Saturday, April 09, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #399

Ardbeg whisky blogArdbeg Provenance 1974 Bottle #1605
Islay Single Malt Whsky
54.7% abv
+/- £1000
+/- $1200 (USD)

I featured Ardbeg twice in the first month of this malt mission over four years ago and I am fortunate enough to get to taste this piece of history in the run-up to Malt Mission #400

Bottled in 1998, this is the US edition of the legendary Ardbeg Provenance series (geeky bits HERE) that reportedly made people shit their pants upon first tasting it. Seriously, this is a story that has been relayed to me by an enthusiast and I cannot think of any reason why someone would lie about doing such a terrible thing to their Joe Boxers. And soiling oneself is a pretty good reassurance to the naysayers that the Glenmorangie takeover in 1997 was going to be a very good thing, if sometimes requiring a change of underwear.

Ardbeg is probably the king of the cult distilleries in terms of attracting the most diehard fans and quasi-religious followers. They have the Ardbeg Committee, they have dedicated fan sites (Tim's Ardbeg Project), and past bottlings have, as noted above, made grown men shit their pants.

I was fortunate enough to be on Islay recently and distillery manager Mickey Heads explained to us how many people spend the night at the distillery to be sure to get Feis Ile bottles (and sell them online?) the following morning. Now, I love whisky, and I really like Ardbeg, but sleeping over in Islay rain?

Finally, a big thanks must be extended to the amazing Jazz Dentist. Not only did Peter set aside a sample when I last visited Dram Central Station before leaving New York, but he had prepared it in a wee bottle to take home for my wife, the Ardbeg freak of this family. I hope he won't mind me saying that he has also undergone his last chemo treatment and is that much closer to his dram to celebrate THE END of what he calls "this whole business."

Whatever drop you choose, Peter, may it taste not of heaven, but of earth.

For more distillery info, or to see all Ardbeg whiskies tasted since the beginning of this blog, click HERE.


All the sweetness of aged quality ex-bourbon casks emerge first, coconut shavings, marshmallow, coffee cake, vanilla custard, followed by the expected tide of magic markers, latex, plasticine, fishtanks, and finally, algaic peat, but maintaining a creamy sweetness throughout.

A tease of brown sugar before an strange brew of cocoa, smoke, mustard and toffee. Otherworldly flavour development. Oh my. Just sinking its nails into my cheeks with peach, honey, barbecue sauce, and salty tears. May these sensations never end.


A big whisky for a big occasion. A liquid that today might be underappreciated quaffed over the Ardbeg stand at some FEST or LIVE or MESSE, where superficial impressions make lasting ones. This whisky is really all about a complexity that only makes itself known with patience, attention, and respect. Respect your whiskies this dramming season be it at Limburg, WhiskyFEST Chicago, or Spirit of Toronto. Thanks again, Peter.