*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
Ardbeg’s recent history (thanks, Tim!) is a litany of ownership changes, dis-heartening shutterings, sporadic periods of production, and ultimately, it’s re-emergence as one of the finest distilleries out there today. Thanks, I’m sure, to the financial clout of its parent company (Glenmorangie was sold to Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 2004), Ardbeg has arguably done the best marketing work in the whisky world the last couple of years. Very few other Scotches generate the same fervent, nearly cult-ish interest and high praise as a new Ardbeg release does. Of course, true whisky geeks will try to seem aloof when discussing a new Ardbeg release, waving it off with dismissive nonchalance, when really, they’re feverishly planning a way, cost be damned, to get their hands on it before anyone else. All this hubbub follows the name around with good reason, the distillery makes masterful, exciting, powerful whiskies. The accolades the 10 year old, Uigeadail, and Corryvreckan have racked up in the last three years outstrip what some distilleries land in a lifetime. That’s part of what makes an independent bottling of Ardbeg so unique, not only are they uncommon, they are removed from all the hype and clever websites and instead allow you to taste the whisky without all the preconceived noise. In 1998, Ardbeg had just begun running at full speed after Glenmorangie purchased it in 1997. This offering from Ian Macleod’s Chieftain’s range was distilled and bottled at that time and reportedly aged in a 2nd re-fill sherry cask.
The Nose: Hmmm…Ardbeggy but milder than expected a subdued wallop of peated fruit…or fruity peat. Behind that, juicy grapes & raisins, lemon curd, and honey round out a nice white-wines softness. Under the peat’s soft touches of dry woodsmoke, there are faint herbal undertones.
The Palate: Oily mouthfeel with softened, sweetened peat on the entry. Hot, woody tannins appear early and nearly overpower the lighter peat…nearly, but then they begin to work well together. Greenish smoke and more peat emerge more towards the end with herb-y notes, anise, and faint brined olives.
The Finish: Continued heat, restrained, slightly rubbery peat, green woodsmoke and subtle sweet sherry notes.
Thoughts: Interesting. In a way, it shows a somewhat lighter, restrained side of Ardbeg with the herbal notes and the lighter smoke. This has a great, complex nose, however, the hot, woody palate takes away from it a bit. It’s definitely Ardbeg and it’s good stuff, the 2nd refill cask has mellowed it, perhaps a bit too much, but in a way that brings out some other nice characteristics. Certainly worth a try if you’re an Ardbeg/Islay fan.
Chieftain’s 1998 Ardbeg 12 Year Old, Islay, Un-chillfiltered