This review should not exist on MALT. I turned and walked away from the opportunity to open and experience this Ardbeg last month through choice. Slamming the door firmly shut on a highly prized and collectable whisky. Madness I know to many onlookers. Prompted by disgust around the chase itself and what we’re seeing with several new releases.
I’ve touched upon this story previously via my Instagram channel and generally in some recent reviews here and there as I do when writing about my emotional whisky experiences. That I felt was the end of it and honestly, thankfully so. Another bottle out of reach, literally out of sight until the next wave of auctions landed were it would be available in multiple numbers. Except, well read on and it’ll all come together hopefully. Where else to start, but at the beginning?
For each Cadenhead’s outturn, the list contains a star bottle for want of a better phrase. An example that draws you in and for the obsessed prompts a cascade of emotions. In previous times these individuals were the collectors and enthusiasts. The afflicted and the obsessed. Qualities I duly recognise in myself from time to time. I’ve since upscaled and moved to a better place but their ranks have been swelled by a new menacing character. That of the investor or immediate flipper.
When the latest release listing is sent out to the membership, this prompts a rush in all manner of forms to your nearest Cadenhead shop or stockist. In bygone years, or the good old days as some friends refer to them as things were a little more pedestrian or civilised. Personally, you shouldn’t be able to get everything you want and take heart in the system and thereby the allocation is fair. Oh yes, I would have been delighted to pick up the last Caol Ila or Glentauchers but then the single cask format is by definition precise and limited. These bottles weren’t to be given the popularity of whisky today but any sense of loss was alleviated by those bottles I did acquire.
Within 20 minutes or so of the Club email being launched by carrier pigeon from Campbeltown, I picked up the phone almost immediately. No success. That was it, or at least I believed the intended target was out of reach. Taking some positives, I felt freed from the financial obligations and thus able to track down another Glen Mhor. You win some lose some remains my preferred motto for such a moment. My prize was the Cadenhead’s Kilkerran 11 year old, a release that prompted another explosion amongst the chasing bourgeoisie.
On occasion, I’ll drop by the shop. Navigating the tourist magnet of central Edinburgh and the nightmare of buses congregated along Princes Street. A walk full of frustration and undeniable beauty with daily sights relegated to a backdrop haze. The effort pays dividends with some unexpected shipments arriving or a potential gem being discovered by the enthusiastic staff. There’s also the issue of my stockpile, which I’m pleased to report has been reduced to a mere molehill
The shock of a confirmed Ardbeg release came as somewhat of a surprise. The cost itself was immaterial. Single cask Ardbeg’s are a precious thing with the aforementioned pandemonium guaranteed. Once the shipment had arrived I collected the bottle and headed home with mixed emotions. Already the chase was on, disappointment was everywhere and frustration in some quarters; understandably so. The bottle itself was deliberately relegated from social media due to previous experiences that are increasing in frequency.
Collectively word gets about and you have discussions with fellow enthusiasts about their latest find or purchase. It’s like talking about the weather. An obsession of sorts and a good stepping stone onto other topics such as the Ardbeg. A good friend of mine lives and breathes this distillery. When someone has that passion and dedication you want to help them as much as possible. Taking stock of the situation I decided to do commit financial suicide to many onlookers but in the spirit that whisky is to be shared, opened and enjoyed.
Rather than looking at the bottle now and again, waiting for the right moment or tasting to open it at, I felt slightly haunted. This Ardbeg should be with some who can appreciate it fully. I’m a fan of the distillery but not to the degrees of some. For cost price, my friend received this bottle by post. A good gesture. Perhaps a great gesture? Whatever, one that prompted a round of applause and several positive comments on Instagram. Refreshingly as Instagram has been home to bad behaviour recently. And that ladies and gentleman was the end of the tale.
Or at least that’s what I believed.
Hearing of my act, blunder, faux pas; call it whatever you will. I received a kind unexpected gesture myself, a 10cl of the very same Ardbeg. Humbled by my own medicine, I do what comes naturally to me. A whisky review first and foremost and then sharing the remnants with a good friend at a later date.
The bottle information for those on the hunt for this release is distilled in 1993 and bottled in the summer of 2018 making it a ripe 24 years of age. Matured solely in a bourbon hogshead, this produced 138 bottles at a robust 54.6% strength. The price was expensive at circa £210 or thereabouts. With Ardbeg charing way more for a single cask and these being flipped for 4 figure sums, in reality, it was a no-brainer for the fortunate few.
Cadenhead’s Ardbeg 1993 – review
Colour: cinder toffee
On the nose: pencil shavings, cream soda and ham hock, so that’s smoky to the unaware with added meatiness. Subtle sweetness with golden syrup with a metallic tinned note, seashells and a touch of sea salt and smoked haddock. Pine cones, toffee apples, a damp bit of tweed oddly and a buttery oiliness. Not bad but honestly a bit timid on the nose is the overall impression.
In the mouth: much better on the palate thankfully, with a burst earthy sweet peat that transitions into salty spent charcoal. Barbecued apples followed by cinder toffee before more elements of dampness and cracked black pepper. This forms a long finish with black liquorice and a little aniseed. Simple flavours but robustly delivered with poise. Water loosens the peat allow more fruit but little else.
A very enjoyable Ardbeg, but not a great one. Satisfying and drinkable without that wow factor you ideally desired. Still, let’s not lose sight of the fact it’s a thumbs up here and the price is realistic. I know it’ll be appreciated and I’ll keep on enjoying that Kilkerran.