This 20 year-old Ardbeg (distilled February 1991) was bottled by Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero in Ostend (owned by Lindores member Geert Bero and the location for the Lindores Whisky Fest). Anyone can try it in the hotel bar, but you can only buy a bottle when you are sleeping at the hotel.
It was presented at the Lindores Whisky Fest last weekend and I heard some discussions about the price. Many people wondered how a 20 year-old whisky could be worth € 225, but remember sherried Ardbegs are thinly scattered. Douglas Laing released a 1991 refill cask earlier this year and that was rather scandalously priced at € 450. So yes, it is expensive but relatively cheap at the same time. Ardbeg is not selling casks to independent bottlers any more, so I’m afraid the times of affordable medium-aged sherry cask Ardbegs are now officially over!
Ardbeg 20 yo 1991 (48,4%, Malts of Scotland for Hotel Bero 2011, sherry hogshead #MoS 11003, 240 btl.)
Nose: balanced nose with excellent notes of old ashes and tar on the one hand and rounded, chocolaty notes on the other hand. Sweet almonds and rhubarb compote. Figs. Lovely tobacco leaves. Old leather. Relatively soft iodine and hints of camphor. Complex, not extremely big (which is a good thing – it’s not over-sherried nor over-peated) and quite brilliant.
Mouth: starts rich and oily with sweet peat smoke. Again some almonds, now mixed with dried fruits and lemon drops. Some herbal notes. The smoke grows stronger, the soft tar shows up again. No brute forces here, it’s all about integrating the different flavours.
Finish: long on dried fruits and smoke with a softly coastal edge.
The sherry complements the whisky very well, and the harmonious qualities might actually justify the price in my opinion. Available at the Hotel Bero for € 225.