Ardbeg Smoketrails


Just one review today as we’re taking part in tonight’s Spey distillery #TweetTasting, but it’s another big release…

Ardbeg Smoketrails

Region: Islay

ABV: 46.0%

Price: £70.00 (1 litre bottle)

Smoketrails is the name for a new collection of single malts from Ardbeg which will be available exclusively from travel retail shops and the Ardbeg Distillery Visitor Centre.

Each edition — to be released in batches every year — will be a marriage of Ardbeg matured in American oak casks and Ardbeg matured in secondary casks sourced from around the world. The first release, Ardbeg Smoketrails Manzanilla Edition, marries whisky matured in American oak casks with whisky matured in Manzanilla Sherry casks from Sanlúcar de Barrameda on Spain’s Atlantic coast.

Nose

Tar, burnt oak, balsamic glaze, and smoke from burning newspapers. Going back to it and there’s peet reek, and char siu pork. There’s not a huge amount of ethanol and we find we can get our noses deep into the glass. Going back to it there’s lime rind, tobacco, salt, and costal sea air. It’s not bad, but we were expecting more sweetness.

Palate

We’re hit first by caramelised brown sugar, then red fruits in the form of pomegranate and cranberries, finally the spice appears in the form of cinnamon. There’s an ashy smoky note here, but it’s overpowered by the sweeter notes. Given the nose we were expecting more upfront smoke. Going back there’s more tar, followed by walnuts, and some prune juice. The mouthfeel is a touch thin, but still good for a 46% dram. Decent length finish with spice / sweetness and a little peat lingering. There's also a note of seawater and pretzels. We’re not getting much of the Manzanilla cask influence.

Nose (with water)

Smouldering log fire, and some gentle vanilla sweetness peaking out from behind. earth and tomato ketchup. Going back after time reveals some chocolate, vinegar, sulphur, dirt and more earth. The smoke has been diminished somewhat and we’re now getting very faint tobacco.

Palate (with water)

It’s more bitter with the addition of water, with dark chocolate and coffee that is now overshadowing the peat. It also seems hotter and spicier, with cinnamon, cloves and red chilli appearing on the mid palate. The smoky note of ash and burning log fires are sitting in the background. Going back there’s liquorice, and vanilla. Mouthfeel has thinned further, but the finish remains a good length.

Conclusion

Personally we wouldn’t add water to this, but even undiluted it’s far from our favourite Ardbeg release. It’s not as smoky as we’d like, it’s also missing some of the flavours / notes we enjoy from Ardbeg, and there’s nothing replacing these notes that we find overly enamouring. It’s also not as good as some of the core range releases and we’d recommend you skip this and buy Ugi instead.

Score:7/10

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  • 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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