The last time I reviewed a recent official bottling from Ardbeg distillery is almost two years ago. Traigh Bhan definitely convinced me, but the rest of the releases often seem gimmicky to me, choosing marketing stories over substance. You pay extra for a whisky with one slightly deviant element, often an uncommon cask type.
Now Ardbeg Scorch crossed my path. It was the Ardbeg Day 2021 release and it follows the same marketing recipe. According to the distillery, the name refers to the fiercely charred ex-bourbon casks which held this whisky (similar to Ardbeg Alligator then?). There’s no age statement and a fairly standard 46% ABV.
Ardbeg Scorch (46%, OB 2021)
Nose: the smoky notes are indeed quite deep and sooty, with glowing charcoal and hints of roasted hazelnuts. However a fragrant touch (in between fresh herbs and pine refreshener) seems to wipe out some of the smokiness. Then lemon peel and vanilla. There’s a hint of banana chocolate and sweet peach too. Quite nice, although it comes out thinner than I was hoping.
Mouth: the burnt wood theme continues, also adding a slightly acrid touch of scorched sage with a drops of herbal bitters. Iodine and sea shells. The bitter edge is quickly balanced by caramel sweetness, cinnamon, aniseed and some nutty notes. While there was a fruity element on the nose, it doesn’t appear in the mouth. Vanilla and wood spice towards the end.
Finish: long, with cigarette ashes, tarry notes, black peppercorns and rubber.
I think the nose sets good expectations, but they aren’t met on the palate where it becomes slightly blunt and coarse. Complexity isn’t high, and while it has a deeply smoky layer, it also suffers from a thin center. Sold out of course.