Thursday, April 29, 2021


The first two drams: a battle of the tens!

April's club tasting was an eagerly awaited run through six drams from the classic Islay distillery of Ardbeg. Club chairman Adam, a big fan of the fruity, peaty spirit Ardbeg is known for, was on hand to take us through the line up.

And we started with a head to head between two versions of Ardbeg's core 10-year-old: a current bottling, and one from more than 15 years ago, having been bottled in 2005. Many of the club's membership are also lovers of the stuff and so it was no surprise the new one went down well. The newer one we thought was smoother, but the older one was certainly as strong, although different with a more brash and bold taste about it. There were mixed views on which was better, but after a vote it was the older one which edged by the cursed ratio of 52-48.

Airigh Nam Beist
We moved onto the Ardbeg Blasda next, a no age statement, lightly peated, 40% expression assumed to be a 12-year-old, and introduced back in 2008. With Ardbeg's famous Kildalton somewhat out of our price range, this was the best bottling along those lines we could reasonably stretch to instead. That Ardbeg fruitiness was there along with a bit of ash, as it was lightly peated right enough. There was a bit more smoke on the taste. Certainly much more delicate than a lot of Ardbegs, we felt this was probably not worth whatever you would pay for it these days on the secondary market. While an easy drinker, and something you could sit in the garden and drink in the summertime, some members felt this really wasn't what you'd actually go to Ardbeg for. Others thought it was a little bit something of nothing.

Onto something else which had been kicking around Adam's collection for a while, the now discontinued Airigh Nam Beist. This 46% was smooth and very long in terms of an aftertaste. A bit of sweetness and a lovely mouthfeel. Just about right in fact. We liked this a lot. We wouldn't pay whatever it's selling now for, but that says more about the secondary whisky market than the quality of this dram.  Ardbeg Drum was dram number five. A rum finish, this was a 46% bottling from 2019, with a recommended retail price of just under £100. There was not as much on the nose here, but the palate was quite a hit. Sweetish again but still very peated, the rum didn't quite stand up to the peat if anything.

We finished off with Grooves. A heavy char wine cask finish. We had high hopes for this but, after a strong evening, this was a touch underwhelming. The charring made it taste a little burnt if anything. Fine, but we wouldn't have paid the RRP of £97 for it. A dash of water improved things, though, made it intriguingly creamier.

And so the dram of the night was, to no great surprise, dram number four the Airigh Nam Beist. It got 23 votes from the membership, with the next best only scoring three! Just about the most overwhelming winner in whisky club history.

Thanks to everyone who came along for our latest Zoom tasting and, especially, to Adam for sharing his great knowledge of Ardbeg and - just as importantly - some of the bottles he has collected over the years.

Adam prepared a presentation to guide us through it.

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