We're wrapping up the week with two releases from Ardbeg.
Ardbeg BizarreBQ is a non age statement release that is vatting of double-charred oak casks, Pedro Ximénez sherry casks and the distillery’s unique BBQ casks that have been charred on an old-fashioned brazier.
We’re finding grilled pineapple, charred oak, fresh melon, a hint of mango and some grilled peaches too. It’s a lot fruiter on the nose than we expected. It’s not overly peaty, there’s some background smoke but it’s not dominating at all. Giving it some time and air reveals molasses, bonfire embers, kumquat, along with a mellow floral note towards the latter part of the nose. It’s a very sweet nose, we’re not getting too much of the meatiness that we were promised.
The palate opens up with cinder toffee, gammon, charred staves, pecans and a little strawberry, moving into quite a dry, oaky finish. There’s lots more peat on the palate compared with the nose, as well as a decent hit of black pepper spice too. The mouthfeel is decent, there’s a bit of texture here but we’d like it to be a bit more oily and viscous. Coming back to it and we’re finding lemon pepper seasoning, balsamic vinegar, cocoa beans and a little coca cola too.
Nose (with water)
Reduction brings out more ash, smoked nuts, candy corn, citrus and a maritime saltiness. The fresh and grilled fruits have disappeared leaving us with a bigger whack of peat and oak, alongside al little eucalyptus too. We’re still missing the BBQ meats we were promised…
Palate (with water)
Water brings out a lot more citrus on the palate, grilled lemon, apple cider vinegar, alongside cranberries and a little bit of white pepper too. There’s a comparable level of peat smoke to the undiluted palate, but water has thinned some of the initial punch it has and it becomes more of a lingering background note of ash and tar. The mouthfeel has also taken a bit of a hit with the reduction too.
An unexpectedly sweet, fruit forward nose and a slightly richer, charred palate is not what we were expecting with this dram, but is what we got. We weren’t getting a lot of those BBQ meats that we were promised, instead it was more like BBQ fruit instead. We really enjoyed the nose, but it falls slightly short on the palate for us, becoming a little bit too dry and peppery in places. Still we think it’s good whisky, so we’re giving it a 7/10.
It’s not terribly priced, although it’s still an NAS whisky at £75. We still prefer Uigeadail so would save our pennies on this one.
Ardbeg An Oa
An Oa is another NAS whisky. This time, the spirit was initially aged in PX sherry casks, virgin oak casks, and bourbon barrels before being married in a French oak marrying vat.
The nose opens with smoked honey, aniseed, flamed orange rind, roasted salted peanuts and a light vanilla sweetness all backed up with the stereotypical Ardbeg peat smoke. There’s a bready, yeastiness that appears, pine sap, dried leaves, kelp and tobacco. Even at 46%, there’s a pepperiness to the alcohol on the nose that’s a little sharp, but there’s big and bold aromas punching through so this becomes less of an issue as you continue to nose the dram.
The palate begins with charred meat, candied almonds, honey, cinnamon and preserved lemon. The mouthfeel is a touch disappointing, it’s just a bit too thin and watery for us. The finish lingers on for a reasonable while with tobacco leaves, marzipan, liquorice and roasted peanuts. Giving the dram some time and air reveals vanilla essence, toffee, a little dark chocolate and mellows out some of that initial smoke after just pouring. There’s also some wet pebbles and charred oak in here too.
Nose (with water)
Reduction brings out some more youthful aromas on the nose, cereals, wholewheat weetabix, with mellower smoke than before. We’re also getting more maritime aromas, wet rope, damp wood and Maldon sea salt. Some of those pepperier spice notes have been reduced though, and it’s a bit more of a harmonious nosing experience.
Palate (with water)
The reduced palate begins with zingy lemon, spun sugar, vanilla, moving into almond brittle and a bit of marzipan on the finish. It’s definitely moved to a more sweet/sour type of dram, however there’s still a nice backbone of earthy peat smoke here too. The mouthfeel and finish remain mostly the same, but we quite enjoy it with a splash of water, it seems to have opened it up somewhat.
A lovely nosing whisky that falls slightly short on the palate for us. There’s heaps of aromas and flavour in here, but overall the dram feels a little thin and perhaps a little too youthful. It’s not a bad whisky though, and for a core range release it can stand up there with some of the other Islay distilleries. We’ll go with 6/10.
It’s not too bad for a £50 Islay malt, but we’d probably stretch the extra £12 to pick up a bottle of Uigeadail instead.
- 10 - Perfection. One in a million
- 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
- 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
- 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
- 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
- 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
- 4 - Below average. Passable.
- 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
- 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
- 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.