Put on your torn Sex Pistols shirt and dust off that old leather jacket, fellas. ‘Cause Ardbeg’s new Feis Isle bottling Ardcore is a celebration of all things punk – the music, the aesthetics, the attitude. The whisky, which is said to “punkture your palate and trash your taste buds”, was made with a proportion of black malt barley, i.e. crop toasted to such an extend that it literally turned black. Among others, this is supposed to instill lots n’ lots of creamy, sweet, and chewy toffee notes in the final product. Other than that, we are not given much info about Ardcore. Both the age of the vatted malts and the cask types from which they were drawn remain a mystery like a super-obscure band that no one’s ever heard of. So to learn more about it, we gotta let the whisky do the talking …
On the official launch day, 4 June 2022, I got the chance to listen to Ardcore’s songs and stories straight out of the PA system … erm … straight out of the nosing glass, I mean. In parallel to the huge festivities on site on Islay, our local Ardbeg Embassy in Hamburg, Getränke-Paradies Wolf, had built up a little pop-up bar outside their store and invited the local Ardbeggians to come over to try a dram. Entrance was free, of course, and the price of 5 Euro per 2 to 3cl was quite alright. Also, the weather was hot, the atmosphere was nice, and the hospitality of the amazing Coco Collmann, who ran the booth, was great as ever. And – most importendly – the event’s headliner rocked, too!
When Ardcore started its show, the first three chords it played were these: in-your-face barley, sweet-n-chewy caramel, and rough-grated citrus zest. Additionally, I made out delicate fruits (grape, melon) in the nose, dried moss on the tongue, and very dark chocolate in the finish. Furthermore, I tasted strawberry-flavored toffee, oatmeal cookie, and whipped cream. Somewhat typical of Ardbeg, a good amount of minerals were to be found in Ardcore as well; these were scattered across all stages of the degustation like cigarette stubs over a backstage table. Halfway through the set, I also made out a somewhat peculiar note in the bouquet: mild, soft camembert. Don’t ask me how it got there, but it certainly marked a nice, unexpected addition to the mix of aromas. “Wait a minute! What about the peat smoke!?”, I hear some of you asking now. A legit question. After all, we are talking about an Ardbeg here! And indeed: Ardcore produced some puff as well. However, the ashy and fumy notes remained far in the back for most of the time. Rather than catching the attention like a furious guitar lead, they supported the other notes from down below like a pumping bass line. And maybe that’s the most punk-ish quality of this highly quaffable Islay malt: Whereas everyone and their mother expected the stage to be fully covered in smoke during Ardcore’s performance, Ardbeg’s new Limited Edition proudly and defiantly walked a (slightly) different path … and, let’s be honest, folks: Ain’t that what punk is all about in the end? To do as you please rather than to do as you’re expected?
Of course, when talking about Ardbeg’s special releases these days, one also has to address the price at one point or another. Personally, I gotta say that I found 125 Euro to be a little steep. So I did not buy a bottle despite the fact that Ardcore had totally won me over as its fan. However, during the one-or-so hour that I spent at the open tasting, I saw several bottles being moved from the shelves of Getränke-Paradies Wolf to the hands of very happy customers. As always, it is a matter of stance and perspective: Some don’t mind the asked-for price tag, others do. And while I gotta count myself as part of the latter group here, I still gotta raise my spike-wristed fist in the air and yell “Ardcore, Ardcore!” together with the rest of the crowd. ‘Cause after experiencing it once, I would certainly be up to moshing, pogoing, and headbanging to this rockin’ Islay malt a couple more times!
Ardbeg Ardcore (Single Malt Scotch Whisky / Islay / NAS / 46% / 125.00 Euro)
Spirituosen Wolf @ Web: http://www.spirituosenwolf.com/ (Location)
Ardbeg @ Web: http://www.ardbeg.com/ (Distillery)
Coco Collmann @ Web: https://coco-collmann.de/ (Whisky expert)
Coco Collmann @ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coco.collmann/ (Whisky expert)
Coco Collmann @ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/its.a.coco.life/ (Whisky expert)
*** I visited the event as a regular guest. ***