As a yearly tradition, Ardbeg releases a new limited expression for Ardbeg Day. This year, the result is Ardbeg Auriverdes.Its name is inspired by Brazil: Auri means golden (the liquid) and verde is green (the bottle). I really, really don’t care for these kind of half-baked marketing tricks – come on, Ardbeg tied in with a World Cup – why?
Ardbeg Auriverdes is a ‘designer whisky’. It has been distilled in 2002 and matured in second fill American oak casks, with custom toasted lids. Ardbeg has done some pretty successful experiments with toasted oak before (think of Ardbeg 1998 cask 1189 and cask 1190). In this case one cask head was toasted lightly (to invoke vanilla flavours) and the other one more dark (to invoke mocha).
You could buy Ardbeg Auriverdes at one of the Ardbeg embassies, but you’ll have a hard time chasing it now.
(49,9%, OB 2014, 6660 btl.)
Nose: Ardbeg alright. Typical iodine, peat and a pickled green pepper / mustard sharpness. Burnt toast and tarry ropes. Smoked fish. Soft citrus. Hints of coffee, although I’m not getting the big emphasis on mocha aromas that Ardbeg is promoting. Peppery notes. A tire shop. Chalky notes. Also a roundness – I wouldn’t call it fruity but there are estery notes and vanilla nonetheless. Complex and balanced. Mouth: starts with a slight sweetness (sweet bacon) before it turns to big smoke and lots of medicinal notes. Also faint bitter notes: grapefruit zest, roasted coffee beans. A little more narrow than the nose. The mocha does come out in the aftertaste. Mouth: really long, sooty, with some dark chocolate and a pronounced oakiness.
Great nose, with maybe a little too much sharpness on the palate to be entirely stunning, but it’s way better than what I expected from what’s essentially a result of clever marketing. One of the best modern Ardbegs in my opinion. Around € 100.
Nose: again a rounder version, with tangerines, lemon liqueur and honey. Light vanilla (orange cake) and almonds. Grassy notes in the margin, a few mineral touches and metal polish. Mouth: oranges again, then darker notes (toffee, caramel), moving towards burnt toast. Maybe peat? Candied ginger as well. Pear jelly beans. And back to more austere notes, rooty notes and zesty grapefruit. Interesting combination. Finish: medium long, partly sweet, partly zesty, with a decent amount of herbs and some cold ashes.
An entertaining Glen Garioch again, I’m quite convinced by this mix of different elements. Around € 115.
Nose: a rather rounder version than other 1991 casks I could try. Buttercups, honey and vanilla. Some coconut cream. Nice oranges and pineapple. Marzipan. Soft herbs in the background. A faint hint of metal polish as well, which works nicely on the fruity backbone. Maybe a hint of eucalyptus. Mouth: much spicier now (pepper, nutmeg), with more (green) oak. Less exotic fruits – just apple now. Becomes more earthy and zesty, with bittersweet elements. Finish: medium long, still bittersweet with some briny echoes.
The Glen Gariochs from these years can be quite austere, but this one strikes a good balance and adds a nice fruitiness. Around € 110.
Nose: very fruity, with melon and papaya, and hints of icing sugar. Sweet apple, tangerine and peach. A bourbonny hint of oak. Orange peel. Marzipan. It’s not all sweetness, it’s balanced by soft grassy notes. Mouth: sweet and creamy. Still some citrus but the fruitiness is less pronounced. It shows more of a custard sweetness. Cinnamon and marzipan. Zesty notes (grapefruit bitterness) and ginger towards the end. Finish: medium long, with light oak, coconut oil and touches of white pepper.
A fairly classic, no-nonsense Speysider, with a creamy bourbon oak influence and a nice fruitiness on the nose. Around € 85 (fair price I’d say), available from the Whiskybase shop.
Another new release from the Mollusc and Medusa series byThe Whisky Agency. This bottle holds a 33 years old blended malt, with all components distilled in 1980. Interesting.
Blended Malt 33 yo 1980 (45,8%, The Whisky Agency 2014, refill butt, 636 btl.)
Nose: sweet and sour fruitiness. Inviting red berries and stewed fruits. Sour oranges and plums. Williams pears. Soft floral notes and hints of vanilla cake. Faint tobacco as well as a little green tea. Mouth: a similar kind of fruitiness, fruit teas, this time mixed with more woody notes. Mint and soft sherry notes. Oranges. Ginger and cardamom. Hints of toasted cookies. Finish: quite long, rather fresh and honeyed. Sourish oak in the end.
Well-rounded and smooth, with characteristics of different distilleries. Some oak is present but within limits. Nonetheless I seemed to expect a little extra. Around € 190.
Jura Tastival was created for the Jura Whisky Festival 2014. They followed an interesting recipe. After an initial maturation in ex-bourbon American oak barrels, no less than six varieties of French oak were used to finish it (oak produced in the regions of Jupilles, Bertanges, Limousin, Tronçais, Allier and Vosges). Kind of a terroir study in French oak.
It’s a limited edition of 3000 bottles. I suppose the majority will have been sold at the festival, but some have started to arrive in stores across Europe.
Isle of Jura Tastival (44%, OB 2014, French oak finish, 3000 btl.)
Nose: I really like this. There’s lots of red apple and baked banana, as well as almond paste / marzipan and toffee sweetness. Ginger and oak. Banoffee pie. A subtle smokiness is found in lacquered bacon, with hints of salty roast beef. Subtle herbal notes. Nice balance of sweet and savoury notes. Mouth: very sweet again. Stewed fruits. Some nuts and caramel notes. Oranges. Evolves to more savoury notes like liquorice and ginger. After that, a wave of nice roasted notes (coffee, biscuits) and mocha butter cream comes out. Finish: long, sweet and herbal, with some wood influence.
When I read the recipe, I was a little skeptical. The end result is original and uncommon to say the least, but I like it very much. I hope something like this will be part of the core range some day. Around € 100.
Mollusc and Medusa, that’s the name of the latest series from The Whisky Agency. As always, the labels are bold, colourful and classy.
One of the bottlings is a Bowmore 2002. The other releases include a BenRiach 1991, Bunnahabhain 1987, Glenturret 1977 and a Blended Malt 1980.
Bowmore 12 yo 2002 (53,2%, The Whisky Agency 2014, refill hogshead, 348 btl.)
Nose: clean, smoky but also a tad fruity. Apples and blood orange, tinned pineapple, youngish pear, maybe litchi and a bit of honey sweetness. The peat smoke sits below, or in between, these fruits. Of course a sea breeze and minerals as well. Mouth: oily, much more phenolic and ashy, with a sweet and spicy side that reminds us of gingerbread. Candy sugar and citrus. Sweet grapefruit and peach. Pepper, some liquorice and heather. Finish: long, smoky, with some herbal and buttery notes now.
A sweet, fruity Bowmore, still youngish but nicely balanced with the peat smoke already. One of the more affordable bottles in this batch. Around € 85.
This Port Ellen 1983 is one of the new releases from Maltbarn, presented at The Whisky Fair in Limburg, yet it was bottled back in 2012.
Port Ellen is virtually impossible to get these days, especially for independent bottlers. Maybe this was a leftover or ‘lost stock’, or maybe Martin Diekmann already bought them some time ago and decided to wait a while before bringing them to the market.
Port Ellen 29 yo 1983 (52%, Maltbarn 2012, bourbon cask, 86 btl.)
Nose: very pure, with classic notes of linseed oil and walnuts. Tarry ropes, wet stones, a bit of soot, tar and charcoal. Hints of camphor. A nose that stays on the mineral / coastal side – no loud vanilla or sweetness here, although there is definitely an almond and citrus roundness after a while. Unfolds nicely – not immensely complex, but rather perfectly on target. Mouth: definitely more sweetness now. Sweet peat, creamy lemon and almond oil. Cocoa and a vague fruitiness. A little ginger with briny notes. Fades on white pepper and ashes, with a soft herbal bitterness. Finish: long, still quite balanced. Salty almonds and ashes.
An excellent Port Ellen. On the nose it seemed to be too mineral / rough for my preferences, but it gains balance over time and comes out quite wonderfully. Really nice but expensive: around € 600.
I guess this could be something we’re going to see more often in the future: intentional delaying (not to say speculation) among bottlers, especially for rare distilleries. If you don’t need the cash right away, then you might as well bottle a cask and keep the bottles behind to release them at a later point, at a higher price. At the time of bottling, merely two years ago, this would have been sold for around € 250.