Harsh, headstrong and heavily peated, Ardbeg is the quintessential Islay malt for many drammers. While I love all of the eight operating distilleries on the Queen of the Hebrides dearly, I would not argue with anyone who called the reinvigorated production site on the island’s south shore their absolute fave. After all, the team around industry icon Mickey Heads makes some seriously good whisky. But that is only part of Ardbeg’s appeal. The tastings, get-togethers and events they regularly host for their fans, the so-called Ardbeggians, are among the best I ever attended! Even though I have yet to visit the distillery itself, I feel pretty close to Ardbeg on account of the wonderful memories they have given me. Yesterday, I was able to make another such experience when I took part in a prestige tasting co-hosted by Ardbeg’s brand ambassador Michael “Jerrry” Lutz AKA Herr Lutz and Chris Rickert of Hansemalt.
The evening’s programme was both ambitious and amazing. In the 3.5 hours that we sat together, me and the other guests were treated to no less than nine drams. Besides the distillery’s four-piece core range (An Oa, Ten, Uigeadail and Corryvreckan), we also tried one limited edition (Perpetuum Distillery Release) and three indie bottlings (by The Whisky Agency, The Maltman and The SMWS) as well as the straight-from-the-still New Make Spirit. I found it particularly interesting to compare these expressions to one another and try to make out similarities and differences. Matching the smooth An Oa with the complex Perpetuum and the in-your-face Corryvreckan was really good fun, for example. And so was getting to know the herby Islay 7yo by Liquid Library, the muscular Kildalton 9yo by The Maltman and the smoky 33.125 by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I must admit that my palate was pretty exhausted at the end of this uber-peated adventure trip. But hey, better one Ardbeg too many than one Ardbeg too few!
Besides the excellent whisky selection, the organization was another big advantage of the evening. To make sure that we would not be left “stranded” for too long, we picked up the first dram early. Sharing moderator’s duties, Jerry and Chris then went on to introduce us to official bottlings and independent releases alike. They did a fabulous job and stroke a good balance between presenting their views and involving the audience. Halfway through the line-up, we paused for a while to fill our bellies and re-adjust our palates with a yummy bowl of self-cooked scallops with curry coconut rice. Before, after and during this little break, our hosts shared with us charming anecdotes and interesting stories from their previous visits to Islay. While they did so, their eyes flashed and their faces shined. These were not just two guys talking about something they like; these were two enthusiasts raving about something they love… in combination with the beautiful spirit of Ardbeg, I found Jerry’s and Chris’s passion to be all the more contagious. Cheers to the both of them for a beautiful evening that proceeded not in real time, but in Islay time!
Ardbeg An Oa (Original / Single Malt / Islay / NAS / 46.6% / ~48 EUR)
Islay 7yo by Liquid Library (Independent / Single Malt / Islay / 7yo / 53.1% / ~85 EUR)
Ardbeg Ten (Original / Single Malt / Islay / NAS / 46% / ~43 EUR)
Ardbeg Perpetuum Dist. Release (Original / Single Malt / Islay / NAS / 49.2% / ~250 EUR)
Ardbeg Uigeadail (Original / Single Malt / Islay / NAS / 54.2% / ~65 EUR)
Kildalton 9yo by The Maltman (Independent / Single Malt / Islay / 9yo / 59.4% / ~90 EUR)
Ardbeg Corryvreckan (Original / Single Malt / Islay / NAS / 57.1% / ~70 EUR)
SMWS 33.125 “Peat-reek and barbecue char” (Indep. / Single Malt / Islay / 9yo / 60.2% / ~130 EUR)
Ardbeg New Make (Exclusive / Malt Spirit / Islay / 0yo / 69.5% / Not for sale)
Ardbeg @ Web: https://www.ardbeg.com/ (Distillery)
Herr Lutz @ Web: https://www.herr-lutz.de/ (Brand Ambassador)
Hansemalt @ Web: https://www.hansemalt.de/ (Host)
Whisky Table @ Web: http://www.whisky-table.de/ (Whisky Tastings)