Monday, July 30, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #126

Ardbeg Still Young
Islay Single Malt Whisky
56.2% abv

£33

We are going to start two weeks of Islay treats on the Malt Mission with a pair of young Ardbegs today and tomorrow. It will be a couple of extremely tasty weeks, if not entirely summer-themed... or perhaps perfect for this summer.

Glenmorangie saved Ardbeg from an uncertain fate when they bought the distillery in 1997. This bottle is from a series launched with a 'for discussion' committee bottling in 2003, it was sold out almost immediately and today it fetches a pretty penny at shops and at auction. Buzz in place, the three official releases in the run-up to a relaunched 10yo began in 2005 with Ardbeg 'Very Young'. Now this one is difficult to find and will cost you large once you do. I have said it before but Ardbeg has a maddening cult following. Crazy, and hard to believe today, but in many whisky books published between 1960-1990 Ardbeg is absent. In 1989 Michael Jackson feared for its future writing, "Too intense for the blenders [...] and that uncompromising nature may have silenced the distillery."

So this is from a series that is effectively a run-up to the relaunch of the 10 year old, commemorating 10 years of Glenmorangie-produced Ardbeg(2008). They are named Very Young(2005), Still Young(2006), and Almost There(2007) and are all bottled unchillfiltered and at cask-strength. Risky idea that some may have once criticised, but has proven that at least a fraction of the malt market is interested in works in progress. We have already seen similar moves from other Islay distilleries and a few indie mainland ones. Expect more.

All Ardbeg Malt Mission posts can be found HERE

TASTING NOTES:

Puff (of smoke), the magic dragon. Toasted cashews, vanilla, mint fudge, and a clean teapot. Slightly metallic, wet worms or oysters.

Soft and sweet in the mouth. Then hot. Whoa. Yeah, explodes in chilli, pepper, and lime. With peat and sugar. Drying and sappy with raw oak.

SUMMARY:

Amazing that there is no prickle or bite in the nose for the strength and youth, but not that amazing that I found the array of flavours quite simple. There is an exciting youth about it (feinty and, um... hard?) that makes it volatile in the mouth, but I imagine a few more sherry casks per batch and a few more years will calm this dragon down and add great depth... If that is something you think would be desirable. Some people love playing with knives, I prefer playing with balls. Um, that doesn't read so well.

Malt Mission #125
Malt Mission #127
Malt Mission #128
Malt Mission #129
Malt Mission #130

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