Ardbeg 17

Distillery: Ardbeg
ABV: 40%
Cask: Bourbon Barrel
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s one of those mythical creatures of days gone by: the much-loved, and missed, Ardbeg 17. I’ve heard stories of this whisky for years now, and finally (thanks to Alex Blankenstijn at WhiskySample.nl) I’ve sourced myself a wee dram…

Nose: Honeyed vanilla coal dust. Permanent marker. Clean malty boiled sweets. Salty mineral-rich air with faint, light peat acridity. Some dusty tropical fruit and melon rind. Banana custard.

Palate: Light and delicate mouthfeel. A soft malty sweetness gives way to coastal notes and tangy, peppery peat. Then comes the fruit: leathery apricots smothered in honey with limes and nectarines soaked in brine, followed by a kick of sooty black pepper.

Finish: Chalky with lip smacking salt, more pepper, and creamy oak. Metallic tin right at the end.

Well that’s not what I was expecting! That mix of creamy, fruity salty flavour really reminds me of Bruichladdich. This is a much lighter whisky than the peaty engine-oil of a whisky that the distillery tends to produce nowadays.

No tour-de-force here, but a subtle, soft, fruity dram. Shame it’s so hard to source… If you see some, give it a taste!

Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Release

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 20.08.08Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottled: 2015
Age: NAS
ABV: 49.2%
Bottles: 12,000
Cask: Ex-bourbon and ex-sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another year, another Ardbeg Day release!

Only this time it’s a special year for the distillery at the end of the Kildalton road – they’re celebrating their bicentenary. So just to confuse everybody, they released not one special bottling but two! I guess that’s one each for both centuries?

This one is the distillery-only version released for the Feis Ile. Oddly, they changed their mind and decided to put it on sale on their website, causing havoc as their servers went down under the heavy traffic.

They also did the anniversary edition, bottled at a slightly lower 47.4% ABV and to the tune of 72,000 bottles.

Both releases promise elements of classic Ardbegs throughout the ages, with old and young spirit and a nod to the future as well as the past.

But beyond all the marketing spiel, what’s it actually like…?

Nose: Big flakes of sea salt on pretzels with air-dried ham. Dusty sherry notes of ripe plums, backed by briny iodine. Thick, sticky molasses with Jamaican ginger cake and malt loaf. Chewed rubber-tipped pencils, with fireplace hints of dry wood ash and old coal dust.

Palate: Sweet iced coffee with lots of salt and pepper. Creamy sherry trifle. Glacé cherry, bananas, juicy sultanas with rich malt syrup. More briny iodine notes swirled into chocolate sauce.

Finish: Super long and dry with oily espresso foam, salty ashes and sticky liquorice. Creamy, buttery oak.

Absolutely delicious. It’s desserty but not over the top – a really excellent balance of salt, sweet and bitter. It definitely tastes old and dusty with classic elements of more mature Ardbegs, and vintages from days gone by. I love the sherry influence – not as knockout as Uigeadail, more restrained and subtle.

Top notch, this. Thanks so much to Ben Cops for the sample.

The distillery edition’s long sold out on the Ardbeg site, but you can still find it on other retail sites and in auctions. Just don’t pay £400 for it like some people have!

Glen Moray Tweet Tasting

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 07.56.22Wednesday night and time for another Tweet tasting!

This time we’ve got five drams lined up from that quiet gem of Speyside, Glen Moray. The distillery’s been in business since 1897 and produces a fairly classic Speyside style of spirit but without heavy sherry maturation to detract from the light, fruity distillate. All standard releases are matured full term in Bourbon casks and generally bottled at 40% ABV with chill filtering and caramel colouring.

We’ve got the Classic, Peated Classic, and the Port Cask Finish as well as peated and unpeated new make spirit. It’s very rare to be able to try new make so this really is a pleasure.

All the drams we’re trying are on sale in the UK (except the new makes, of course) for £25 or less per bottle so the distillery core range is really aimed at the low budget end of the market.

Let’s try them!

Dram 1: Glen Moray New Make

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 07.41.55Distillery: Glen Moray
ABV: 69%
Age: N/A
Cask: N/A
More Info: N/A

Nose: Very, very creamy. Brandy butter and icing sugar. Dried banana chips in thick custard. Juicy sultanas, with a good waft of grappa. Bubblegum.

Palate: Oof! It’s smooth but it packs a wallop at 69%. Needs water. Fermented fruit – sweet cider apples. Sweet shop flavours of pear drops and rhubarb and custard. White rum. Waxy, like eating a Crayola. Not that I know from experience, of course…

Finish: Tingly and numbing, with the strength. But the fruit notes linger and settle nicely. Stewed rhubarb crumble at the end.

This definitely needs the water adding, but once you bring it down to around the 50% mark it becomes very drinkable with a lot of those lovely Ester-rich sweet shop flavours you expect from Speyside spirit.

Dram 2: Classic Glen Moray

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 07.42.03Distillery: Glen Moray
ABV: 40%
Age: NAS
Cask: Bourbon
Color/Chill Filter: Yes/Yes
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Hard fruit candy. Barley sugar sweets. White wine. Apple blossom. Juicy fruit gum. Pineapple cube sweets and fruit salads. Green apples.

Palate: Very clean and light. Oodles of vanilla bean. Fermented apples, again. Sweet cider. Malty barley and honey.

Finish: Middle length and smooth. Slightly peppery with lots of oak.

I have to confess, chill filtered whisky at 40% is usually a “Thanks, but no thanks” from me, being more of a “straight from the cask” kind of whisky drinker. However, for the price (around the £20 mark in supermarkets), this actually delivers a lot of very nice fruity and barley notes and is a perfect easy-going sipping dram.

You can pick this up for £21.95 at Master Of Malt or a similar price in your local supermarket.

Dram 3: Port Cask Finish

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 07.42.09Distillery: Glen Moray
ABV: 40%
Age: NAS
Cask: Bourbon + 8 months in Tawny Port
Color/Chill Filter: Yes/Yes
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Cherry and lime skins. Muscavado sugar and ripe banana. Egg custard tarts and Jammy Dodgers. Marzipan-rich wedding cake. Calvados and blackberries. Yankee candle.

Palate: Oily and soft on the tongue. Jammy with red wine gums. Soft toffee leading to oaky red wine notes. Tart and tangy.

Finish: Oaky red wine lingers – reminiscent of Beaujolais.

Here’s a port finish that definitely complements the spirit. It gives it a heavier, plummier profile but without being overpowering. Well worth a taste if you like your lighter style red wine flavours.

You can pick this up for £26.95 on Master Of Malt, or cheaper still at your local supermarket. Keep an eye out for the Chardonnay finish as well.

Dram 4: Peated New Make

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 07.42.15Distillery: Glen Moray
ABV: 69%
Age: N/A
Cask: N/A
More Info: N/A

Nose: Salty and starchy – like a packet of ready salted crisps. Strong breathmints. Smoky cured ham. Sourdough toasting over oily barbecue charcoal.

Palate: Holy moly that’s hot! Needs water. It’s smoky but also thick, sweet and syrupy. More peardrop but with coal tar and wood ash. American cream soda. More grappa again. A hint of wet dog, but that’s not a bad thing. Mossy.

Finish: Drying and ashy – a little chewy, to the point where you feel you could pick bits of peat from out of your teeth.

This is really very nice indeed. You need water, of course, but it’s packed with barbecued bread flavours and an oily, sticky peat that’s dry and wood-smoky, rather than medicinal.

Dram 5: Peated Classic

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 07.42.20Distillery: Glen Moray
ABV: 40%
Age: NAS
Cask: Bourbon
Color/Chill Filter: Yes/Yes
More Info: Distillery Shop

Nose: Wet paint, marker pens and coal dust. Salty sea air and fresh straw. A little lemon drizzle cake. A bit more of that ready-salted crisp smell from the new make.

Palate: Pear drops and salted caramel with a zingy lemon meringue kick. Cardomoms and liqourice.

Finish: Salty charcoal

Calmer than the new make, with more fruity and ester-rich aromas making their way through the peat bog. I’d say it has a lot in common with Caol Ila – that lightly peated yet fruity flavour, except very firmly from Speyside and not Islay.

This seems to just be available on the distillery website’s shop – a bargain at £25!

Thoughts

When drinking whisky, it’s important to keep an open mind. It’s the common wisdom among whisky-philes to steer clear of drams that are released with chill-filtering, added colouring, and no age statement. I’d normally do the same, but I was curious about Glen Moray having been lucky enough to try a 1960 vintage at a whisky festival – a truly beautiful dram that was.

And I’m very glad I have. These whiskies, for the price, represent very good value for money. I’d recommend them as good introductory drams for whisky newbies, or as an easy sipping weeknight dram.

It may not fit their business plan of being a budget whisky, but I hope the distillery considers releasing higher ABV versions without colouring and filtering. Having tried the new makes, it’s clear that they have very good stills that produce a high quality distillate. It’d be a pleasure to see what the whisky’s like when cranked up a gear or two…

Thanks very much to Steve Rush and the folks at the Glen Moray distillery.