Ardbeg Batch 5 (TBWC)

Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottler: Master of Malt
ABV: 47.5%
Bottles: 23
More Info: Master Of Malt

Oh my.

It’s always fun to sample an interesting Ardbeg. This time it’s another batch from the chaps at Master of Malt.

Their Boutique-y whiskies are from mystery casks bottled independently and adorned with clever cartoon labels, usually depicting an in-joke of the whisky world. Sadly they keep the details (including the age) to themselves, but the whisky in the bottle is usually of a high standard and full of character.

Much as I love them, this should be quite a departure from the current core Ardbeg expressions…

Nose: The smell fills the room! There’s that distinctive Ardbeg coal tar (though it’s a fair bit more restrained than in Ardbeg 10), rubber shoe soles, candle wax, lemon cough drops, eucalyptus, pineapple chunks, rock salt, and fresh boot polish. With time, more delicate notes of wild flowers and dry grass.

Palate: Sooty and sweet! Quite creamy, cereal-rich, and malty to start. Then bakery notes of gingerbread, spiced treacle, and malt loaf developing into soft fruit, dark coffee and chocolate fudge, all against a backdrop of gentle sticky peat.

Finish: Salty smoke and hazelnuts with dry liquorice root, damp wood and earthy peat.

This is fucking classy. Like a really excellent dessert course after a posh meal. A fine mix of smoke and dark, rich cake in a glass. Pretty much exactly what I wanted from this dram – all those lovely Ardbeg characteristics but toned down with subtlety and elegance and some fun bonus notes along the way.

I wish MoM would tell us more about this batch but that’s just not the way they roll when it comes to Boutique-y Whisky. It’s certainly tastes like it’s a decent age. I’m guessing it’s at least 18, though that’s pure speculation on my part…

If you’re an Ardbeg lover, I’m afraid all 23 bottles are now gone but there’s still some samples left as I write this. £19.45 isn’t such a bad price for a sample, and I’m sure you’d be asked to pay that for a glass of Haig club on a night out in London anyway.

Ben Nevis 18 (Old Particular)

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 1996
Age: 18 years old
Cask #: 10415
Bottler: Douglas Laing
ABV: 48.4%
Cask: Refill Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the first in a set of three Old Particular whiskies from one of the great indy distillers, Douglas Laing. Each bottling of the series is from a single cask so number of bottles available are quite limited.

Ben Nevis is a distillery I don’t often come across on my travels. I love the area, particularly following the A82 up past Ben Nevis and through Glencoe. I can’t really imagine a more picturesque place for distilling (or drinking) whisky.

Let’s see what the liquid’s like…

Nose: Boiled sweets and dessert apples with mint leaves. There’s a faint whiff of rubber, chalk, and menthol cigarettes. Takes me right back to my school days…

Palate: Pear juice and plums in custard with a rising taste of Cayenne pepper and ash.

Finish: Bitter grapefruit and a touch more menthol.

Great nose on this, but the finish spoils the experience a bit. It starts well and then falls flat into a wall of bitterness on the tongue.

Hey ho. This is part of the thrill of drinking single-cask whisky! Next in the series is the Bowmore 16…

You can get samples (and bottles) of the Old Particular range from www.MasterOfMalt.com.

Springbank 12 Cask Strength 2015

Distillery: Springbank
Bottled: 2014
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 53.2%
Cask: 70% Sherry 30% Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

I have to say, I’m struggling to find a Springbank expression (official or independent) that I don’t like. Always loads of solid coastal smoke notes without being overly maritime or medicinal plus a few unusual hints of other things for good measure.

I’m an Islay man, when it comes to whisky, but those Campbeltown distillers are doing an excellent job turning my head…

Nose: Leathery and damp with coastal salt and rocks aplenty. Dry moss, nettles, salty lime skin (possibly with tequila?). A soothing waft of warm butter with dry wood smoke.

Palate: Oily, malty, and salty with sweet dark honey and spicy smoke rising. Mulled spices and chilli peppers. Big Red cinnamon chewing gum.

Finish: Spiced Maple syrup and black pepper.

Another winner for my money, and excellent value to boot. All the oily coastal smoke but with plenty of other notes giving it depth and interest.

This year’s Springbank 12 Cask Strength is available on Abbey Whisky for £45.50 – bargain!

Glendronach 15 Revival

Distillery: Glendronach
Bottled: 2009
Age: 15 years old
ABV: 46%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Glendronach’s got a great name in whisky these days for being a superb sherried dram. Having sampled a couple at various tasting events, I can definitely see what people are making a fuss of.

The distillery was rebooted (along with Glenglaussaugh) by Benriach in 2008. As a result, you’ll tend to see all three whiskies together at festivals.

Tonight I’m tasting the Revival, a flagship dram to mark the reboot. Aged a full fifteen years in Oloroso sherry, this is a dram for people who like a sherry bomb.

Nose: Sticky figs and dates, tea leaves, dry Summer hay, dusty wood, rich barley cereal, cumin, and a touch of mineral saltiness.

Palate: Luscious mouth-coating sherry with barbecued banana, orange boiled sweets, red grapes, molasses and sultanas.

Finish: Slightly drying with toasted oak, black pepper and a tingling tobacco smokiness.

Mmmm. The mild smokiness really works for this dram. It’s like someone lit a Cuban, dipped it in a glass of Oloroso, and somehow created a whisky.

Fiercely drinkable, this.