So I tried the Ardbeg “Ardbog” today…
This year’s ‘limited’ edition Ardbeg is named for the peat bogs from which the famous Islay malt garners it’s characteristically smoky flavour. By drying their barley using peat cut from bogs on the island, Ardbeg’s whisky is infused (at least for the standard 10yro bottling) at 24 parts per million phenols.
The packaging is covered in a selection of sketches, depicting the various archaeological curiosities found in the Islay bogs over the years. Paying homage to both the wetland’s almost unrivalled preservative properties and the all important ‘young coal’, to which Ardbeg owes its distinctive character.
But who cares about the packaging and the marketing mumbo jumbo? On to the spirit itself!
The Ardbog has been created by blending bourbon-cask spirit with whisky matured in casks formerly used to hold Manzanilla, a form of fino sherry from Cádiz, a province in Spain’s southern-most region, Andalucía. Like its predecessors it has been bottled at cask strength - this time 52.1% - so I sampled it both with and without water.
But what was it like? I hear you cry. Wait no longer, here are my tasting notes:
Resounding aromas of salted nuts and toffee, caramel sweetness interwoven with the customary smoke. A slight herbal twinge and.. is that smoked bacon?!
With water, the peat opens up a little to reveal more cut herbs and a savoury note that reminds me of salty smoked bacon or perhaps cured ham.
True to the nose, salted cashew nuts, almonds and toffee. Big peat and an oily mouth-feel, but surprisingly mellow for a cask-strength dram. That cooked meat starts to appear when… It’s gone. All that’s left is the normal Ardbeg smoke and citrus.
"Tastes like Ardbeg". Nothing characteristically "Arbog". Somewhat short and improves only slightly with water. Finishes much like the Sopranos, in the middle of a - *credits roll*.
Being a fan of Ardbeg, I enjoyed the Ardbog - even though the palate didn’t have as much of the Manzanilla influence as I expected. The finish however was disappointing and let down an otherwise intriguing dram.
Despite having some lovely features, much of it felt a little too similar to previous iterations. After thinking it over, the dram has put me in mind that perhaps they didn’t have enough Manzanilla matured stock to support a full roll out, so increased the proportion of bourbon matured spirit in order to meet the required bottle quota for their annual release. But that’s just conjecture. Either way, I feel that it would have benefited from a slightly higher proportion of the Manzanilla cask spirit.
Overall, worth trying a dram. Unless you’re a collector or have £80 to burn needlessly I wouldn’t bother buying a bottle.