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Ardbeg 8 Year Old For Discussion Committee Release – A Rebuttal

Ardbeg 8yo committee

I suppose for long-term readers, the *dusts off mic* gag has been rather overplayed by me in the past, so we’ll get right into the thick of it.

I bought a whisky! And it was peated. In fact, it was heavily peated and released by Ardbeg as part of their old school committee releases. Truth be told: I never expected to get a bottle. We hear so much about sellout whiskies (which are somewhat manipulated and an old-hat tale), but sometimes it seeps into our consciousness that anything a newsletter announces is going to be sold out by the time we get to the website.

Not so. In fact, this Ardbeg release was pleasingly available and purchased within a few seconds on my phone, without much thinking… and why is that? Why did I do that? Have you ever stopped to question the reason you’re buying a particular whisky?

For me, it was quite simple: Ardbeg was calling. It had been a while, I have peat on the mind. But why this one? 

Actually, since I had peat on the mind, I was feeling somewhat nostalgic. Let’s face it: we can try to rationalise what we do with purchases and behaviour toward brands or companies, but most of it is fundamentally an emotional reaction. 

Even the I HATE MARKETING whisky people lean towards things like Cadenhead’s bottlings,  which – to be honest – are not much better value than a lot of other bottlings these days. And so, these people are… making decisions based on packaging, design (or lack of), and perceived value. Which is to say: perceptions based on marketing. 

Which is to also say – quite harmlessly – emotions. 

I am just the same. I am no better. I throw money at bottles based on emotional reactions. I want to feel something. If whisky isn’t emotional, then what are you even doing here? 

When I first really got into whisky, there was one main distillery that occupied most of my heart: Bruichladdich. It’s well documented around these parts. But, there was also – quietly, at the back – Ardbeg. I loved the allure of the nonsensical Lord of the Isles (forgive me; I wrote this in simpler times) glamour-tat scroll presentation. There was a time when its reputation was unsurpassed, in those halcyon days when people remembered that Port Ellen was, in fact, generally a bit rubbish, and not worth the £100 a bottle you might pay (don’t @ me, as the youth say).

Ardbeg was the peat – I hesitate to say “connoisseur” here – aficionado’s brand of choice. It was a cracking distillery, with cracking whisky. They had that rather amusing tone of voice, the kooky little words. The only shady thing to have been erased from time was the Ardbeg Girls, unfortunately objectified at every whisky show. But most Ardbeg things back then were energetic: good vibes, tasty whisky, hugely well-respected. Celtic branding, but kind of done well. Striking green bottles, old ways; we were all seduced.

The committee stuff back then was cool. You could get previews at higher strength of all the hits. You could buy tat, too, but it was mostly the early access whisky that everyone was interested in. And sure, I visited the distillery about a decade ago, and had a lovely time there (and lunch, if I recall); here’s proof: I even bought the book, which has information in it that seldom gets noticed online. 15 years ago there was a discreet, knowing nod of the head to anyone who respected Ardbeg. Ardbeg, then, meant you took things seriously.

And then I can insert the general narrative of change – that “things were better when we were young…” and maybe they were, maybe they weren’t, but at least the internet community was relatively friendly. 

I lost interest in Ardbeg, more or less, over time. No real reason. Priced out perhaps. Hyped out? When they did the whole NFT thing, it just summed up the tone deafness of modern life more than anything specifically about Ardbeg, though I can well imagine the brand meeting in which such a decision was made. Mr T. Cope has discussed the issue at length here. There is, indeed, much to hate about the way things have gone. Yet, as the grey hairs build up, I can say this about many things in the world. Generally, I am with the Blair Bowmans of this world in that sense: clearly knowing when a shark has been jumped with whisky and NFT. Me? I’m interested in flavour only. Can’t do much with an NFT. 

As a bad novelist would surmise: time passes. Then, for some strange reason, an email pops into my inbox. Would I like to buy an Ardbeg eight year old Committee release  at 50.8% ABV for a mere 57 bones? The one that Taylor hates? It seemed a world away from NFTs: a simple, peated whisky, made by what is still a fine distillery, put out there honestly, “for discussion,” with that old style label. Nostalgic strings were plucked. Flashbacks came and went. Should I? 

Yes, I thought. Why not? Why not, indeed. Add to cart, arrived next day, bish bash bosh and here we go. How are those memories holding up? 

Ardbeg 8yo committee

Ardbeg 8 Years Old For Discussion Committee Release – Review

Colour: Yellow gold. 

On the nose: Lapsang souchong, sandalwood, cloves, and woodburner ash. A hint of coastal quality: sea spray, sand, autumn walks on the beach. But then: lovely sweet citrus note, lemon curd… or rather, Rose’s Lemon and Lime Marmalade (for the old farts out there).

In the mouth: There is just about the perfect balance of savoury and sweet. Lemon curd again – and quite creamy, hints of crème brûlée, vanilla custard, juicy, ripe, fresh. Lots of lemon and lime here now to be honest, an awful lot. The peat: a shade too ashy. Mossy, earthy, dry not indulgent and sweet. Hints of smoked salmon, a little hemp. But… it seems a classic Ardbeg, if a little rough around the edges. Nostalgia echoes faintly from the taste. The finish descends into black tea and tobacco; the fruits fade, the peat lingers into imbalance, but… I’m a happy man.

Score: (yes, I’m back into scoring because of course): 8/10

Conclusions

Now then. I know that Mr Taylor Cope over there was not a fan of this. If I was a mystery anonymous person trying Very Hard to be An Honest Reviewer, I could have given this a kicking for the LOLs, or I could have created some manufactured tension with Taylor, but he’s a good egg, and to each their own. 

But here I am, open and raw, a real person sharing a few memories from yesteryear and today. You know me. You might even have seen me at a show, read an article here or elsewhere in the past; we’ve maybe been on a Zoom or something. This is me, saying very clearly… I rather liked this.

Does it take me back? Yes, a little. Those “for discussion” labels, maybe just nudge me back. Is it branding; am I emotional? Nostalgia is one of the most powerful things in marketing. The simplicity of that peat and citrus vanilla – dryer than I recall, if I’m honest – by one of the iconic distilleries, just feels about right. A few memories are fired up. Sometimes it’s nice to think back and acknowledge that things in whisky will never quite be as they were, because there are so many of you horrible lot loving this weird barley-based spirit these days.

But, I’m human after all, and I’d happily buy another bottle of this. Oh and for all of you value seekers? £57?

Have it.

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      1. Matt says:

        Welcome back and reminds me I need to try some Waterford. Great to see the openness of posting two different opinions on the same bottle on the site.

        1. Mark says:

          If I’m honest, it’s largely because I missed – somehow! I blame having kids – Taylor’s controversial battering of that same whisky. And we thought why not?

        2. Taylor says:

          Matt, thanks for the comment, and I am glad you took these “dueling” reviews in the spirit they were intended. Every review on the site, no matter how authoritative the voice, is just one person’s opinion. We don’t even agree amongst ourselves, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the rest of the world needs to agree with us! Cheers.

    1. Joe says:

      Kettle calls pot black.

      I too, am so over, the Ardbeg shtick.

      You are the marketing guy at Waterford. Waterford. The bunch that pushed a truckload of releases in a single year. And then did it again.

    2. santha says:

      Thank Matt for the write up. I am first time here. Similar situation here in Sydney. Last week received email from Ardbeg about this bottle and for members only. The price was right ( I have skipped previous ones except Blaack), so ordered one with out checking reviews. After receiving the bottle yesterday I google it. This morning Google again took me to here. So time for me to open it and taste my self.

  1. John says:

    “I lost interest in Ardbeg, more or less, over time. No real reason. Priced out perhaps. Hyped out?”

    Yup. This is me.

  2. wmugrad79 says:

    Functionally every single person who has tried this bottle has found it, at worst, decent. And most all serious sources for reviews in fact loved it.

    Except for Taylor, who rather theatrically poured it down the drain.

    Calling it definitively (with more than a tinge of ‘soft objectivity’) “bad whisky considered in isolation” while largely cursing Ardbeg’s existence. Chatting on “market tops” meanwhile. Are we looking at “cute opposing opinions” or an obvious (and silly ineffectual) wee political stunt righted and downplayed by the founder of the site?

    I don’t know why I care, really. I guess I just liked reading Malt Review but now it gives me a headache.

    1. Mark says:

      Individual tasting preferences aside, I must say, reading various online opinions on the NFT debacle, I can very much understand community’s frustration with Ardbeg.

      Truth be told I totally missed Taylor’s review – which is slightly embarrassing – and came to this with fresh eyes. Then Taylor pointed out his already written piece and… well we decided to roll with that second opinion anyway. It’s not often I get out of bed to write anymore.

      For what it’s worth, my entire interaction with this whisky is precisely as I’d described above. All done in impulse – including the review itself.

      1. wmugrad79 says:

        I can believe that you tasted it and thought it was decent. I however don’t believe that Taylor wrote his review in good faith. Which rightfully shook my confidence in the trustworthiness of this site.

        And frankly what you just wrote about ‘fresh eyes’ seems more than a bit unlikely. Your article was written fairly obviously within the context of Taylor’s review. You literally (virtually) said in the article “I received an email with an offer to buy this here Ardbeg. Do I buy the whisky that Taylor hates?”

        And then here you are, reviewing it, having bought it with knowledge of Taylor’s review. Why is this happening? I guess I’m settled here.

        1. Mark says:

          My friend, I am literally going to email you right now with the screen shot of mine and Taylor’s first interaction about this whisky, as evidence I am true to my word.

        2. Mark says:

          PS – check your inbox now. I’ve sent you a screenshot of our conversation, well as the order confirmation from Ardbeg. You can see I ordered the bottle on the 5th, told Taylor I was writing my review on the 6th, whereupon he showed me his review – and my response was “fuckity”. I may be accused of many things in life, but when I write it here it’s me, it’s true, it’s real. No avatars, no made up names: truth.

        3. Taylor says:

          You seem to believe that I have way more time on my hands than I actually do. Finding a review a day and getting it formatted and edited for this site is almost too much, without the added burden of coming up with crazy conspiracies of the type that you’ve accused us of. Sometimes, what you see is all there is. I didn’t like this whisky, Mark did, and that is it. Go in peace.

  3. Mark P says:

    This was available for the longest time in Australia, at a very cheap (almost bafflingly low) price. My favourite retailer ended up bundling it with Laphroaig 10 to push some sales. It was so cheap I thought word must be out it’s a turkey.

    Now I just wish I’d bought it so I could’ve seen for myself.

    1. Craig B says:

      Mark,
      It’s once again available in Australia. Just log into your Ambassador account and it can be yours for 115 bucks!
      I bought another three just last week.

  4. Nonya says:

    Taylor’s review made me completely lose faith in this site. Zero interest in how it progresses. Going forward, Dramface seems to take reviewing things critically seriously. Shame to see what malt review has become.

  5. Craig B says:

    Mark,
    It’s once again available in Australia. Just log into your Ambassador account and it can be yours for 115 bucks!
    I bought another three just last week.

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