I was staying at Ardbeg in the Seaview Cottages when the 2019 Supernova was released. It’s a stunning spot and I recommend anyone traveling to the island with a group to consider it. First class accommodation and hospitality with the most rugged distillery vistas on Islay. There’s something magical about wandering the distillery grounds after hours, dram in hand, with no one around. I had a taste of Supernova at the distillery, but waited until I got home to crack my bottle and do a fair review. Every dram is more sentimental in a warehouse, or at the distillery, so the true test is at home.
So now I do a side by side of a flashy new release (2019 Ardbeg Supernova £140) and a new release of a classic (Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength batch 11 £67.50). Collectors and flippers abound to grab the two allocated Supernovas (sold out in 2 days), while the Laphroaig 10 CS quietly blends in on the shelves with little to no fanfare.
Ardbeg Supernova 2019 53.9%
Nose: (84) We are unsurprisingly in Octomore territory. Young and brash. Buttered popcorn, hot vegetable oil, lemongrass, tiger balm, brine, sea water, vanilla, ethanol.
Palate: (86) Oily, cod oil, eucalyptus, white pepper, burnt rubber, oil of oregano, fennel and lime.
Finish: (85) Long, charcoal briquettes on fire, rubber, charred lemon zest, charred meat, roasted peanuts, citrus, white pepper.
Thoughts: Reminds me of Octomore. Its good, but I prefer Ardbeg 10 year. I would guess it’s refill bourbon casks, or around 5 years of age. I refer to Ardbeg as the Macallan of Islay. Growing their brand on the reputation of how their whisky once was. No one seems to notice (or care) all of the annual releases are wildly vague, NAS, extreme wood finishes (virgin oak, rum, intensely charred wine casks...etc). The Ardbeg rep that spoke to us said the core of Ardbeg is refill bourbon casks and that’s what is best for their spirit. Now Ardbeg wouldn’t be having trouble sourcing bourbon casks, would they?
Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength batch 11 58.6%
Nose: (88) Big bourbon cask influence, peaches and vanilla ice cream, tar and hot asphalt.
Palate: (89) Rich, vanilla bean, tarry peat, oily, black licorice, creme de menthe
Finish: (91) Peanut brittle, licorice, medicinal smoke, iodine and gauze. Long. Very long. Peach cobbler, and smoked meat.
Thoughts: On the opposite end of the marketing spectrum Laphroaig have been consistently releasing what I consider to be the best deal on Islay. The 10 CS is far better to my taste buds, at less than half the price and likely double the age. I couldn’t say which recent batch of 10CS I’ve liked best, but they’ve all been very high quality. Especially when you consider the competition/price.