The march of Ardbeg special releases continued in 2013 with Ardbog - named obviously for the numerous peat bogs on Islay. It was composed of a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-manzanilla sherry cask whisky, with no age statement (guesses place it around 10 years and I would tend to agree). It was bottled at a batch strength of 52.1% (kind of low for 10 year old whisky, so there may have been some older casks that were rapidly losing strength).
Thanks to MAO for a sample of this whisky.
Nose: moderate Ardbeg peat, rather woody, moderate sherry influence/raisins and brine, savory caramel, maple syrup, apple blossom, bourbon cask fruit esters. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes more savory but noticeably thinner, with cured meat popping out, while the peat becomes drier and less assertive, the sherry tucks into the general savoriness except for a few fruity overtones, and everything integrates into the wood.
Taste: begins somewhat muddled, then resolves into woody sweetness, which becomes more peppery/tannic with hints of sherry smoothness further back, slipping into a small puddle of peat at the end. After dilution, it becomes more robustly sweet up front with the sherry adding some of its own sweetness to the mix, though the wood also becomes more assertive, with an odd interlude of more savory sherry overtones near the back, before sliding into very mild dry mossy peat
Finish: young wood oak tannins, dry mossy peat around the edges, black pepper, bittersweet overall,
The manzanilla sherry influence is much more noticeable on the nose than the palate. It makes for something of an interesting twist on the normal Ardbeg profile, but I felt like some of the distillery character (especially the peat) had faded too much. The palate felt flat, with the wood overtaking most of the experience. Overall, I felt like the casks were a bit too active, like the whisky had been pulled out because it was about to go over the edge into oak juice.
When it comes right down to it, I have yet to try one of the recent Ardbeg special releases that seemed like they even matched up to current batches of Uigeadail or Corryvrecken. I'm all for experimentation, but charging at least 50% more for worse whisky doesn't do it for me. While this is better than Galileo, that's not saying much. I'm not sad that I gave it a miss when bottles were still available in Oregon.
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