Dram Club 1.1 - Ardbeg Fermutation


Todays review is the newest Ardbeg Committee release, Fermutation. It’s also one of our dram club bottles this month. There’s still a few samples available if you’d like to grab one. These are currently just our thoughts, but we’ll be updating the page in the coming weeks with thoughts from everyone who joined the dram club.

Ardbeg Fermutation Committee Release

Region: Islay

ABV: 49.9%

Price: £150 RRP (Auction £250)

If your unaware, Fermutation is an interesting experiment/accident from Ardbeg. In 2007, just before Christmas, the boiler at the distillery broke down. This meant the wash couldn't be distilled after its normal 72 hour fermentation. Dr. Bill Lumsden (Ardbeg’s Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation) who had been wanting to experiment with longer fermentations decided to have the washback lids opened exposing the contents to the Islay air. It took three weeks to fix the boiler, and the wash was left to Ferment for the entire time.

This three week fermentation is by far the longest in Ardbeg history. To give this some context a fermentation period of 50 to 60 hours would be considered short and a 60 to 75 hour fermentation period would be average, while 75 to 120 hours is usually considered a long fermentation.

After distillation the spirit was placed in a mixture of first and refill bourbon casks where it was left for 13 years.

Nose

Initially on opening the bottle we’re finding the nose is very fruity and zesty. We’re also getting some raisins, no actually make that prunes. It’s not initially what we’d usually expect from Ardbeg. However, going back to it after a little air we find some herbal notes that remind us of Ardbeg. We’ll described it as basil and thyme. There’s also a yeast/musty/hoppy note and some salted caramel. Very light smoke here that seems to appear and disappear as you keep nosing it.

Palate

This has a sweet palate with orange peel, lemon custard cream biscuits, cardamon, a floral note that’s hard to place and a little benedictine herbal liqueur. Like the nose the smoke again is very light and comes across as an ashiness. This has good mouthfeel for its 49.4%. Similarly it’s got a good long finish with the sweeter notes and ash lingering forever. Really pleasant balance of peat and sweetness on this.

Nose (with water)

On the reduced nose we’re finding the musty notes are coming to the forefront. We’re also getting some milk, haddock and a mintiness that we’ll say is peppermint. With water the smoke has become tobacco.

Palate (with water)

With water we’re getting more of the sweeter and floral notes on the palate. The smoke is more restrained and like the nose comes across more as tobacco than ash. The bourbon cask influence is more obvious now coming through as vanilla essence. There’s a burnt herb note on the finish that means we prefer this without water.

Conclusion

Now we always discuss price, and there’s no doubt this is expensive compared to to some of the previous committee releases, but we’ll give them so leeway here given producing something like this would be more expensive than usual based on the fermentation period. It’s a good dram, it’s not as peated as some of the previous committee releases, but it’s got a good balance of peat and sweetness which we really enjoyed. It’s an easy 8/10.

Now can we have a return to the £100 price point of future committee releases please?

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.

  1. Ardbeg Scorch Committee Release
  2. Ardbeg Fermutation Committee Release
  3. Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release
  4. Ardbeg Kelpie Committee Release
  5. Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg! Committee Release

    Score: 8/10

    • 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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