Just a few months ago, Ardbeg launched its Anthology Collection, a range that will feature ‘experimental’ single malts matured in cask types the distillery hasn’t used before. Today I’m reviewing the first release, the Ardbeg Anthology 13 Years – The Harpy’s Tale, which aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-Sauternes wine casks.
From the description, it’s not entirely clear if we’re talking about a blend of whiskies fully aged in said cask types, or simply an ex-bourbon single malt finished in ex-Sauternes casks. I suspect the latter, but can’t be sure. Either way, the Ardbeg Anthology 13 Years – The Harpy’s Tale is described by the distillery as a smoke-sweet ‘hybrid’. The packaging is also inspired by this dual style. It features a harpy; a half-human and half-bird creature from Roman and Greek mythology.
Dr. Bill Lumsden, director of distilling and whisky creation, said: “This is a dram that represents a battle between sweet and smoke – one I believe fans are yet to experience in an Ardbeg dram, and one that I’m sure they will be excited to taste for themselves.
“Collectively, the whiskies in the Anthology Collection will form a legendary, perfectly balanced and delicious series of rare and unusual Ardbegs, rich in both lore and taste. We look forward to revealing more in the Collection in the near future.”
The Ardbeg Anthology 13 Years – The Harpy’s Tale retails for approximately £141, which is steep, but seemingly hasn’t stopped fans of the distillery from buying it yet. I’ve witnessed lots of FOMO since this first edition of the Anthology Collection was announced. Was that justified? Let’s find out.
Ardbeg Anthology 13 Years – The Harpy’s Tale (46%, OB, 2023)
Nose: Opening up on sea spray, and a good amount of peat smoke. Then olive brine and some gentle herbs too – maybe thyme and even some oregano. Very faint though. It’s the sweeter, jammy fruits (apricots mostly) that nicely balance the peat and maritime influences. Just a whiff of sunflower oil, tea leaves and apple compote too. Taste: Mouthfeel is moderately creamy. There’s a touch of iodine, medicinal peat and some eucalyptus. Surprisingly sweet, even knowing there are Sauternes casks involvement. Stone fruits, apricots. But always with a chargrilled quality. The herbs make an encore. And there are some pine needles here too. Finish: Medium to long. Damp wood smoke, some coconut and a lingering sweetness. Not necessarily fruity, but more honey-esque. Even some chocolate maybe.
I honestly find it really good. Ardbeg purists might not go for this kind of flavour profile, but the fruity, sweet Sauternes adds exactly the right elements. Of all the sweet dessert wines that are used for whisky, I generally tend to gravitate towards Sauternes anyway, and this Ardbeg Anthology 13 Years – The Harpy's Tale is no exception.