Single malt whisky - tasting notes

17 Jun 2011

Ardbeg Alligator (Committee release)

Posted by: Ruben Luyten In: Ardbeg

Ardbeg CommitteeWell here it is, the long awaited Ardbeg Alligator. As you know, the name comes from the term “Alligator Charring” used in both bourbon and Scotch to describe the method of charring the inside of the (Virgin) oak casks before they are filled with spirit. The burnt wood staves are said to look like alligator’s scales.

 

Ardbeg AlligatorArdbeg Alligator (51,2%, OB 2011,
Committee release, around 10.000 btl.)

Nose: it shows all the power of Ardbeg 10, with charcoal, phenolic peat and smoke, but also added notes of cocoa, marzipan and sweet barbecue sauce. A little vanilla and burnt sugar. Herbs and liquorice. Nice balance of sweet and savoury notes. Definitely less lemon notes, this one is darker and warmer. I like it. With some water, the toffee / vanilla combo stands out, and some coastal notes show up. Mouth: medium weight and medium peat, more gentle than I’ve come to expect from Ardbeg lately. Lots of pepper and ginger. Some cardamom. Charcoal and vanilla. Brine. Liquorice again. Evolves around spices, but it remains a little youngish maybe. Finish: dry, tarry with coffee and chocolate, but shorter than expected.

A nice Ardbeg: darker, warmer and slightly sweeter than Ardbeg 10, with a “modern” wood influence. Not quite what I hoped for based on cask #1189 and #1190 but then again these casks had a different treatment. I like the result, but the complexity seems a little under par compared to some classic expressions.

Priced € 63 in the Ardbeg shop but sold out now. The public release is planned for September.

Score: 88/100

Ardbeg Alligator (Committee release) 4 Ruben Luyten 2011-06-17
  • Pentium

    Hello Ruben,

    according to Tims Website, the total outturn of this expression was 10.000 bottles (http://www.ardbegproject.com/alligator_ukcom.shtml).

    I agree with your notes, although I couldn’t find the notes of BBQ-sauce that everyone else seems to notice :).
    At the same time, the Alligator seems to be somewhat sharp on the palate (but it’s not the alcohol, rather it feels a bit like Talisker pepperiness) but with a slightly weakish body. For my taste, a little more punch in the middle would make all the difference. I also find the finish to be a bit short, as you do too.

    But apart from these points, which don’t really put me off, I like it very much. It reminds me of milder and rounder version of Uigeadail to some point, even if the casks besides the TEN are quite different. Some Supernova notes are also to be found. Very good whisky which MAY be improved by a bit more abv.

  • http://www.whiskynotes.be Ruben

    I’ll send you a sample of my BBQ sauce ;-) For me, it’s a very sweet note mixed with the charcoal.

    The Alligator profile could really have caused a 90+ score, but the slight weakness of the body, the big focus on pepper and other spices, and the short finish are indeed its weak points. Not sure if a higher ABV would solve this, I think it could be even more spicy and mono-dimensional.

  • Pentium

    “I’ll send you a sample of my BBQ sauce ;-)” We could arrange that ;).

    I’m not sure about the higher ABV, too. “I think it could be even more spicy and mono-dimensional.” You might be totally right here!
    Maybe it’s a bit young, although it is at least 10 years old, according to Dr. Bill. The addition of some older batches and/or some european oak might have solved the problem, at least to some point. But thats pure speculation, of course.
    Let’s see what the effect of bottle ageing does to this little croco.

    And please don’t get me wrong. I like it very much, but it could have been even more to my liking ;).

  • http://www.whiskynotes.be Ruben

    That’s exactly how I think of it as well: really good, but it has some flaws that I didn’t expect from Ardbeg (certainly the lack of punch and finish). Thanks for your comments, Pentium!

  • Pentium

    “Thanks for your comments, Pentium!” Pleasure, Ruben. Keep up your good work, I always love visiting your website!

  • Luca D’Anna

    Isn’t it good, even with the mentioned flaws, that Ardbeg steered from the “in-your-face” style towards a more complex and faceted one?

  • http://www.whiskynotes.be Ruben

    This is not in-your-face peat any more, but it’s surely in-your-face charred oak. One of the flaws for me is still the relatively low complexity.

  • Luca D’Anna

    Yeah, what I mean is they’ve left the “the peatier the better” path, now we can maybe expect something different…John Hansell has spoken about a still to come “son of alligator” in an interview…

  • Pentium

    Update after some weeks of bottle ageing:
    The nose has changed completely from smokey to bourbony. It actually smells like a good Bourbon with little but in no way dettering glue notes.
    On the palate, it is still a bit sharp, but way more full bodied and more rounded at the same time. Especially this change again showed me, that Ardbeg, more than any other Whisky I know, does improve significantly in the open bottle.
    And for the nose, I now fully understand why Dr. Bill decided to use only 1/3 fresh casks rather than 100% ;) (would a SSMW fully matured in a fresh white oak cask smell and taste like a Bourbon regardless of provenance, barley, peat, pot still, etc.? Hopefully not, but that might be an interesting topic for Mr. McEwan :)).

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WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.