Archive for the ‘Ardbeg’ Category

Mackillop’s Choice Ardbeg 1993 (21 year old) 54.3%

Bourbon Cask 1289/ Dist: Sept 1993 Btl: Dec 2014/ Tasted: Apr 2015

Quite a fresh and fishy nose with ozone, iodine, medicinal peat, salt and fisherman’s friends. Beneath lies some thick, set honey and barley which begins to force their way through the peat. With time hints of roses, manure and coffee can be detected. Wonderfully invigorating and wonderfully mature!

The palate opens with some lightly oiled barley followed by brine, violets, fish oils, dusty peat, iodine and building medicinal notes. The oak sits beneath adding structure and light Columbian coffee notes. Quite malty on the middle with a touch of spice. Good length with dusty sweet peat, wood spice, parma violets, coffee and the sweet barley lingering. Very elegant and superbly balanced.

Mackillop’s Choice Ardbeg 1993 (24 year old) 50.9%

Bourbon Cask 1290/ Dist: Sept 1993 Btl: Sept 2017/ Tasted: Nov 2017

A woody and chocolaty nose with gritty peat smoke. Beneath lies some lovely sweet barley and honey along with hints of malt. menthol and eucalyptus. A truly stunning old Ardbeg with late notes of salt, baked apple. rhubarb, tar and fragrant barley.

Soft and gentle on the palate, opening with barley, white chocolate and bitter, woody spice. Hints of earthy peat, vanilla and more wood spice. Subtle notes of violets, straw, baked fruit, apricot and lime come through on the middle, along with a touch of salt. Stunningly deep and complex. Long and salty finish with lingering violety, sweet peat, wood spice and heather.


Dewar Rattray Ardbeg 1993 (20 year old) 57.2%

Bourbon Cask 1751/ Dist: 1993 Btl: 2013/ Tasted: Oct 2013

A very ‘phroaig-esque nose! Medicinal and herbal with plenty of phenolic damp, briny-peat and a touch of iodine. Text book lemon and citrus notes appear along with hints of charred wood and barley. Mature, delicate and elegant with a touch of vanilla and earthy/ dunnagey coffee. With time the peat becomes wonderfully sweet and fragrant. 

The palate is quite dry and herbal. Lightly medicinal with seaweed and creosote and tar laden peat followed by some lovely citrus, white fruit and sweet barley. The coastal notes build magnificently on the middle and the complexity of the spirit really begins to show with hints of smoked kippers, coffee, dark chocolate and vanilla oils. Beautiful length with some light apricot and parma violet notes in the finish. 

A drop of water brings out some lightly tarred, fragrant orange notes as the peat becomes quite dusty. The parma violet note from the palate is now evident as well. Dilution has brought out the citrus notes on the palate although it is less intense now it has become quite a bit sweeter. Personally I would drink this neat.

Hunter Laing Old & Rare Ardbeg 1991 (22 year old) 53.8%

Bourbon/ Code: OAR0188/ Dist: Mar 1991 Btl: May 2013/ Tasted: Sept 2013

A beautiful, gentle and aromatic nose of lightly pungent, sweet peat smoke, earth, bog myrtle and iodine along with some fleshy apricot, sweet orange and light parma violets. A seriously majestic nose which is pleasantly coastal with hints of oak and a charred driftwood nuance. A dangerously stunning nose which with time becomes quite herbal with some medicinal notes emerging along with a touch of manure. 

The palate is soft and gentle, opening with some lightly creamy apricot and fleshy apple, liberally sprinkled with a touch of sea salt. Some seriously laid-back, sweet peat arrives along with hints of parma violets, coffee, light tar and earthy spices. Full and rounded with a lovely mellow character but still retaining plenty of intensity. Oooh that sweet peat is gorgeous! Very long with the parma violet note increasing and it finishes with a touch of coffee/ mocha tannins and a light sea salt after-taste. Absolute heaven in a glass, you just can’t help but leave it in the mouth so that the mature Islay magic unwinds, and that finish just lingers and lingers!

Speyside Distillers Scott’s Selection Ardbeg 1992 (16 year old) 51.6%

Bourbon/ Dist: 1992 Btl: 2008/ Tasted: Sept 2008

Crisp and very coastal. The senses are simply lashed by salt water spray! Faintly astringent with bog myrtle-peat and decaying undergrowth. There’s a lovely depth of citrus fruit aromas and a soupcon of rubber. Water bringing out the fresh Coal Ila-esque garden fruits character as well as emphasising the bog myrtle and leafy notes.

The palate is crisp and coastaly. Like the nose there is a lovely depth of citrus fruit, followed by bog myrtle and leafy peat. For all it’s crispness it has a lovely oily quality and displays the beginnings of its age. Water makes it quite a bit sweeter, like the nose bringing out a garden fruit character along with some peat smoke. Long and quite smoky with the alcohol nicely kept in check. Water brings out the peat.

In conclusion – A good length and depth to this malt, just about showing its age. Very pleasant neat as the alcohol is well integrated.

Speciality Drinks Elements of Islay AR1 (Ardbeg) 58.7%

Tasted: Apr 2010

A full on rounded, buttery, earthy nose with herbal peat and pure loamy aromas. Big, rich, honeyed fruit underpins the developing rubber, iodine and fishy notes. Finally moving into violet scented soap and light spice territory. Although no age statement is given I would guess at between 10-12 years old. It definitely has a touch of maturity.

Soft and a touch winey on the palate. This is followed by the trademark coastal bonfires, coal/ peat dust and charred wood embers. Quiet alcoholic and fishy. Superb intensity on the middle with the fresh leafy, herbal, bog myrtle, menthol taking the breath away. A fleeting orange note passes and although the alcohol is intense it is not overly intrusive. Lovely rich depth and a long, oily, salty finish with the burnt wood and smoke returning.

With water it seems a lot younger now, with an abundance of ‘off the still’ cereal and grist by the bucketful. Once again that mysterious orange fruit note makes a brief appearance, and maybe it’s a bit more sweeter and a tad soapier, but there is definitely more violets! The palate mirrors the nose with lots of cereal, grist and violets. It’s become very sweet, quite sugary and confected. Hmm not like Ardbeg now! Neat it’s great with water not so!

Scotch Malt Whisky Society Ardbeg 33.68 9 year old 51.4%

Bourbon Cask/ Tasted: Sept 2008

Superb nose! Clean and extremely coastal. It displays a bracing freshness with a lovely depth of citrus and distant bonfire smoke. Pungent, youthful bog myrtle aromas waft in with a touch of rubber, all set against a lovely supporting vanilla oak background. An almost perfect balance. It continues to evolve in the glass. A touch of water emphasises the fruit along with the manure and bog myrtle.

The palate is very oily and sooty in the mouth. An amalgamation of coastal bonfires, cod liver oil, oily fish, delicate peat and loads of punchy alcohol. Water gives it a pleasant sweet edge. Very long and hugely sooty. Just an extension of the palate. In conclusion its an excellent, lightly peated youngIslay. My only quibble is that it lacks fruit on the palate, howver I’m just being picky as it has loads of coastaly fishy character.

Murray McDavid Ardbeg 1999 (4 years old at the time of tasting)


Tasted: Directly from the cask in 2003

As this was the last of the 20 casks to be sampled from I was a little ‘under the influence!’ shall we say, so this tasting note is somewhat basic! Nose: Medicinal, peat, intense, quite fruity, bonfires and more peat! Palate: Very peaty, smoky, intense but quite fruity too. Very smoky, in fact loads and loads of peat smoke!

Murray McDavid Ardbeg 1991 (9 year old) 46%

Bourbon Cask MM2999/ Dist: Feb 1991 Btl: Feb 2000/ Tasted: 2002

An intense and smoky, peaty nose with plenty of oily brine and hints of slightly sweet tropical fruit. Quite oily and viscous, yet seriously coastally on the palate with plenty of peat smoke and coastal bonfire notes on the middle. Stunning intensity which takes the breath away. Very long salt encrusted finish.

Murray McDavid Ardbeg 1991 (9 year old) 46%

Bourbon Cask MM5112/ Dist: 1991 Btl: 2000/ Tasted: July 2003

Almost identical to cask MM2999 – well according to my tasting notes at the time!

Duncan Taylor Ardbeg 1993 (15 year old) 58.9%

Bourbon Cask 1724 – 192 bottles/ Dist: 1993 Btl: 2009/ Tasted: July 2009

An intense and briny nose, opening with a huge dollop of Seville orange, which has a marmalade-esque edge. Wonderfully crumbly peat and rubbery fishy notes join the party. Over time the Islay cow-pat aromas become more apparent and the rubberiness increases. All backed up by the supporting oak.

The palate is quiet mellow with fish oils, burnt embers and a touch of soot. The middle is extremely fishy and the alcohol bites. It has a lovely sweetness with hints ofparmaviolets and light liquorice. Very long with peat dust, bog myrtle and leafy notes in the finish.

Water = Wow!! The bog myrtle bursts out of the glass with its leafy intensity and some of the sweetness which was evident on the palate is now showing. Bloody good stuff! On the palate the water takes the edge off the sweetness a bit, maybe emphasising theparmaviolet character, but not too much. It’s still incredibly fishy and the peat has taken on a wonderfully pure and crumbly texture.

Ardbeg ‘Very Young’ 6 year old 58.3%

Dist: 1998 Btl: 2004/ Tasted: Dec 2005

Very pale in colour. Very pungent and almost overwhelming aromas of earthy-peat, charcoal, drift wood bonfires, more smoke and all things Islay. This is not mucking about, it’s an ‘in yer face’ Islay malt. Yet it is not all smoke and peat there is a beguiling citrus fruitiness beneath (a quality which set the Murray McDavid bottling above the previous distillery ones).

There is no let up on the palate. Intense, raw (yet smooth), lots of smoke, peat and charcoal fires, combined with a lovely depth of slightly sweet, tangy citrus fruit. If this whisky was a celebrity it would all itself ‘Jordan’ and crash your party.

Ardbeg ‘Still Young’ 8 year old 58.3%

Dist: 1998 Btl: 2006/ Tasted July 2006

Clean, rounded aromas of smoky-peat, coastal bonfires, coastal fruit, along with a note of rubber wellies, fisherman’s friends, oily orange fruit and tarry old rope. The nose is displaying a lot more depth; it is mellower, a lot less ‘in your face’. On the palate it has a lovely complexity, opening with peat smoke, oily rubber notes and Arbroath smokies. Very intense and mouthfilling, still youthful but it is monumental in its intensity – Powerful peat, smoke, coal, blood oranges and oily kippers fill the senses. Two years has made a huge difference. It is mellower, more rounded, but it still has more front than Jordon!

As with all cask strength whiskies I like to taste them neat to begin with and then add a drop of water to see how the character evolves. However sometimes it kills the nose stone dead, just like it did with this one. It brought out a soapy, earthy, vegetal note – which wasn’t unpleasant, just a bit disappointing. However on the palate it adds sweetness and brings out a menthol/ eucalyptus note and a touch of vegetation. It reminds me of a classic British sports car. Looks good, is fun to drive, but being British inevitably it would be a flawed beauty. So here it is flawed, yet beautiful, and maybe its flaws make it more real?

Ardbeg ‘Almost There’ 9 year old 54.1%

Tasted May 2007

Oh so clean, textbook aromas of rich, oily orange fruit, coastal peat, fisherman’s sowesters and tar. Compared to the ‘Still Young’ it has a more pronounced oiliness. It’s amazing what a couple of years has done to the depth and complexity. It has been a fascinating journey from the ‘in yer face’ brashness of the ‘Very Young’ through the flawed excellence of the ‘Still Young’ to where it is now.

On the palate it is silky, quiet oily with a citrus sea fruit entry, followed by gentle peat and coal smoke wafting in. It really builds on the tongue and without water it is so silky smooth. Lovely length with the tar, fisherman’s outer garments, a touch of grapefruit and bonfires partying on the palate. This is really showing it fruitiness now. Again it is a lot more oily than the ‘Still Young’, less orangy and quiet mellower, the peatiness is a lot subtler, now playing a supporting role rather than screaming at you.

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Tasted: Dec 2002

A clean, quite crisp nose. Slightly peaty and seeming younger than its age would suggest. Its all a bit vague and one dimensional, although it has some pleasant smoky orange moments. The palate is frankly disappointing. So muted that it barely whimpers! There is some smoke and peat on the middle, but the fruit content hardly registers. Oily, coal dust finish. Ho hum indeed!

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Tasted Nov 2007

The classic 10 year old has always left me a bit cold, I personally thought it was frankly quiet young and dull as ditch water and so I was some what surprised by the praise heaped upon it, even knowing Jim’s bias I could think of many better bottlings. According to him the quality had increased because the average age of the spirit was more like 17 years old, so I had to find out if this current bottling was such a massive improvement.

Well first off it seemed more lively and complex on the nose, opening with a gentle medicinal pure peat, smoke, coffee, hickory and a charred wood note. It now seems to have a greater degree of elegance as opposed to vague-ness! There is a lovely sweetness of delicate orange fruit, menthol, bog myrtle, dunnage floors and coastal notes. In the mouth it is amazingly fruity, no longer dull and flat but bursting with apricot and soft yellow fruits and coastal notes. Then comes some fern, pine, gentle medicinal peat, bonfires and charcoal. It is mouth filling with a lovely sweetness to the barley along with hints of spice and pepper, finishing with a gloriously sooty peat smoke finale.

It’s definitely won my award for most improved malt. Why is it so much better? It can’t just be down to the age of the spirit because I was never much a fan of the old bottling of 17 year old. Maybe I was unlucky and got a bottle from a dodgy batch. Maybe they are managing their stocks better now and have managed to off load all the dodgy casks now that there has been an influx of cash. I mean that has not been unheard of has it now!

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Re- Tasted: Dec 2012

Initially the aromas are quite oily and dense. Gently phenolic with brine and coastal-peat. Quite rich in the fruit department with a lovely barley base. From which the fresh sea spray and citrus notes arise. Long gone are the murky/ muted oily days of the past. This spirit has a lovely elegance.

The palate is fresh and herbal to begin with before the tarry peat, burnt wood and sooty, smoky notes kick in. Wonderful depth of lightly honeyed barley and piquant salty citrus. Superbly clean with the citrus and oils in perfect harmony. There’s just a touch of oak on the finish adding some  mocha  bitter moments. Lovely length with medicinal menthol and parma violet notes in the finish.

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Re-Tasted: Jan 2013

Nose: Quite estery and fruity – pineapple, melon, apricot, guava, greengage. Fresh and relatively coastal with hints of maure-peat. With time it becomes quite smoky and displays a light castor sugar coating.

Palate: Again, quite fruity with plenty of sugar coated barley. Lightly phenolic with some building briny notes. Lovely intensity with light earthy-peat, lightly creamy oak and parma violets.

Finish: Very long with the fish oils and coastal notes lingering.

Conclusion: A lovely, well balanced, fruity Islay malt.

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Re-Tasted: May 2013

A crisp, clean and elegant nose of fleshy apricot, citrus and brine. Elemental peat mingles with astringent coastal notes, bog myrtle and herbs, but it’s less fruity overall than the last time I tasted it back in January.

The palate is crisp and clean and quite un-oily. A lot more sooty than the last time I tasted it with plenty of peat, sweet violets, smoked kippers, bog myrtle and more peat dust! Long with a crisp, saline finish.

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Re-Tasted: Feb 2015

Nose: Quite robust, fall and toffee’d, which does dampen the aromas a little. Gently herbal with oily apricot, barley and a touch of salt to offset the oiliness.

Palate: Quite sooty with a good base of barley and sweet apricot. Lightly coastal but the oils and vanillins are rolling in. Seriously mouth-filling.

Finish: Sharper as the rock salt and alcohol come through. Still pleasantly peated with the peat becoming sweeter in character.

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Re-Tasted: Dec 2014

Nose: Intensely phenolic and briny with dusty barley, violets and hints of burnt wood. The peat is very astringent with some light medicinal notes, but the sweetness of the spirit balances well.

Palate: Soft, milky and toffee’d. The oak blankets the palate. A touch of salt gamely fights through but the peat has completely gone AWOL!

Finish: Long and salty with the peat finally breaking through the oak.

Conclusion: Lovely nose and finish but the palate is somewhat clumsily oaked and disappointing.

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Re-Tasted: Sept 2015

The nose reminds me of a cross between the bottle I tasted in 2013 and the one in early 2015. Pretty fruity and lightly estery with barley aromas mingling with slightly more robust toffee’d notes. Hints of classic burnt wood and violety tinged peat emerge along with a subtle coastal character.

The palate is sooty, tarry and oily but it has a lovely depth and weight of barley and rich fruit plus a good dollop of American oak character. Hints of burnt wood, violets and grippy coffee’d tannins come through on the middle. Long, juicy and barley’d with a dusty peat finish. A damn good batch!

Ardbeg 10 year old 46%

Re-Tasted: Feb 2016

Nose: Soft vanilla ice ceram with hints of barley followed by salty, astringent, medicinal peat. Beautifully poised and balanced.

Palate: Opens with coal/ peat dust and violets. Yep, it’s a classic Islay! Hints of vanilla oak, barley and freshening coastal notes appear. Lovely sweetness to the barley which counterbalances the saltiness.

Finish: Long with lingering medicinal peat and dusty peat smoke.

Conclusion: Classic!

Ardbeg ‘Renaissance’ 10 year old 55.9%

Tasted June 2008

Amazingly fruity to begin with, aromas of apricot, banana and pineapple are followed by gentle-ish peat, bog myrtle, vegetation, rubber, orange, brine and earth. It appears to be mellowing nicely and there are delicious hints of toffee, violet and coffee. On the palate it is rich and fruity like the nose suggests, opening with fleshy apricot and banana, followed by sooty/ earthy peat and building majestically in the mouth – coastal bonfires, brine, slightly medicinal notes and alcohol. Incredibly intense and complex. Now there’s a fishy-rubber element and a touch of tar. It finishes with peat smoke and a soupcon of mocha/ coffee and coats the tongue quiet nicely. A drop of water emphasises the brine on the nose and moulds it into the unmistakable Ardbeg aroma, whilst on the palate it brings out the natural oils and a touch of spice. Damn it’s good!

Ardbeg 12 year old ‘Serendipity’ 40%

A Vatting of 80% 17 year old Ardbeg and 12 year old Glen Moray

Tasted: Apr 2005

A sweet, yet tart citrus fruit nose with some gentle smoke, peat and a touch of coffee and malt. The palate is again quite sweet and delicate with the same sweet fruit and gentle peat, which builds through out the mid palate. The tart citrus returns on the finish. Rather pleasant and probably the best thing to do with Glen Moray?

Ardbeg Kildalton 1981 (14 year old) 52.6%

Dist 1981 Btl 2005 / Tasted July 2006

A clean, fruiy nose laced with rich orange marmalade, a touch of peat, brine, tar, menthol and eucalyptus. Very intriguing with buckets of sweet malt and porridge oats.

The palate is rich, soft and ultra-sexy with orange/ apricot fruit, tar and coastal notes opening into an intensely smoky and subtly peaty middle. Breath taking complexity is going on here. Deep and softly malty with a lovely, soft oak sheen.

Ardbeg Kildalton 46%

Tasted: Oct 2014

Nose: Oily and dense with manure, earth and a light marzipan note. Whoa! It’s getting really stinky now with rubber and manuery-peat assailing the senses! With time a touch of tangerine/ orange appears. There’s a serious weight to this nose.

Palate: Oily and a little unfocused. There’s a touch of oily marzipan and lazy peat but it’s pretty homogenous to be honest.

Finish: Long and spicy. Now it’s showing some character! Salty and nutty with some lovely dry, earthy-peat. Leaves a superb sooty mouth coating.

Conclusion: If only the palate had the intensity of the nose and the finish, which is when it sprang to life!

Ardbeg Kildalton 46%

Re-Tasted: Dec 2014

Nose: Dense and fragrant with plenty of heather honey, fish oils and slightly astringent coastal notes. Lightly phenolic with a touch of tar, very herbal peat and late coffee’d notes.

Palate: Dense and fleshy with barley and soft fruit. Freshens as the coastal notes arrive. The peat is pleasantly herbal with a light coffee note.

Finish: Long, mouth-watering and sooty with hints of violet, wood and a lightly tarry after-taste.

Conclusion: A lovely Islay, with a seriously sooty finish.

Ardbeg Kildalton 46%

Re-Tasted: Feb 2015

Nose: Soft aromas which are relatively heavy on the oils with hints of tar, coastal salt and peat. Freshens as the saltiness kicks in bringing light bog myrtle and gentle smoke.

Palate: Coal tar soap and sooty peat. Not exactly a peat monster but it has that lovely coal scuttle licking intensity. Some sweet fruit lurks beneath along with plenty of coastal notes.

Finish: Good, bracing, crisp finish with lingering sooty peat.

Ardbeg Kildalton 46%

Re-Tasted: Feb 2015

Nose: Lightly oiled and lightly soapy aromas of apricot and boiled sweets along with some dusty, manurey peat and toffee. The herbal notes build to become quite pungent and the manure comes through really strongly.

Palate: Like the nose it is gently oiled with a good depth of fruit and rounded barley. Hints of coffee, burnt wood and dusty peat follow.

Finish: Good length with a good fishy and coastal finish.

Ardbeg 17 year old 40%

Tasted Dec 2002

A reasonably complex, peaty nose with hints of oak and salt. On the palate there is a surprisingly subtle degree of peat. The mid palate shows a chewy malt with a touch of cocoa, but somehow it lacks intensity. A long finish with hints of cocoa, liquorice and smoke in the finish.

Ardbeg 17 year old 40%

Tasted July 2006

A very oily nose – linseed oil dominated. Soft and mature but there is not much in the way of peat or coastal character. The oak adds some creaminess but the fruit is vague to say the least. Soft and oily on the palate, again there is no shortage of linseed oil. Quite mature feeling but there really isn’t much to speak about. Maybe a bit of spice, but no peat or smoke to write home about. Quite a drying tannic finish. Frankly my dear its quite dull.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan 57.1% – Committee Bottling

Tasted June 2008

The Corryvreckanis named after the fierce whirlpool to the north of Islay, and the Viking prince who braved the perilous tumult for the love for anIslay princess,

One sniff and there’s no denying the complexity and youthfulness of this spirit. I would guess that it is around 8 years old and my god it’s fishy! All the classic elements are present – Monstrous peat, rubber, smoked kippers, orange marmalade and a late touch of spice.

On the palate it is rich and fruity, opening with orange marmalade followed by peat smoke and coal soot. Again it is very fishy with a lovely rubberiness. Then, hang on, what this? Good god! It’s become incredibly meaty, smoked bacon/ ham with a side salad of medicinal bog myrtle and a sprinkling of charcoal. Unbelievable!

A drop of water emphasises the soot, tar and salt encrusted rope on the nose along with hessian and the peat! The palate now screams brine at you, pure and crystalline! – Yes this is Ardbeg and its one hell of a whirl-pool of flavours, a very apt name I think.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan (Second Release) 57.1%

Bourbon & French Oak/ Tasted: Aug 2010

A robust, butch and possibly more rounded nose than the first release. It’s also less fruity and I think it’s youthfulness has been tamed by a greater degree of oak influence. However there is still plenty of iodine, salt,parmaviolets, creosote, burnt toffee and not forgetting the full-on peat. Big and smoky with a bracing coastal astringency and given time the elusive citrus and orange fruit emerges.

The palate is full and quite oily with burnt wood ash, smoke and earthy-peat….. and more peat…. And more peat. In fact it has a monumental density of peat, veritable slabs of the stuff! However it’s definitely not a one trick pony, there is plenty of coastal citrus fruit, also the greater oak influence, like on the nose, rounds the palate and although it’s a bit of an alcoholic brute, the oak seems to round that off too, even to the point of being able to enjoy it neat. Extremely long with the peat taking on a definite sooty dénouement as it winds its way to the finish.

With water the youthfularomatic power through the oak and some gristy barley comes through. The peat is less intense now and some distinct ‘aged’ Ardbeg notes of treacle, menthol and fishermans friends become apparent. The palate is not quite so visceral now. Like on the nose, the gristy barley shines and both barley and malt has taken on a candied sheen. The spirit is dare I say it showing its gentle side. The oak hasn’t entire lost its influence and slightly bitters out the finale.

A fabulous malt and definitely deserving of World Whisky of the Year 2010.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan 57.1%

Re-Tasted: Aug 2014

Intensely briney aromas with granulated sugar coated barley, pine, drift wood, iodine, bog myrtle, camphor, light medicinal-peat and chunky oak. Wonderfully earthly, bracing and natural. Pure soil and loam with hints of creamy citrus. With time a touch of violet emerges.

The palate is sooth and bring with soft oak tampering. Still quite dusty, woody and peppery with tarry-peat, earth and a touch of treacle. Very oily and salty on the middle with a touch of creamy Orange. Now the intensity and wildness rises as the spirit blows through the oak. Chewy, malty and woody finish with hints of liquorice, seaweed and dark chocolate.

Diluted the nose still retains its intensity, but is a little leaner and more peat focused as the oak exceeds, plus there is more of that Orange conserve character. The palate is like the nose. Cleaner, crisp. More peat, less oak, more barley.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan 57.1%

Re-Tasted: Dec 2014

Nose: Earthy and visceral sherry that displays a slight blemish. Dense slabs of tarry peat and medicinal notes follow. Quite stinky and manurey and with time hints of prune, date, raisin and light treacle appear along with hints of dusty violets and spice. Water emphasises the oils but mutes the aromas as well as unfortunately emphasising the blemish.

Palate:  Quite sweet and Pedro Ximinez-like in character with dried grape, treacle and plenty of bittering tannins/ alcohol. Lightly phenolic with hints of dusty spice and violets. Dilution has the same effect as it does on the nose.

Finish: Intense and alcoholic with biting, bitter spices.

Conclusion: If it wasn’t for the blemish and the fact it didn’t do water well, it could have been in contention!

Ardbeg Blasda 40%

Peated to 8 ppm/ Tasted: Nov 2010

A lovely fruity – apple, apricot, banana and slightly tropical fruit nose with some coastal iodine and menthol. Quite subtle with an exquisite layering of barley, fruit, toffee and smoke.

Soft, fruity and maybe a tad simple. Yes there is a hint of coastalness, and it has a lovely purity with a sharp barley note and a very light peat note, but there is almost no finish to speak of. I assume that if it had been bottled at 46% then the finish would have been all alcohol.

It’s interesting to see Ardbeg minus the peat, and the quality of the spirit is very good, but awe inspiring it certainly isn’t (much like the unpeated Caol Ila!). In fact one online reviewer went as faras saying it should have been renamed Ardbeg Blanda!

Ardbeg 1978 (21 year old) 43%

Bourbon/ Dist: 1978 Btl: 2009/ Tasted: Nov 2010

A mature, briny nose of menthol, bog myrtle, gentle peat and candied fish. Lovely intensity with hints of edgy orange fruit and wet/ loamy earth along with hints of bung cloth.

Quite a sweet, earthy entry with gentle peat, toffee, cocoa, coffee,parmaviolets, bog myrtle and menthol. Gently nipping alcohol and a long salty finish. It’s a pleasant old Ardbeg, if maybe a tad on the flat side.

Although in saying that it seems a lot more real and ‘of its place’ than say the more ‘designed’ newer releases such as the Supernova.

Ardbeg 1990 (16 year old) Airigh Nam Beist 46%

Bourbon/ Dist: 1990 Btl: 2006/ Tasted: Mar 2007

Initially the nose displays a slightly soapy note with linseed oil, vanilla and mature, smoky citrus fruit, along with some light vegetation and a floral note. This is definitely old school Ardbeg and in my opinion what the old 17 year old should have been like. Amazingly complex with a touch of smoked kippers and charred wood.

The palate is oily and soft with gentle peat, blood orange, roasted meats and coastal bonfires. Stunning depth with a very intense coal tar and soft mature peat laden middle. Seamless, long and exceedingly mellow with hints of liquorice, coffee and a dry peppery bite at the finish, finally fading into a lovely old Ardbeg, dry, salty after taste. Magnificent stuff!

Ardbeg Lord of the Isles 25 year old 46%

Tasted: Nov 2010

A big, butch and beefy Ardbeg! It reeks of mature honey, citrus fruit, distant coastal bonfires, bog myrtle and fish. Plenty of peat abounds in this weighty and intense nose.

Quite dry on the palate with a touch of menthol and bog myrtle, followed by forceful juicy fruit andparmaviolets. Gentle peat rolls on by as does hints of kippers and tart, tangy orange citrus fruit. The palate is magnificent and continues to develop with hints of iodine, leather and tobacco smoke in the finish and a tcp/ sticking plasters after taste.

Even though this bottle has been open quite a long time it has a damn sight more life in it than the 1978! The only problem is that if you want one now you will have to find the best part of £380 for it! Whether it is worth it is of course open to debate!

Ardbeg 1975 (30 year old) 44.7%

Fino Sherry Cask 4719/ Tasted: Apr 2005 – Subsequently bottled for the 2005 Feis Islay

A very complex and interesting nose. The nose is quite light and slightly high toned with a nascent acetone like edge. However it is very fishy with no of iodine and the usual Seville orange note. The peat is quiet light in character and the fino cask adds a nutty/ sawdusty vibrancy.

Quite dry with the high toned spirit and intense coastal notes making it seem very crisp before the oily fish, gentle peat and dry orange flavours pass on by. Lovely sweet/ dry balance with some white fruits and pear notes on the middle. Finally the salt returns and lingers to the end. A very good Ardbeg!

Ardbeg Supernova 2009 Release 58.9%

Tasted: Nov 2010

A youthful, intense, briny nose. Yet underpinning all that youthful exuberance is a mature spirit core. Windswept and herbal with lumps of pure, concentrated peat…… and more peat…….. and some more for good measure. However this is not a one trick pony, the gorgeous tropical fruit (as seen in the blasda) lurks beneath the wild peat. Incredibly deep and multi-layered with a late earthy/ coffee note.

The palate is a bit more linearthan the nose would suggest, although that doesn’t mean less complex. There is no shortage of peat and alcohol with some sweet barley beneath. Extremely long and concentrated with a pure peat briquette finish. This is pure, modern ‘vatted’ Ardbeg; kicking off with a youthful intensity but underpinned by the older spirits which in turn sustains the length.

Water makes the nose a shade one-dimensional, but it does that one dimension so well! On the palate it has become sweeter and the classic parmaviolet note has put in an appearance. More of a sooty finish now.

Ardbeg Supernova SN2010 60.1%

Tasted: Nov 2010

A more youthful nose than the 2009 release, although I have to say that it is has a greater degree of complexity. It is more oiler and coastally astringent with fresh ‘off the still’ notes. Not as heavily peated as the 2009 release, but the peat is drier in character, more crumblier and flakier! Thearomas come in waves of delicious complexity and over time hints of iodine and bog myrtle appear.

Whoa! Passionate, extreme, astringent and alcoholic!………. The dry, dusty peat sticks to the inside of the mouth, and it reminds me of a supercharged ‘very young’. Great structure and very long with a bitter chocolate and pure coffee bean finish.

With water the nose becomes more herbal and seems even younger if that’s possible. Whilst on the palate it has become sweeter, even the peat has a silky, sweet shine to it. Again there is still plenty of peat but maybe it has become a tad watery and unfocussed (picky!). There doesn’t quite seem to be as much, if any older spirits underpinning this release, which makes this comparative tasting really interesting.

Ardbeg Supernova 2014 55%

Tasted: Dec 2014

Nose: Quite coffee’d and gritty with plenty of herbs and briny, lightly phenolic but sweet peat along with some light oils and violets.

Palate. Pretty much like the nose. Quite coffee’d and malty with just a touch of dry peat, barley and herbs. Lovely intensity with a building salinity.

Finish: Long and very oily, which balances the alcohol. Still quite malty with a violety/ herbal after-taste.

Conclusion: An impressive, deep and malty Islay.

Ardbeg Supernova 2015 55%

Tasted: Feb 2016

Nose: Very fishy and intense but quite estery and fruity as well. There’s plenty of oak and tarry peat which balances the cosatal fishiness. Water brings out a faint metallic sulphur note.

Palate: Very oily and malty, less effusive and fruity with a good degree of oily, tarry peat. Pleasantly barley’d on the middle with a sprinkling of sea salt. It breaks down with water and becomes a little cardboardy.

Finish: Sooty and intense with lightly, estery fruit, dusty peat and a serious saltiness.

Conclusion: Neat it has a lovely intensity but water doesn’t do it any favours

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

Tasted Jan 2004

Quite a rich, spicy nose. A superb marriage of bourbon and sherry oak. Clean quite youthful aromas of sherry fruit, gentle almost restrained medicinal peat, Seville orange marmalade, bonfires on the beach, seaweed, soil, cocoa and parma violets. Initially the sweet, smooth coastal sherry fruits dominate the palate, then along comes the peat, charcoal, soot and soil, slowly building in the mouth. The rich fruit returns with a touch of vanilla oil and fades into a lovely long cocoa and smoky finish.

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

Tasted Apr 2005

A stunning if slightly spirity nose. Pretty raw with orange marmalade, smoky sherry and earth. It’s a lot sweeter than I remember it with oodles of Seville oranges, seaweed, manure, peat and charred beech wood The palate is smooth and sweet with the dry peat clinging to the tongue. Quite oily with kippers coated in an almost tart, unrefined orange conserve. Oooh, a big peat hit on the middle. Intensely smoky with cocoa, soot and more peat. Superb length and oily finish.

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

Re-Tasted: Feb 2014

A superbly deep nose of edgy Oloroso coated sweet orange, barley and figgy dried fruit along with burnt wood, linseed oil and dusty/tarry peat. The salinity balances the rich sherry marvellously.

The palate is big and chewy, opening with oily barley and dusty peat before moving in a treacly, tarry, creosote and burnt wood direction. The dried sherry fruit is unveiled on the middle but coastal notes sweep it aside. Stunning, smoky finish with honey glazed, bbq pork, iodine and mint herb notes. We’re not finished yet though! The alcohol causes the mouth to water profusely and leaves a tarry, burnt wood, salty and violety coating. Wow. That’s how to do a finish!

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

Re-Tatsed: Dec 2014

Nose: Enticing, herbal Oloroso aromas with plenty of menthol and eucalyptus. It reminds me of a sherry aged agricole rum with hints of oily dried fruit. Gently coastal with hints of sugar coated citrus. Water makes it very coffee’d and gives the aromas a mature dustiness

Palate: Opens with oily sherried fruit. Quite mouth-filling and showing some maturity with a lovely interplay between the sugars and spirit. The alcohol is kept in check by the sweetness and hints of menthol and camphor coming through quite strongly. Water emphasises the molasses and treacle.

Finish: Long and quite oily with lingering violets and smoke.

Conclusion: An enjoyable sherry casked Islay. Water simplifies it a bit, but it appears to have a good maturity.

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

Re- Tasted: Apr 2015

Soft, oily and full aromas of bog myrtle and slightly medicinal peat. Very coastal with iodine and hints of rich sherried fruit. Intensely herbal with hints of burnt wood and granulated sugar.

The palate is dry and a little tannic to begin with. It displays a lot of sherry character – bitter chocolate, dried fruit and god it’s bittering! Intensely smoky and salty with no shortage of medicinal peat and bbq’d meat. Very long but the bittering oak lingers. This bottling is certainly not as heavy on the sherry as some.

Ardbeg Alligator 51.2%

Btl: 2011/ Tasted: Oct 2011

A seriously toasty and nutty nose. That charring gives it a heavily spiced, dark chocolate character along with a lovely, natural complexity of dense, fleshy apricot, gala apple, tangerine, macerated cherries, iodine, menthol, violets and slightly briny (elegant not supercharged) peat. You can tell that the spirit is relatively young with that give away cereal note but it’s balanced by a beguiling barley sweetness. However that spiciness is ever present and makes for quite an unusual Ardbeg.

The palate begins very much like the nose with the surprisingly gentle nutty, spicy oak up first. The oily peat begins to build leading into a dark, spicy, chocolatey middle with the sooty, medicinal peat showing its hand.. Again the overall impression is that is a much more natural bottling with hints of bog myrtle, tobacco and youthful cereal. The oak comes back on the finish with a serious black pepper bite. Superb length with a very sooty finish.

One word of warning though. Do not add water!

Ardbeg Galileo 49%

Tasted: Jan 2013

Nose: A very intense and sooty nose. Seriously phenolic with no shortage of sherried fruit – sultana and raisin with hints of bog myrtle, light medicinal-peat, iodine, ozone, tar, rubber and spice. Superb depth and complexity.

Palate: Quite gentle, but very alcoholic, opening with molasses malt and heavily sherried fruit. Developing earthy-peat emerges along with hints of fish, rubber and spice.

Finish: Good mouth-watering finish with some sugar coated fruit and an inordinate array of herbal, bog myrtle character. Sooty, dusty peat after-taste.

Conclusion: Stunningly intense when neat but a drop of water strips it of character and peat.

Ardbeg Galileo 49%

Re-Tasted Feb 2013

Nose: Very phenolic and briny with some sugar coated citrus fruit, tar and mature oak. Quite rich and deep with a heavy sweet-ish oak core. Stunning depth. With water the aromas becomes fresher with more emphasis on the citrus.

Palate: Soft, sooty, slightly chalky with lemon, tar, creosote and treacle. Beautifully rich fruit and toffee’d oak underpins, but it explodes with a seriously sooty intensity on the middle. With water the plate becomes gentler and oilier.

Finish: Very long and sooty with a beautifully mature, sweet fade.

Conclusion: Phenolic and peaty with a fruity, oaked core. Wine cask finished perhaps?

Ardbeg Ardbog 52.1%

Nose: Soft and juicy with an array of mature summer fruits and dusty oak. Lightly tropical (apricot, guava, melon) with some citrus adding a beautiful freshness. The peat is quite light and duty and mingles with hints of menthol, bog myrtle and late tar. A drop of water emphasises the oily citrus.

Palate: Is not quite as fresh as the nose. Quite dusty and mature with some light peat and unfortunately a light cardboard note too. With water all the complexity heads south!

Finish: Reasonable length, shortened by the oak and alcohol. With water there’s not much of a finish at all.

Conclusion: A lovely nose but the palate is a bit of a let own.

Ardbeg Auriverdes 49.9%

Tasted: Dec 2014

Nose: Oily marzipan and medicinal herbs. Quite astringent with hints of tar, creosote, toast and sooty peat. Darkens with time as the malt and treacly coffee notes kick in. Water emphasises the oily marzipan and brings out a slight butyric note.

Palate: Soft yet intense with grainy, coffee’d tannins and hints of vanilla, seaweed, tar, violets, smoky peat and building salt. Water emphasises the sugars and oak. Sweeter, less gritty now, even the peat is sweeter.

Finish: Mouth-watering and salty with the marzipan notes returning. The peat, although not monstrous lingers well.

Conclusion:  Wow! That peat really lingers!

Ardbeg An Oa 46.6%

Ex Pedro Ximinez, Bourbon and Virgin American oak.

Tasted: Oct 2017

A rich and slightly treacly nose with barley, dusty peat, oily peat, tar and plenty of brine. Quite woody, which isn’t a surprise given all the different cask types used but it’s still pretty well balanced with the American oak adding vanilla, the sherry, a slight herbal note and the treacle and the virgin oak, the taught tannins.

The palate opens with the sooty peat, rich fruit and vanilla. Soft spices move in along with the grippy oak tannins. Youthful but displaying a good depth and very briny middle. Long and vanilla’d with lingering soft spices, barley and light medicinal notes.