I was sitting on a review of the Ardbeg Smoketrails Manzanilla Edition, waiting for the right moment to publish it. And seeing as Ardbeg just announced a new addition to this Travel Retail series, now is about as good a time as any. Except for maybe a year ago, when this whisky was released originally.
Anyway, my reviews can’t always be timely. And since the Ardbeg Smoketrails Manzanilla Edition is still widely available (and not just in Travel Retail), at least this review will still be relevant. Also, I deserve to rest on my laurels a bit, since I was quick to write about the first Ardbeg Anthology release. You’re welcome.
As mentioned above, Ardbeg Smoketrails is officially a Travel Retail-exclusive whisky series. It’s not an extremely novel concept, as the Ardbeg Smoketrails series aims to explore how different casks impact the signature Ardbeg style. This first edition does so by combining the influence of regular American oak casks and ex-Manzanilla sherry casks from Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen ex-Manzanilla matured Ardbeg. There’ve been a few single casks, but the most notable other Manzanilla-matured Ardbeg is the Ardbeg Ardbog, a limited edition originally launched to celebrate Feis Ile 2013. In a way, that makes the Ardbeg Smoketrails Manzanilla Edition superfluous. We were already able to experience what Manzanilla casks can do to Ardbeg’s spirit.
Then again, the Ardbeg Ardbog’s secondary market price is much higher than the Ardbeg Smoketrails Manzanilla Edition’s current retail price. So, there really is a place for it after all.
Nose: Sweet smoke and a touch of tar accompanied by dried seaweed, a coastal breeze and olive brine. Charred lemons alongs candied lemon peel, but also a touch of fennel, chalk and walnuts too. Also a tinge of mustard seeds. Taste: Certainly sweet again. Tinned pineapples mostly, then quickly joined by an ashy smoke, charred oak and smoked peanut skins. It’s also very salty, but the lemon makes an encore as well. Finish: Medium length. A good pinch of salt, tar and a hint of aniseed.
Mostly rather straightforward Ardbeg, but probably more salty and with some sweeter notes than usual. Good, but not great, and it certainly doesn't outperform the Ardbeg Ten. Or the Corryvreckan. Or the Uigeadail.