Small Island Boy's Ardbeg vertical tasting

Ok already, it says somewhere wine and corks, but what the heck, this was a cracking tasting, so wheesht.

Ardbeg has had a slightly wobbly time over the last few years, but that has gone away now, and the present trend seems to be all good. Current owners, Glenmorangie PLC, have spent a fair bit on doing the place up, and the first fruits of their labours are now available.

We didn't taste the whiskies strictly in age order, since the 6yo and the Uigeadail are cask strength, and the new make spirit is stronger still.

The ten year old, which in the past has always seemed very integrated and classically Islay to me, tonight was rather loose and unfocused. "Rather rough at the edges", my tasting notes have it, with smoke, bitter almonds, grass, mealiness and spicy-ness. 13/20

We tasted the 17 year old and the twenty-five, which Ardbeg calls Lord of the Isles, together. The 17 year old is all sweet mellow smokiness. Mellow, or perhaps refined. Next up was Lord of the Isles. Now this is a whisky to contemplate. We had a lengthy discussion about the relative value of LOTI vs 17 yo. Ginja reckons that it ain't worth twice the price, as does the Big Egg and Small Island Boy, but I , contrarian to the core, find there is so much in the bouquet of the LOTI that I would pay the difference, and then not drink the whisky, but just sit and nose it all night. It is warm dustiness, sunshine on old pine, smooth mellow caramel, leading to light smokiness and then a salty tang. I found the palate to have a sweeter attack than the younger bottlings, whilst offering up the same fine elements as the nose. All the same, it only gets 15/20.

That is probably harsh, but the Ardbeg six year old is so very exciting (I apologise for being a sensationalist) that it slightly overshadowed the LOTI. It is full - nay overflowing - with fresh fruit flavours, soapy apples to be precise, plus smokiness, and a zing that the older bottlings can't match. 16/20

The Uigeadail is another fruity one, but without the snap of the 6yo. The burny sensation seemed stronger too. It seemed rather like cognac. 14/20

Small Island Boy also threw in a blind taster, just to stir the pot. I got caramel and a distinct burniness on the nose, and a lengthy salty finish. I guessed Talisker initially, then moved off in the wrong direction entirely, heading Speywards, when in fact it was Springbank 10yo. I didn't give it a rating, but retrospectively I would guess 13-14/20.

We also had a nose at Ardbeg new make spirit - 70% proof. It's foul stuff. Sweet sweet oily fruitiness, overpowering and artificial seeming. Also, you can't actually taste anything, since your tastebuds are instantly numbed by the alcohol. To think that most whisky used to be sold and consumed this way. Not rated.

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