The announcement of a new addition to Ardbeg’s core range is plenty reason to get the whisky community aflutter. For years, only the annual Ardbeg Day release would offer something new. But in recent years, Ardbeg has ramped up their activity.
The new Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5 Years comes shortly after the Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Years Old. Both are part of the core range. (Although the Traigh Bhan is very limited; the Wee Beastie should be continuously available.) Back in 2017 Ardbeg fans were also delighted by the An Oa. Add to that last year’s Supernova as well as a few limited releases in the Ardbeg Twenty Something series, and you could almost call it an Ardbeg avalanche.
Of course, Ardbeg is not nearly as prolific as some other distilleries on Islay, let alone the whole of Scotland. All I’m trying to say is, Ardbeg’s been pretty productive, relatively speaking.
The Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5 Years has been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts, and bottled at a slightly higher strength of 47,4 percent. The young age statement is a big step in the right direction, which sets it apart from all the other young, peated single malts without an age statement.
Maybe the LVMH marketing department realised you can only grab so much attention with yet another frivolous story (just think of all the recent and upcoming Ardbeg Day releases). The market is saturated with NAS whiskies; an age statement grabs more attention, even if it is ‘only’ 5 years old. So, good on you, Ardbeg. At least we now have slightly more of an idea what were drinking.
Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5 Years (47.4%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Sweet fruits (overripe bananas come to mind), vegetal peat smoke and hints of cracked black peppercorns. A whisper of resin, licorice and star anise as well. Taste: Thick and oily and surprisingly gentle for such a young Ardbeg. It’s a peat bomb for sure, but then again, it isn’t? Powerful and rich, yet restraint. Sorry, I’m not making much sense. Peaty, peppery, ashy, but also freshly cut grass and menthol. A satisfying sweetness underneath it all, highlighted by caramelised bacon. Finish: Lingering spices, soft touches of cinnamon. Medium to long.
I wish I’d had a sample of the Ardbeg Ten and An Oa to taste alongside this. From memory though, this compares favorably to the An Oa, and can compete with the Ten.
Regardless of comparisons, the Ardbeg Wee Beastie is a welcome addition to the core range. It has reasonable depth, plenty of richness and more than enough peat to satisfy any Ardbeg fan — and maybe even attract some new ones.