TWE says: ‘,… this cask-strength dram is from the 1976 batch of sherry casks that took Ardbeg’s reputation into the stratosphere’. I wonder how much this bottle fetched in 2002? For the Japanese market, this is another offering I’ve held onto for years now, compliments of ASWhisky.
N: You know it’s incredibly dense, just by the way it falls into the glass. Leathery at first and very intense, it takes a while for the sherried complexities to open out. In fact, I’m not convinced it’s fully opened out after 45 minutes in an open glass, though every time I go to it, I pick out more and more. Indeed ASWhisky says ‘For this Ardbeg you need rest and time he unfolds his treasures only after a good while in the glass drunk too early, he shows something grumpy and old in the mouth’. It goes from bone dry & leathery to classic sherry to salty brine over the course of time, with a profile that is both old skool and contemporary, such is the freshness, the intensity, the vivid vibrancy. Then again, there are fusty overtones that defy this to have been distilled later than 1981 when Ardbeg was mothballed for eight years. It’s worth noting that the distillery closed again in 1996 before Glenmorangie bought the distillery and remaining stock a year later for £7 million. Not accounting for inflation, that’s currently around 9 bottles of 52yo Macallan [MoM]. Now more than an hour later this remains formidable yet it’s a firm but generous nose that gives without shedding. I reckon you could nose this all night, and the same glass would still hold up in the morning. Not sure mine will last that long.
T: Whilst I’d anticipated this would be sweeter and squidgier, the arrival is surprisingly bitter and peated. It definitely needs some water, otherwise, it’s just salty oloroso followed by lots of peat. Water marries the two camps together, where the magic then happens. Aside from all the descriptors that one’s palate may glean or one’s brain conjure, it’s the mouthfeel that defines this one’s appeal. It’s big on everything, but consolidated with water – unlike some Karuizawa’s perhaps that can stay ever-intense and ‘showy’ – this is perfectly congenial. ASWhisky says: ‘You still feel the memories in your mouth hot and spicy but also spicy and soft’. Following on neatly perhaps is a quote I heard today from no other than Gordon Ramsey who says “presentation lasts 30 seconds, it’s the flavour that holds the memory” [Kitchen Nightmares: Series 3 Episode 3: 26 mins].
F: After the oiliest gooey-ist vegetal-sweet~ashy chocolate on earth [with hints of rum, clairins and cachaca], we’ve succulent yet dry ashy > oak briny tannins, the dry-vegetal ashy oiliness remaining buoyant.
C: I can easily see, if you rushed this, that it could be just ‘good’. Give it all the time and help it wants and it shall reward. Though not particularly subtle nor perhaps the emotional jerker I wanted, it is a sherried single cask of excellence from a great vintage year for Ardbeg.