Saturday, 30 June 2012

Whisky Discovery #148

Ardbeg Day NAS (56.7% abv, OB, Bottled 2012 70cl)
Islay Cask Strength Single Malt
£65.00 70cl
I was lucky to get a hold of a bottle of this 'limited' release

Ardbeg Day fell on June 2nd 2012 which was an extended Bank Holiday weekend in the UK due to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I tried to get a sample bottle from the distillery prior to the official release but was told it wasn't possible for whatever reason.   Towards the end of May I had had my heart set of an Isle of Arran Golden Eagle and blew my June budget immediately the merry month of May ended, so thought that I might not get the chance to sample this at all.

I looked on the Ardbeg website regularly over the long weekend, checking the stock of the limited release bottling and longing for a bottle of my own! I settled for another dram of my fabulous Ardbeg 10 on Ardbeg Day, but later saw that @LRWhisky had brought a bottle home from Islay with them. They had cracked it open and were tweeting about the delights of 'dramlaxing' with it. I asked if they would spare me a sample, and a trade was agreed. A miniature of my Arran Golden Eagle was sent off in exchange for a miniature of their Ardbeg Day - we would get together, through Skype, and taste the two whiskies together.

As soon as it arrived I opened it for a sneak peek at the nose. I was immediately smitten and could hold on no longer, sod the budget I was getting myself a bottle or two of this! However, was devastated when I returned to the Ardbeg shop to find out that all 12,000 bottles had flown off of the shelves. Gutted!

I checked on eBay and there were numerous bottles being touted at double the original selling price, so it just wasn't going to happen. With nothing to lose I sent out a tweet for anyone with a spare bottle to contact me - a real long shot I know, but I had nothing to lose. I had a few 'you'll be lucky replies' before one Arbeg fan who had brought two bottles offered to sell me one of his bottles (only if I was going to drink it!) or share one of his bottles. I asked @Ardbaggie for a 50/50 share of one of his two bottles, which was immediately shipped to me, in the origianl bottle, complete with 'on this day in history' booklet. There really is a wonderful community of whisky fans out there in Twitterland.

So now I had my original sample swap, and my own bottle of Ardbeg Day whisky to enjoy. I decided to hold back until the Skype meeting with @LRWhisky before sampling.

So this whisky was specially bottled to celebrate the inaugural worldwide Ardbeg Day, the cult distillery's contribution to Islay Festival, or Feis Isle as it is more often referred to. Each year at the Festival each of the famous whisky island's eight distilleries, plus Jura across the water, release a special collectors bottling on their individual open days. The Ardbeg open day is traditionally on the last Saturday of the Festival and this year was no different, and so Saturday 2 June the Ardbeg Day single malt was released.

Ardbeg is a small distillery producing around one million litres a year, but it produces some of the peatiest and smokiest whiskies in the world, and has built up a cult following across the world. This Ardbeg Day release was limited to 12,000 bottles, you had to be a member of the Ardbeg Committee to purchase one, and it was limited to two bottles per customer. It was all gone in a couple of days! (If you haven't joined the Committee yet, then you can do for free by visiting

I've been reliably informed that Ardbeg Day whisky is a combination of 8, 9 and 12 Year Old bourbon casks, married for a further 6 months in ex-sherry casks (which may well have been ex-Uigeadail casks).

So What did I think?
Well I was blown away at the first nosing of this from the wee sample bottle received from Living Room Whisky. I initially got a rich fruity nose out of this and was thoroughly enjoying a grapefruit pith like smell that brought back memories of eating grapefruit for breakfast with my Mother  (we used to share one in the mornings when I was an apprentice). However tasting this over Skype, with my daughter sitting next to me, and Mike and Jon from Living Room Whisky through Skype on the screen with us, Mike mentioned the straw from his rabbit hutch, and by auto-suggestion it was all I could get for a while! (and I haven't had a rabbit hutch since the mid seventies!)

The colour is a pale golden yellow and the nose is very pungent and full on. I've got my grapefruit pithiness back but there certainly is a straw-like rabbit hutch/cowshed nose to this alongside honey and vanilla aromas. The dominant element throughout is an earthy peat smoke, it reminds me of my Nan's coal tar soap There are also hints of ginger, candied peel and raisins, and I've just noticed a minty note too, fantastic stuff!

At cask strength it's initially quite fiery and a little oily. There's a short burst of sweetness which is quicky followed by the fiery spice again. The thick earthy peat smoke takes over your sense for a short moment and as it mellows there's a sooty charcoal taste which I love. With a drop of water the smoky charcoal is more evident at first, but the sweeter notes start to come out, honey and vanilla, there is a dark chocolate note too, aniseed and even a little lime tartness.

A very long finish with a slightly bitter smokiness to the bitter end It is dry, spicy and mouthwatering and I love it. I was recently very impressed by Ardbeg's Uigeadail and would really like to taste this alongside some, so will need to try hard to keep some of this until I can add the Uige to my whisky shelf!

Well done Ardbeg, this has been a blinder but I don't think it is worth the sums of money being asked for on eBay.

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