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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Single Malt Report: Ardbeg Ardbog

After the Day special release, Ardbeg belched out Ardbeg Galileo. That's when the seeds of doubt started to slip in. The odd marketing manure was offputting, and the whisky was worse. Then Ardbeg Ardbog came out. By that point, I was ignoring their marketing emails and tales. I just wanted to try the whisky. But the company thought a Los Angeles-area visit was unnecessary for Ardbeg Day. There really aren't a lot of drinkers in LA, nor vacuous spendy showoffs, nor irresponsible fools. As Spinal Tap's manager said about Boston, it's not a big college town.

I can thank Andy Smith and Peatin' Meetin' 2013 for a chance to drink Ardbog. Later on, I had more opportunities to try again and again, as friends shared their bottles over time. My reaction remained the same as it was during the Meetin': Pretty good actually, just not $100 good.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Ownership: Glenmorangie Plc (owned by LVMH)
Type: Single Malt
Region: Islay
Product: Ardbog
Age: allegedly 10 years old
Maturation: 60% ex-bourbon casks and 40% ex-manzanilla sherry butts
Limited bottling: 13,000
Bottling year: 2013
Alcohol by Volume: 52.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(Thanks to Whisky Brett P. for most of the samples this week!!!)

It's the color of brass in a dark room. I don't know. It's gold-ish? There's a light tar note on the nose, along with prunes, black raisins and ginger beer. A sticky jammy note that rings more PX than manzanilla. Barbecue sauce and walnuts. Oddly, an old bourbon note sits right in the middle. Old American oak, maybe? The palate is sherried, inky and tarry. Some sweet berry compote and mint jelly. There's a little bit of dryness around the edges: oak tannins? Some of the compote remains through the finish, though it's less sweet than the palate. Zesty tart lemons and fresh ginger.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Black licorice, pruney sherry, wool, walnuts and faint wood smoke on the nose. The palate is smokier and more acidic, with a tingly bitterness. Almond paste and black raisins. The finish is bitterer, with mild peat, menthol and prunes.

I was expecting my opinion to have changed. I was expecting to like Ardbog more. It's still just fine, which is technically less than "pretty good actually".

The bourbon note threw me off. Was my sniffer out of whack? Luckily Mr. Whiskyfun found something similar: vanilla, sawdust and new active oak. I don't mind it. In fact it gives the nose an additional layer. But nothing else really stands out. I would have preferred drier manzanilla-esque sherry than the stuff that actually showed. Overall, the whisky is fine. I'd recommend the regular range over Ardbog.

Availability - several dozen retailers in the US and Europe; the secondary market
Pricing - $100-$300
Rating - 84