Ardbeg Blaaack (2020)
It’s that time of year again: the annual Ardbeg Day release is here. The name is silly, but in recent years I’ve come to embrace the silliness that surrounds these whiskies. Ardbeg Blaaack? A younger Thijs would’ve hated this and pretty much discarded the whisky before ever tasting it. I guess I’ve mellowed or—and this is certainly possible—they’ve broken me. Either way, I’m not going to be making a big fuss about marketing, fantasy names and made up stories.
Okay, the Ardbeg Blaaack then. As always with Ardbeg Day releases, there’s no mention of the age anywhere. However, we do know that it matured in pinot noir casks from New Zealand. Hence the name…
Ardbeg Blaaack (46%, OB, 2020)
Nose: This is fruity, savoury and with a nice smoked paprika edge. Tinges of barbecued meat with raspberry and blackberry confit. There’s a new-rubber-soles smell, as well as embers and wood smoke, but it’s all very much in check and balanced with the fruitier notes.
Taste: Nice interplay between soft campfire smoke and sweet fruits with spicy, cracked black peppercorns. Some medium rubber notes as well, and a whiff of smoked bacon.
Finish: The finish isn’t very long at all, especially not for a peated whisky. Spicy and tapering off into soft vegetal notes.
The wine influence is kept in check. The oak might be a tad too present at times, but the nose excited me a lot. While the palate couldn’t quite follow in its footsteps, overall that leads to a really good rating. One of the better Ardbeg Day releases in recent years.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.