...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Ardbeg Blaaack Committee Release

The annual clamor continues for Ardbeg's Special Releases and I am baffled. But then again a large quantity of humans rushed out to witness each Transformers sequel and spinoff. And the New Housewives series continues to exist. And the Flip or Flop franchise. And what's the deal with indoor plumbing?

Now, about the whisky. It's called Blaack and there's a picture of a sheep on the front. There are two official reasons for this. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Ardbeg Committee, the whiskymakers elected to finish their whisky in (of course) New Zealand pinot noir casks, and there are more sheep than people in that fine country. Secondly, Ardbeg claims its fanbase are the black sheep of whisky fandom.

The latter is absolute nonsense. To paraphrase Han Solo, "That's not how 'black sheep' works." The Ardbeg fanbase is a massive moneyed contingent, which is why these multimillion-dollar releases continue to exist. But making a majority feel like a very special minority is the hot shit these days, so cheers.

The former is a thing.

If you're keeping score:
Ardbeg Day - Almost as good as Oogy!
Ardbeg Galileo - Someone screwed up, right?
Ardbeg Ardbog - Not bad, but $110?
Ardbeg Auriverdes - Unmemorable
Ardbeg Perpetuum - No.
Ardbeg Dark Cove - Smells good, but it still loses to Oogy
Ardbeg Kelpie - Sour, bitter and hot. Oppressively poor.
Ardbeg Artein Alligator Grooves - Somewhat groovy.
Ardbeg Drum - Shucks I missed this one.
Ardbeg Blaaack - ...

Distillery: Ardbeg
Ownership: Glenmorangie Plc (owned by LVMH)
Region: Islay
Product: Blaaack
Age: NAS
Maturation: something something something New Zealand pinot noir casks
Limited bottling: of some sort
Bottling year: 2020
Alcohol by Volume: 50.7%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(thank you to Dr. Springbank for the sample)

At first the nose shows an odd mix of Vegemite, burnt raisins, nuts and roots, but after 15 minutes it opens up, bringing in notes of lime candy, honey, maple syrup and kiln. The palate starts even more awkwardly, smushing together very sweet and very herbal characteristics. This was a very sweet pinot noir. There's bitter smoke, blackberry jam, halvah, pepper and simple syrup. It finishes peppery, bitter, ashy and sweet. Reads a lot like Pedro Ximénez.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 3mL of water per 30mL whisky
Raspberries, smoke, orange peel on the nose, backed by hints of mint and ginger. The palate has become bitterer, nuttier, along with ginger, white chocolate and Robotussin. It finishes with smoke, nuts, ginger and sour cherries.

Ardbeg released the jumbled mashup Perpetuum to celebrate the distillery's 200th birthday. They released this Murray McDavid-ism for the committee's 20th anniversary. They released Galileo, period. Aside from the absence of logic involved, these releases make one wonder if there has been any experiment Ardbeg has not sent to the market. I'm going to say no.

Now, about the whisky. Lumsden and Co. have created a really fun nose on this. It's unlike anything I've sniffed before. But the palate, as with Grooves (and most of the special releases to be honest), is a scattered clashing mess that somehow worsens with water. I've had friends' infinity bottles that presented better composed palates. Blaaack's nose is so enjoyable that one can be willing to forgive its other parts but only to a point. Whisky is for drinking.

Availability - It's still around as of the date this post was written
Pricing - $150-$400 (not a typo)
Rating - 80 (pulled up by its nose)