Some Ardbeg and some realizations

The best way to describe this here blog is ‘whisky ramblings’. I don’t consider myself to be a very capable whisky taster, with inconsistencies over the years at best. Every now and then my preferences change and with it, my scores. Not in the least, I prove this annually in the Blind Tasting Competition

Also, sometimes I get the feeling I only taste varieties of malty/bready notes, sometimes it’s all about fruit and there are other options too. Whether this is due to the simple fact that my palate changes, I have different preferences or I happen to randomly taste a lot of similar whiskies in a row, I don’t know.

More professional tasters have a benchmark whisky they use to clean and set their palate so they always have the same vantage point for each dram they try. I never do that, because

  • I don’t like to spend money on a benchmark whisky
  • I try to not drink too much
  • I think, with my changing palate, it doesn’t matter anyway.
  • This only compares the whisky you’re tasting to the benchmark, and not necessarily its peers.

Recently, however, I found out there might something to say for a different approach to tasting my whiskies after all. This is not about tasting them in the morning, because that’s simply not going to happen unless you’re tasting professionaly.

20180602_232231This was when I was tasting the recently purchased Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release, which I bought at the distillery in April. When trying this I thought they had finally bottled a good ‘Distillery Only’ whisky again.

On the nose I got leather and fruit with a hint of Allstar-rubber (the shoes, that is). Some winegums and a lot of soft oakiness. Old barley with overripe tropical fruits like mango and papaya. Then the palate continued down the same route but was a bit more sharp than I expected for a 51.6% whisky. The finish was rather long with ‘old spirit’, and old barley.

There was a certain heavy smokiness to the dram, but it was more gentle than I am used to from Ardbeg.

Also, I’m not going into the marketing nonsense around it being called Grooves, it being a mellow dram, and all the jibber-jabber about Ardbeg in the 1960s. It’s all just too ridiculous.

I was positively surprised by the whisky, and I finished my 10cl (it was a bottle share) right then and there. After that, I picked up something else from my shelf (an accidental blend of 1994 Glenlossie and 2001 Glen Scotia, both Cadenhead’s. More about that in another post) and poured myself a glass of that.

Suddenly, the Ardbeg was shit, compared to this whisky. Well, maybe not shit, but far, far less impressive. The whiskies in that home-blend cost less or the exact same as the Ardbeg, and the blend was worse than both the individual parts. And yet, this was a far more impressive dram than the Ardbeg.

What I’m trying to say is that when comparing a whisky to another, you get far different results than when you taste something individually. Whether that is a good thing depends on what you’re looking for.

Mostly, because I was rather chuffed with that Ardbeg being a lot better than I expected, until I tried the other dram. Then I didn’t really care about the Ardbeg anymore and didn’t really now how to score it, or where to put it in the picking order.

It does remind me of the Islay tastings I go to each November. Somehow, we often start with that year’s Ardbeg Day release, and always we’re positively surprised. However, after the tasting, no one talks about the Ardbeg anymore. I guess, apart from the very old ones and some rare exceptions, it’s just not a very impressive distillery anymore…

87/100 (scored before comparing…)

Ardbeg Grooves, Committee Release, 51.6%




About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
This entry was posted in - Opinion, Ardbeg, Glen Scotia, Glenlossie and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Some Ardbeg and some realizations

  1. Troy says:

    Good thoughts. I’ve had similar experiences myself. With ‘special’ whiskies I try to have a sparring partner, similar but different. Say, when trying a 30yo Glenfarclas, maybe have a Macallan 12 along side it. Makes you appreciate (or not sometimes I suppose) the ‘special’ whisky more. I don’t do the palate cleansing whisky or benchmark…but I like a sparring partner when I can.

  2. Pingback: My accidental blend… | Malt Fascination

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