Since you’re reading this blog, you probably have a passing interest in whisky. If you have, you probably know that Ardbeg releases an annual special edition.
In yonder year, one could order the bottles straight from the distillery and you’d get the ‘real’ special edition called ‘The Committee Release’. When the EU, with all their open borders, decided that excise goods would no longer be available across borders if you’re a drinks producer, this stopped.
The solution was to found several Ardbeg Embassies throughout (at least) Europe. You could get your committee bottlings there. And to make it slightly less unbalanced to other shops, there was a more regular special edition for them.
Since I don’t live near an Ardbeg Embassy, and I don’t even know if the Embasssy release is available outside of the UK anymore, I just got the regular version of Ardbeg Scorch. It’s at 46% instead of the 51.7% ABV of the true special release, but shouldn’t hamper the fun too much!
Generally, these Ardbeg special editions are okay. They tend not to be great, unless the somehow release a sherry cask edition with an age statement. Or something like the Corryvreckan. Ardbog, Alligator and Rollercoaster were fine. Dark Cove, Perpetuum Auriverdes and Grooves were not very interesting.
This year’s edition doens’t have too much of an outlandish story. No ‘the whisky went to space’ nonsense, no far fetches story about pirates, or the Football World Championship in Brazil.
This year’s edition was ‘simply’ matured in ex-bourbon casks that underwent ‘dragon charring’. Charring happens all the time, when they char the inside of the cask to coax out more flavors. There’s generally four levels of charring, with one being the lightest, and four being ‘Alligator’ char. A reference to alligator skin (hence the Ardbeg Alligator of 2011). With dragon charring they ramped up the charring even further and that’s quite unusual. Let’s see what that tastes like!
Quite sharp, with lots of charcoal and oak. A sweet smoke with a hint of barbecue. White pepper and the woodiness is rather sharp.
The palate is razor sharp too, lots of oak, sawdust, white pepper, chili pepper, charcoal. Some sweet custard notes too, and a grassy, seaweedy smoke. It gets more mellow with a bit more vanilla and dried apple with some time.
The finish quite nice, with dry osk and pepper, but without some of the sharpness. Still a bit charcosl like, with old wood, dandylion leaves and a whiff of vanilla.
While there is definitely more oak influence on the whisky, it’s also quite different than, say, Laphroaig 10 vs Laphroaig Quarter Cask. It’s not like it matured in a smaller cask, it definitely has a sharper, more intense oakiness.
Having said that, it might be a bit too harsh for me. It ends up as one of those whiskies that Clint Eastwood drinks in one of his westerns. He winces after taking a shot. Of course, a second sip is a bit easier because of the warming up, but it stays a sharp whisky.
An interesting experiment, but not really revelatory. With prices having gone up by 50% already, I’d skip this. Luckily, I did a bottle-share with it, and going through a sample is enough.