of rapidly changing tastes that I can’t catch in time. Sea, the salt, roars in large tidal waves. The Mediterranean peppers burn with delight.

Adding a bit of water makes this a lot easier to enjoy. However, the best parts fade too much from the experience. Some rubber and sherry fruits open up and expand their world to the taste. At this stage, this has lost a lot but it is still a wonderful dram with smoke. It really depends on the mood and the company, which I would recommend. Perhaps testing with both is occasionally a good option.
The finish is long and a really pleasant. Peatsmoke remains with fruits for a long time. The oil residues cover the mouth nicely, releasing the great particles for me to enjoy for ages. The long wait, before moving to the next dram, is recommended to be fully experience this magical uisge.
  
If you can, test this one out. This is a real rarity and a different, enjoyable, one. These days Ardbeg single casks are usually out of my price tag, so this was a really the surprise of this summer! 

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