Bought: Waitrose, 17th February 2018
84.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 390 member votes)
8/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
In September 2017 Ardbeg released the ‘An Oa’ named after a peninsular on the island of Islay. It’s the first bottle since 2009 to be added to the distillery’s core range, which include the Corryvreckan, Uigeadail and the ‘TEN’ 10yo. It may be yet another NAS (no age statement) from Ardbeg but at least it packs a punch at 46.6%. The An Oa is a vatting together of different cask types – ex-bourbon, Pedro Ximénez and virgin oak, so nothing especially unusual there. But you wouldn’t expect anything too experimental in the recipe when creating a regular release from the distillery.
It’s been 8 months since the launch of An Oa and reviews suggest it’s doing OK but just ‘OK’. Over 84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark but it’s lagging behind its core range family members. Their Whiskybase averages are:
- 88.5/100 – Corryvreckan (from 1735 votes)
- 89.19/100 – Uigeadail (from 2893 votes)
- 86.34/100 – ‘TEN’, 10-year-old (from 2922 votes)
Comments online about the An Oa include, “better than other standard editions right now but it is not great and rather average”, “truly epic whisky”, “unbalanced dram, PX and Virgin oak are fighting”, “I’ve been an Ardbeg lover for many years and this is a truly worthy addition to the family”.
The An Oa has its fans but at the same time there’s no guarantee that an existing Ardbeg fan will take to this youthful new upstart. On Master of Malt, where the An Oa scores 4/5 stars from 37 votes, the comments blow very hot and cold. Some people love it and others say it’s “barely drinkable”. It may cost more than the ‘TEN’ and score less than the 10yo in reviews but it’s still an Ardbeg so it will sell regardless of opinions.
Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Ardbeg ‘An Oa’ on YouTube (Oct 2017), which they score an impressive 8/10:
Bought: Ardbeg Shop, 26th March 2017
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
86.37/100 – Whiskybase (average from 193 member votes)
Ardbeg Day is here, and so too is my blog post about the Kelpie Committee Release. This is the second year I’ve been a committee member and endured the 8am bun fight in March to secure a bottle. At least this time the Ardbeg website didn’t go into meltdown. The March release shares the same name as the June release but it’s a higher strength and much more limited in numbers. Each year the price creeps up by a few pounds. This year I paid £89 but it quickly sells out and bottles instantly start making between £130-£140 at auction. Use this knowledge for future releases to tell your partner it’s an investment 😉 but privately you know you’ll be drinking it.
Here is how the previous four ‘Ardbeg Day’ committee releases have faired on Whiskybase:
- Dark Cove (2016) – 87.94/100 from 273 votes
- Perpetuum (2015) – 86.72/100 from 234 votes
- Auriverdes (2014) – 85.7/100 from 616 votes
- Ardbog (2013) – 87.36/100 from 738 votes
After the success of the Dark Cove last year I’m not surprised that the rating for the Kelpie has dipped. With 86.37/100 it’s currently 4th out of the last 5 releases but that’s still an excellent score. Comments left on Whiskybase about the Kelpie include “rather clean and certainly not bad, but there is nothing exciting about it”, “solid whisky, with some unpolished but pleasant smells and flavours” and “a big and unapologetic Ardbeg”.
Here’s Great Drams on YouTube with their thoughts about the Ardbeg Kelpie (May 2017):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 26th October 2016
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
86.9/100 – Whiskybase (from 609 member votes)
15,000 bottles of the Ardbeg ‘Galileo’ were released in June 2012 to make the distillery lots of money. Oh, and to commemorate some of the whisky going into space in 2011 for some zero gravity maturation. Reports of people floating about after drinking the Galileo have been greatly exaggerated.
Although 87.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Galileo as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying” it’s quite a low score from Jim Murray for an Ardbeg. He normally scores distillery bottlings over 90/100 with the more pocket-friendly 10yo getting 97/100 and the Uigeadail a staggering 97.5/100.
Having been matured in ex-marsala and ex-bourbon casks a few reviewers have been caught out by the sweetness in a negative way but they’re in the minority. Nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score with comments of “quite stunning”, “sweet Ardbeg, how nice, how unexpected!! A real stunner!” and “a good whisky, no doubt about this. At current prices, I would skip this one and fetch an Uigeadail instead.” Jim Murray would agree with that!
One reviewer concludes with “too bad that this has become one of those collectors’ items that generally stay closed forever.” Yes, you’ve got me there! I’d like to think I’ll drink the Galileo one day but if prices keep rising it’s very easy to move the bottle from my ‘collection’ to my ‘investment’ shelf. But if Donald Trump starts launching nuclear missiles I’ll drink the Galileo in a pint glass and hope it floats me off to Mars to avoid the fallout!
Here’s Mark Dermul on You Tube with his thoughts on the Ardbeg Galileo (Sept 2012):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 26th October 2016
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
87/100 – Malt Maniacs (from 12 maniac votes)
86.28/100 – Whiskybase (from 267 member votes)
When Ardbeg distillery reopened in 1997, production to create a new 10-year-old single malt began in earnest in 1998. This resulted in a 4-bottle series named ‘Very Young’ (2004, 6yo), ‘Still Young’ (2006, 8yo), ‘Almost There’ (2007, 9yo) and ‘Renaissance’ (2008, 10yo). Here are the scores for all 4 bottles from Whiskybase and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible:
Renaissance – 87.56/100 (from 354 votes), 92/100 – Whisky Bible
Almost There – 86.26/100 (from 267 votes), 93/100 – Whisky Bible
Still Young – 85.23/100 (from 259 votes), 93/100 – Whisky Bible
Very Young – 84.82/100 (from 159 votes), 91/100 – Whisky Bible
The scores grow with the age of the Ardbeg on Whiskybase (much as you’d expect) but Jim Murray feels the Renaissance loses a point to the younger 9yo and 8yo. He remarks about the ‘Almost There’ with “further proof that a whisky doesn’t have to reach double figures in age to enter the realms of brilliance”. Nevertheless the scores for all 4 bottlings are excellent and scoring over 86/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic mark.
Now I have the ‘Almost There’ will I get the other 3 bottles in the series? Probably not, mostly because the ‘Very Young’ goes for £250+ at auction. As much as I love collecting whisky my spending has limits. I enjoy drinking Ardbeg and the standard 10yo (£40) scores 86.5/100 on Whiskybase, which is nearly 2 points more than the ‘Very Young’. But there’s no denying that bottles such as the ‘Almost There’ are a good investment if the worldwide interest in whisky continues to grow.
Here’s ‘The Whisky Snob’ on You Tube, August 2016 with his review of the Ardbeg ‘Almost There’. Ignore the fact he says it’s a 10yo released in 2008, it’s a 9yo released in 2007 (he was obviously think of the Renaissance).
Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016
96/100 – Whisky Bible 2011
8.5/100 – Jo from Whisky Wednesday (video below)
84.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)
Big Peat first appeared in the Whisky Bible in 2011 with a fantastic score of 96/100. In the latest edition batch 30 scores 92/100 and batch 31 scores 90.5/100, which means quality has slipped a little (according to the author) but not by much. Unfortunately my 20cl bottle doesn’t have a batch number on it but according to Whiskybase this quarter bottle first appeared in 2009. I’m hoping my version dates back to that time and the epic 96/100. The author concludes with “had the Caol Ila been reduces slightly, and with it the oils, this might well have been World Whisky of the Year”. Praise indeed.
Big Peat is a vatting together of Islay single malts. Douglas Laing who make Big Peat describe it as “Caol Ila spirit bringing sweetness, Bowmore the perfect balance, Ardbeg the medicinal, earthy quality and Port Ellen, a degree of elegance”. But as the price of Port Ellen rises you have to think there’s very little going into the Big Peat mix. I bet I won’t be able to identify it. Nevertheless Big Peat is a classic of its time and a dram that every whisky enthusiast should try eventually.
20cl tasting notes provided on Whiskybase:
Nose: Earthy, mossy and briney. That smoked kipper quality. Some ripe fruits lurk.
Taste: The smoke coats and fills the mouth. A decent oak roasted salmon oiliness. Leaves a little salt as well.
Finish: Long with plenty of smoke and sweet honey.
Here’s Jo from Whisky Wednesday with his review on You Tube (June 2015):
Posted in Big Peat
Tagged 20cl, 46%, Ardbeg, Big Peat, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Douglas Laing & Co Ltd, Islay, Master of Malt, NAS, Port Ellen, Port Ellen (closed 1983), Vatted Malt
Bought: Ardbeg Online Shop, 17th March 2016
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
88.28/100 – Whiskybase (average from 413 member votes)
88/100 – Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com
My first purchase from Ardbeg since becoming a committee member (which is free via their website) and I appear to have bagged a good one! When I bought the Perpetuum release last year and checked the ratings on Whiskybase against previous Islay festival releases it became apparent that the trend was downwards. Ardbog (2013) had scored less than Day (2012), Auriverdes (2014) had scored less than Ardbog, and Perpetuum (2015) had scored less than Auriverdes. The downward trend was rather worrying but Dark Cove has bounced back and ranks almost as highly as the Day.
Comments on Whiskybase include “a rather rich, spicy, oaky and maritime Ardbeg, intense, with some burnt wood but tasting also rather young.” And “an excellent nose and taste that this new Ardbeg is able to provide. Ardbeg proves that NAS can be brilliant and also so much different than the other bottles the last 5 years.”
90.5/100 in the Whisky Bible 2017 classifies this Ardbeg as “brilliant”. The 46% general release version of the Dark Cove scores a respectable 86/100. The author summaries the ‘Committee Release’ with “big sherry and bigger peat always struggle somewhere along the line. This one does pretty well until we reach the finale when it unravels slightly. But sulphur-free. And challenging.”
Here’s the Whiskey Bitch with her review on You Tube (June 2016):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 11th March 2016
97/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89.2/100 – Whiskybase (average from 117 member votes)
95/100 – Whisky Bitch (her YouTube video below)
I didn’t join the Ardbeg committee (which is free via their website) until after the Supernova 2015 came out so sadly I had to pay a bit more for this bottle at auction. Not only is this meant to be the 5th and final release of the legendary Supernova but according to reviews on Whiskybase, this is the best version of the 5. It’s also a ‘must try’ whisky for anyone who wants to experience all that’s great in the world of peated single malts. If the Macallan 18yo is the Rolls Royce of whisky then the Ardbeg Supernova is the Hummer limousine – big, beefy and adds a touch of luxury to any night.
The first release of Supernova came out in 2008 but Jim Murray didn’t start his Whisky Bible reviews until the second version appeared in 2009. His scores in release order are:
- 97/100 – 2nd Supernova (2009)
- 93.5/100 – 3rd Supernova (2010)
- 96.5/100 – 4th Supernova (2014)
- 97/100 – 5th Supernova (2015)
So the 2nd and 5th rank the same in Mr Murray’s opinion, which classifies them as “superstar whiskies that give us all a reason to live”. He says of the 2015’s taste, “a consuming delivery: frisky, smoky, sugary, ashy, playful, stern…and naturally, as Ardbeg will, amid all the enormity, comes the counterpoint of delicate citrus.” And summarises with, “in many ways an essay in balance. This is a huge beast of a malt with seemingly insurmountable peat…until it encourages, then allows you to climb up its back. Magnificent.”
Scores on Whiskybase put the 5 versions of Supernova in the following order of brilliance:
- 89.2/100 – 5th Supernova (2015)
- 89.1/100 – 3rd Supernova (2010)
- 88.9/100 – 1st Supernova (2008)
- 88.7/100 – 2nd Supernova (2009)
- 88.5/100 – 4th Supernova (2014)
Here’s the Whisky Bitch’s review from April 2016:
Posted in Ardbeg
Tagged 54.3%, 5th Release, 75cl, Ardbeg, Committee Release, Islay, NAS, Online Whisky Auction, Single Malt, SN2015, Supernova
Bought: Whiskysite, Holland, 26th October 2015
78.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
87.22/100 – Whiskybase (average from 599 member votes)
94/100 – Whisky Bitch (her review on You Tube here)
When I blogged about the Ardbeg Perpetuum 2015 release in October I was musing over the possibility of getting the Ardbog 2013. One Ardbeg Day release deserves another! What was putting me off was Jim Murray’s review in his Whisky Bible where he says of the Ardbog “the best advice one can give about bogs is to avoid them.” 78.5/100 classifies the Ardbog in the bible as “average and usually pleasant but sometimes flawed”. Sadly Mr Murray doesn’t say what he thinks the flaw might be. Perhaps he doesn’t know! Perhaps he picked up the bottle and dropped it on his foot and decided to damn the ‘Bog in perpetuity. Normally Jim Murray scores Ardbeg distillery releases in the 90s but thankfully Ardbog is spared his lowest score which goes to the 2011 Islay Festival release, tagging a lowly 67/100.
But wait a minute, I’m a collector, so what does one person’s opinion matter? Well, if the Ardbog were to be damned by everyone who drank it then this would be remembered in 10-20 years time when I decided to sell my bottle. Thankfully this isn’t the case. Over 87/100 on Whiskybase from nearly 600 member votes is excellent and the Whisky Bitch clearly loves the Ardbog with a heady 94/100. I can find lots of examples where Jim Murray scores whiskies higher than the Ardbog that other reviewers score lower. It does rather make a mockery of any form of whisky scoring. I give the Ardbog 976.3/1000 and I’ve not even tasted it yet! 🙂
For a good review of the Ardbog, here’s the legendary Toshman, Mark Dermul:
Posted in Ardbeg
Tagged 10yo, 52.1%, 70cl, Ardbeg, Ardbeg Day, Ardbog, Cask Strength, Fèis Ìle, Holland, Islay, Single Malt, Whiskysite
Bought: The Wee Dram, 13th October 2015
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
85.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 184 member votes)
The ‘Kildalton’ was originally an experimental lower peated whisky produced at Ardbeg between 1979 and 1981 before the distillery halted all production that year. A cask strength version of Kildalton was released in 2004 (from 1980 stock) and a limited edition appeared in 2005 (from 1981 stock). The bottle I have is from 2013 but sadly it’s not from whisky distilled over 30 years ago. I suppose if it was it would be £1,000 knowing what Ardbeg prices are like.
The 2004 release of the Kildalton was quite iconic. It scored 96/100 in the Whisky Bible and breaks 90/100 on Whiskybase from 76 member votes. Bottles can still be found at auction but usually cost over £500. Thankfully the 2013 release is a good bit cheaper, with a bottle selling for £125 at an auction in November 2015. I believe the original price direct from Ardbeg in 2013 was £120.
Jim Murray scores this Kildalton 94/100 in his Whisky Bible, which classifies it as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. He says about the taste “unusually thin first few moments on the palate and takes a while for the smoke, accompanied by the thin layer of plum jam, to make an impact. When it arrives; it stays….” He concludes with “youthful and lightly smoked” and “the most subtle of Ardbegs, which whispers its beauty, though quite audibly.”
Nearly 86/100 on Whiskybase is definitely an excellent score but experienced dramsters such as Serge Valentin say they prefer the 10yo. This Kildalton is likely to be younger than 10 years but is the same 46% as the 10yo, which only costs £40. But the Kildalton 2013 release was for charity, which forgives the price tag in some way. Whisky expert and taster Horst Luening discusses the Kildalton in his video below:
Bought: Online Auction, 9th October 2015
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
80.66/100 – Whiskybase (average from 432 member votes)
This Ardbeg was released in 2008 and has been discontinued for quite some time. If you found this blog post in a search you’re probably considering buying the Blasda at auction where bottles can be regularly found going for under £100. Don’t be tempted by places like The Whisky Barrel who are currently selling it for £300! Auctions are a lot more fun.
90.5/100 from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible classifies the Blasda as “brilliant” but he does wish it were 46% rather than 40%. He says of the taste “sharp barley hits home to almost mouth-watering effect; again there is the pathetic hint of something smoky [as in the nose] but it does the trick and adds just the right ballast.” He summarises with “a beautiful, if slightly underpowered malt, that shows Ardbeg’s naked self to glowing effect.” And closes with “something to genuinely make the heart flutter.”
80.66/100 on Whiskybase isn’t a brilliant score. It seems the Blasda was a little too different for some Ardbeg traditionalists but there are some positive comments such as “this is quite an interesting and challenging dram. It takes some serious attention to extract the somewhat shy flavours and aroma’s of this whisky” and “perfectly balanced, but light, sweet and delicious”.
One Whiskybase member describes the Blasda as an “interesting experience” which is certainly its strongest feature when you consider the quality of the 10yo, Uigeadail and Corryvreckan. The Blasda isn’t better as such, just different, and for some Ardbeg fans or whisky hunters, that’s all that matters.