Ardbeg 26 year old Cadenheads 1994 / 2020

Ardbeg 26 year old Cadenheads 1994 / 2020

Whisky: Ardbeg 26 year old Cadenheads 1994 / 2020

Region: Islay

ABV: 47.4%

Price: £420

Today’s dram is a 26 year old Ardbeg that’s spent it’s life in a bourbon hogsheads. These 1994 vintage Ardbegs are pretty sought after as the distillery was mothballed in 1981, and by 1994 was only operating at limited capacity.


The nose is very balanced with vanilla ice cream, cream soda, honey, sea salt and bonfire smoke. There’s also a touch of ethanol, but it’s very light.


There’s an initial hit of smoke. The smoke is followed by citrus notes, most prominently orange peel, some ginger, salt, melon, and a warming cinnamon. Medium finish with the smoke fading on the palate before black pepper takes over.

Nose (with water)

We’re getting more cream on the nose, Butter, caramel sundae, maple syrup and cinnamon.

Palate (with water)

Smoke and black pepper are now the more prominent notes. We’re also getting some chilli spice and tobacco. Sticking with it, the sweeter notes are still there just in the background. The mouth feel is a touch lacking, and this is now a little light.


This is smokier than expected, and we wonder if it is the particular cask or is it due to the production methods? We know in 1994, Ardbeg was being distilled by the team that was working at Laphroaig, and we wonder if they peated the barley to a higher level than Ardbeg is currently, or perhaps they took a slightly different cut? Either way it’s fascinating to try an Ardbeg this old. This is very good, and if you have no trouble dropping £400+ on a bottle this is definitely something we can recommend. We’re giving this a technical score of 9/10, but need to mention there’s a lot of options sub £400 to consider that are as enjoyable to drink.

Score: 9/10 

  • 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
  • 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
  • 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
  • 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
  • 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
  • 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
  • 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
  • 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
  • 2 - Pour it out
  • 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.

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