I’m a bad customer. Rather, I’m not the type the industry wants.
What I mean by that is that I’m not the type to buy repeat or multiple bottles of the same expression, distillery bottlings or not. Of course, really good bottlings and good deals are exempt. Douglas Laing’s The Gauldrons is an example. But this mostly applies to distillery bottlings as they’re usually readily accessible, thus more basic.
This is my way of thinking because I mostly see a brand’s core expressions as stepping stones to learning. Reading a review or opinion online is a way to learn. But the best way to learn about a brand and more about whisky and other spirits is to taste it. Mainly because to taste is to experience and believe. Everyone also has their own unique senses of smell and taste, to the point that I believe no one tastes the same expression exactly the same. Also, I’d rather not completely knock something until I’ve tried it.
In my two plus years of contributing to Malt, I’ve never re-reviewed an expression. This is largely due to my not being a repeat buyer. A lot of what I’ve reviewed on Malt are bottles I’ve killed since or are still nursing. Pre-COVID, if I wanted to refresh my opinion on a certain brand’s expression, I’d just order a dram at a bar. But with the local government being known for its ineffectiveness, a lot of good bars have either closed or only just started re-opening. So, it’s been hard for me to just set aside time to try common expressions and risk getting COVID at the same time.
Like the An Oa which I just recently reviewed, the 200ml bottles of the Ardbeg 10 and Wee Beastie came from the “Monsters of Smoke” sample set meant to celebrate Ardbeg Day. The bottle of Ardbeg 10 I bought in 2018, so I’m curious whether the quality has changed or remained the same with all the flack the brand has been getting recently.
Ardbeg 10 Year Old- Review
Color: First steep white tea.
On the nose: I get medium floral and fruity with a bit of sharp peat and smoke. The floral character makes me think of a white flower. Being the Philippines’ national flower, the sampaguita comes to mind. With it is a lasting aroma of lemon water and lemonade. After it are a quick and a little more pronounced aroma of nougat and nuts. At the end are quick aromas of flower stems, vinegar, and more nuts.
In the mouth: I get light tastes of ashiness, peat and grilled lemon. After it is a floral note that makes me think of sweetened chamomile tea. Maybe a bit of elderflower or honeysuckle in there too. More ashy and peat notes come out with a bit of nougat, crushed nuts and Japanese nori chips with almonds. At the end is a light taste of diluted ginger candy with something like elderflower or honeysuckle.
Did Ardbeg bottle the wrong whisky? This doesn’t taste like the Ardbeg 10 I know. The peatiness is nowhere close to the level I’m familiar with. I wonder if this is a batch variation or just how contemporary Ardbeg tastes like now, since they’re showing strong signs of their pandering to the more ridiculous side of the market.
I was so surprised by this that I tasted it again the next day to make sure that my glass was clean and my senses weren’t acting up, but the results were still the same.
Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5 Year Old – Review
Color: Pale ale.
On the nose: I get sharp, light, stable and lasting aromas of weak peat, lime and nori. Behind it are subtle and just as lasting notes of toffee, creaminess, Japanese nori almond chips, salinity and ginger candy.
In the mouth: Very similar to the nose. I get light and lasting tastes of ginger candy, toffee, weak peat, Japanese nori almond chips, lime peel, honey and vanilla.
The profile of the Wee Beastie isn’t as familiar to me as it’s a newer product. But it isn’t as peaty and smoky as my first taste of it. This also lacks the salinity and citrus notes from when I last tasted it.
Like the Ardbeg 10, I had to re-taste this the next day to make sure there was nothing wrong with my glass and senses. The results were the same.
Just what is happening with Ardbeg? I hope this is an isolated case. I guess the best take away from this is the lack of ethanol bitem which makes this easier to drink.