Every year on Ardbeg Day, June 2nd, since 2012, Ardbeg has released a special bottle as part of the festivities, following on the heels of their previous Committee bottlings. This was to extend Ardbeg's Open Day, as part of the Fèis Ìle festival, worldwide. Galileo was released in 2012 as a second limited edition whisky alongside the eponymous Day.
This whisky is composed of 1999 vintage casks that used to contain either bourbon or sweet marsala. It was bottled at a decent, but not too hefty, 49% ABV.
Thanks to Michael Kravitz for the sample.
Nose: cheap apple juice, dry peat dust, round wine notes, mixed vegetables, dry malt, vanilla, bourbon cask caramel, floral/ester-y, berries. After adding a few drops of water, there is a shift towards the lighter floral/ester/vanilla notes, with a decrease in peat and wine, and a bit of chocolate comes out.
Taste: apple up front, sweet cream of wheat dominates throughout, very mild wine cask notes (growing a bit with time), peat barely makes itself known, a fair amount of alcohol heat, and oak tannins - the combination of which seems to hit me the wrong way. After dilution, the sweetness is significantly ramped up, the ex-bourbon casks make themselves known at the beginning and end, and the marsala gets a bump in the middle, while the peat fades almost to oblivion.
Finish: creamy grain sweetness, a bit of marsala, a touch of peat
Overall, this feels like Bill Lumsden poked around through Ardbeg's warehouses, found a number of casks that had aged just to the point where the new make notes had faded, slapped them in ex-marsala casks for a bit, then called it good. While not precisely bad (though the finish is kind of off-putting), there's nothing inspiring about this whisky that makes me think it deserves to be a special release with the associated price tag. No wonder there are still so many bottles left on shelves.
Unlike Ardbeg Day and even Ardbog, there seems to be little to this one other than a hyped-up story. What do marsala casks have to do with space? If the idea was to commemorate the aging process, why not keep it simple and do a 100% ex-bourbon release, some sort of hyper-10 Year? I'm guessing whatever wood got sent up wasn't some kind of fancy wine finish, so why go that route other than force of habit?
I think everyone would be a lot happier if they just went through the warehouse, pulled out some nicer casks, and put them together. No need to get fancy, just deliver something demonstrably better than Uigeadail.