It's fast approaching Fèis Ìle 2022 which means another limited edition Ardbeg bottling, and we've got an older committee release to review alongside it.
Ardbeg Ardcore Committee Release
Ardbeg Ardcore was released to celebrate Ardbeg Day 2022 and Fèis Ìle. It’s an non age statement release that distilled from roasted black malted barley.
Its nutty, peanut, maybe even peanut satay. The peat smoke is there, but it’s quite held back and shows as an earthy smoke. There’s some spices here that remind us of a garam masala, quite savoury but with an underlying butteriness. Going back we’re getting meat, roasted pork with a caramelised maple glaze, tree sap and dark chocolate. We wouldn’t initially have identified it as an Ardbeg.
Lightly roasted coffee beans, as well as freshly frothed milk. We’re getting more of the chocolate notes, it’s like a mocha with a punchy alcohol hit. The smoke isn’t really showing too much on the palate, it’s there but the earthy, roasted flavours are really taking over. However, the mouthfeel is a little thin and the finish is a little short. Saying that, it’s incredibly drinkable and we keep going back for another sip. Giving it a little time and air, we’re getting some more of the dark chocolate, as well as a touch of sour plums and charred barrels.
Nose (with water)
With water the roasted meats have come to the forefront, it’s like a BBQ over a bonfire on the beach. There’s a salinity that’s appeared, salt baked fish with some fresh lemon and parsley stems. The nuttiness is still there, more of the peanuts and hazelnuts.
Palate (with water)
There’s barley sugars, pink peppercorns, pickled ginger following on to the chocolate and roasted coffee notes we got pre-dilution. The mouthfeel is a little better now, more viscous and mouth coating. The finish is also a little longer, bringing more sweet vanilla and peat with it.
It’s really, really drinkable. It doesn’t scream Ardbeg to us, but that’s not to say it’s a bad whisky. It’s not as complex as other drams out there, but the roasted coffee, nuts and chocolate make it interesting for an Islay whisky. We’d avoid water, even though it makes the mouthfeel and finish a little better, the tradeoff in other flavours/aromas isn’t worth it for us.
Ardbeg Drum Committee Release
Ardbeg Drum was released for Ardbeg day 2019 and was initially matured in ex bourbon casks before a finishing period in rum casks.
Initially there’s some smoky bacon crisps, sweet caramel syrup, and black pepper. Sticking our nose in this again and we’re getting some dunnage warehouse funk, a little tropical fruit, and smoke from a fire that’s just been smothered by dirt.
On first taste there’s some foam bananas, cloves, ginger and a herbal / earthy smoke. This is smooth and easy drinking without much of an alcohol bite although it’s maybe a touch thin on the palate. It has a reasonable length finish with a little peppery spice lingering along with a little sweetness and some peat.
Nose (with water)
With water there's more treacle and caramel notes on the nose, along with it the musty warehouse funkiness is more prominent. The smoke comes across as ash that’s been left in an ashtray for a few week. The tropical fruits are gone and it’s hard to identify that it's ever been near a rum cask.
Palate (with water)
With water the sweetness remains, but now shows more bourbon influence via a hint of honey and butterscotch.. It’s still very smooth the smoke has mostly disappeared. Oddly we’re also getting a touch of ethanol, slight floral notes of musk and lavender. Personally we wouldn’t add water. Finish remains medium length.
This split the group with opinions of it all over the place... some really loved it and would pay current auction prices while others felt it was pretty disappointing. We’ll split the difference and say it is / was worth a purchase at RRP.
We’ve reviewed a fair few of the committee releases now and because our scale takes in price you’ll find several of these have been given the same score. If you’re interested the below is a list of the bottles in order of preference ignoring price.
- Ardbeg Scorch Committee Release
- Ardbeg Fermutation Committee Release
- Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release
- Ardbeg Drum Committee Release
- Ardbeg Ardcore Committee Release
- Ardbeg Kelpie Committee Release
- Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg! Committee Release
- 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.