We closed our Scottish regions tour with the Islay region… known for its big smoky, peaty drams. This character came from a very practical use of traditional fuel source – peat – to dry the barley as there wasn’t exactly an abundance of trees on the island.
With nine active distilleries and more coming, whisky is the 2nd largest industry on the island. For those enjoy bolder whiskies, on the more consistently peaty side there are Bowmore, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. By contrast, Bunnahabhain favours no peat and Bruichladdich is a great example of how distilleries are producing a range of styles – irrespective of region – from unpeated and organic to peated Port Charlotte and super peated Octomore range.
As for Ardbeg? It is considered by many the grand peat monster of them all! Peating at about 50 ppm, there is no mistaking the character of an Ardbeg. As for us? Though most of Ardbeg are NAS, we went with the classic 10 year age statement for our tasting…
And what did our Whisky Ladies find?
- Nose – Mmmmmm peat! Smoked haddock, black pepper, skunky smoky feel, ash with a menthol sweet zing, then warms into vanilla and cocoa with a dusting of cinnamon
- Palate – Straight forward, hickory sticks and hay, very smooth for all its boldness yet also quite chewy…. this is no subtle dram
- Finish – Smoke settles in with a coffee toffee with a cooked apples chaser
One lady described it as “cigarettes and apple sauce!”
That’s just it – either you enjoy peat or you don’t. There was a clear division in the room with some ladies going “FINALLY!!!!” And others wrinkling their noses in distaste.
Here’s what the folks over at Ardbeg have to say:
- Nose – A burst of intense smoky fruit escapes into the atmosphere – peat infused with zesty lemon and lime, wrapped in waxy dark chocolate. Bold menthol and black pepper slice through the sweet smoke followed by tarry ropes and graphite. Savour the aroma of smoked fish and crispy bacon alongside green bell peppers, baked pineapple and pear juice.Add water and an oceanic minerality brings a breath of cool, briny seaspray. Waxed lemon and lime follows with coal tar soap, beeswax and herby pine woodlands. Toasted vanilla and sizzling cinnamon simmer with warm hazelnut and almond toffee.
- Palate – An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavour explosions: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. Then comes a wave of brine infused with smooth buttermilk, ripe bananas and currants. Smoke gradually wells up on the palate bringing a mouthful of warm creamy cappuccino and toasted marshmallows. As the taste lengthens and deepens, dry espresso, liquorice root and tarry smoke develop coating the palate with chewy peat oils.
- Finish – The finish goes on and on – long and smoky with tarry espresso, aniseed, toasted almonds and traces of soft barley and fresh pear.
Would we agree? Certainly those who are peat fans would and this was the dram they had been waiting for all night!
The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai’s Scottish Regional Tour covered:
- Lowland – Glenkinchie 12 year 43%
- Islands – Jura Turas-Mara 42%
- Highland – Clynelish 14 year 46%
- Speyside – Cardhu 12 year 40%
- Islay – Ardbeg 10 year 46% (this post)
The close of our regional tour was also a farewell for a most amusing American whisky lady who is back to the ‘motherland’ for a bit before continuing her life adventures in Brazil. Both she and her often brilliant whisky comments will be much missed! We wish her well!!
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