Ahh yes Islay. That wind battered Scottish island from which the manly whisky comes. Smokey, peaty, peaty smokey, and big enough to put hair on your chest (and other parts). Ok that’s maybe a bit much but yes, Islay whisky has its own style even when it varies from it. While this is the first Islay I’m going to review, it’s not the first I’ve tried (make sure you pronounce it correctly… ‘eye-la‘ not ‘iz-lay’ , you’ll only make that mistake once in the company of scotch hounds or Scots). But in this price range it is by far the most bestest, greatest life changing thing ever. Really. I mean it like a 13-year-old means Skrillex is better than the Beatles. Well, sort of. Anyway… It’s a damn fine whisky. Ardbeg is on the south-west shore of the island and is a relative neighbor to a couple other famous Islay distilleries,Port Ellen, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. Though it was officially established by the MacDougall family in 1815, like many older distilleries it was probably in existence in some form or another years before. Cruising along for a century producing whisky mainly used in blends it ran into trouble and ceased production in the early 1980’s but reopened in 1989. Glenmorangie plc. acquired Ardbeg in 1997 and has since made a big push in the whisky world. I guess you can say it is a cult whisky judging by how many of its fans swarm after it. This in some part can be attributed to their slick marketing and fan club called the Ardbeg Committee and also in part to the halt in production in the 80’s and the limited availability that it created during the 90’s. This made the old casks sitting in blenders warehouses jump in their desirability and value. Smart bottlers seized this opportunity releasing independent bottlings which added fuel to the cult status fire. Some claim quality has suffered under new ownership and management but I would have exactly no idea about that having only tasted their 10-year-old for the first time this past year. And I love it. I don’t care. Really. So much so I’ve savored the bottle since December and have just now purchased a replacement. The first re”peat” performance since diving into scotch… sorry. That was horrible. I’m ashamed.
Tasting notes. It’s a light straw color. Nose is light and crisp but layered with ocean, smoke, light citrus, lemon and some vanilla background. Mouth feel is oily but not heavy. Taste has a big hand-full of pepper surrounded by sweetness, smoke and seawater. Giving it a little time, some oak and more sweetness opens up always surrounded by campfire smoke. It finishes long and warm with more smoke and pepper and some other spice, maybe clove. If you want a smokey peaty whiskey to try, this is your bottle. It’s not going to crush your face like some other Islays, but it’s no kitten either. It’s well balanced. All of its parts enhancing each other. In this price range, easily one of my favorites. It will remain a mainstay. 46% ABV highly recommended