ardbeg smoketrail cote rotie edition review

Ardbeg Smoketrails Côte Rôtie Edition (2023)

Announced late last year, the Ardbeg Smoketrails Côte Rôtie Edition is the second release in the distillery’s Travel Retail series. This time, Ardbeg takes us to the south of France, where it sourced Côte-Rôtie red wine barrels. The result found its way to Hengelo, giving me the opportunity to review this Islay single malt.

The Ardbeg Smoketrails range aims to explore how different casks impact the signature Ardbeg style. This was initially demonstrated with the Ardbeg Smoketrails Manzanilla Edition, now followed by a release that marries ex-bourbon matured Ardbeg with spirit from Côte-Rôtie wine casks.

The Smoketrails range is probably not as innovative as the marketing department likes us to think. We’ve already seen Ardbeg matured in Côte-Rôtie wine casks, as well as Manzanilla casks. Then again, in a world where almost everything has been done at least once, it’s difficult to come up with fresh ideas. To be fair, the Ardbeg Smoketrails releases are also much wider available than the aforementioned examples. For many, it indeed will be the first time they’ve tasted this particular style of Ardbeg.

Just as an aside, what does Travel Retail even mean anymore? Sooner or later all of these releases end up in regular bottle shops anyway. If they don’t sell enough, by year’s end brand reps will dump surplus stock on whoever wants it. The Ardbeg Smoketrails Côte Rôtie Edition pretty much hit general retail immediately after it was announced. Makes no sense to me.

ardbeg smoketrails cote rotie edition

Ardbeg Smoketrails Côte Rôtie Edition (46%, OB, Batch FR/CR 2023/02-ST)

Nose: The wine influence is undeniable. Slightly acidic with pomegranates, lychees and a fair amount of blackberries, but also floral touches such as rose water. Haribo Chamallows too. Then finally a whiff of olive brine, peanuts, wet wool and cattle feed. And yes, there is a touch of campfire and peat, but this is certainly not your average Ardbeg.
Taste: Decent viscosity and a slight stickiness. Somewhat ashy at first, then notes of chili pepper and vegetal peat, followed by brine, vanilla and oak tannins. A gentle acidity accompanied by a wine-y sweetness, but the wine influence seems more minimal overall.
Finish: Medium length. Somewhat dry. Spicy notes alongside green peat and tar.

A youthful Ardbeg. The Ardbeg Smoketrails Côte Rôtie Edition might be too youthful maybe. And I'm not entirely sure I like the influence of the ex-Côte Rôtie wine casks. What I do know is that I enjoyed the first iteration of the Ardbeg Smoketrails more. Then again, I'm not surprised I like Manzanilla and peat better as a combination.


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