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Whisky Review: The Latest Ardbeg Release Is All About Long Fermentation

Ardbeg’s Committee releases are some of the most sought-after bottles of whisk(e)y in the world. And yet… you can get them. All that you need to do is join the Ardbeg Committee — it’s free. When you do, you’ll get access to these one-of-a-kind whiskies from one of Islay’s most-beloved distilleries.

As for this expression, it’ll be dropping in February of 2022 (the date is unspecified). The juice is a result of a “happy accident” that we’ll get into below, wherein this whisky fermented for a much longer time than usual before distillation.

Beyond that tease, this is a peated Islay malt that pushes the style in new directions and is kind of inexplicable on the palate. Let’s get into what’s in the bottle!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of 2021

Ardbeg Fermutation

Ardbeg Fermutation
Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 49.4%

Average Price: $200 (Limited)

The Whisky:

The “happy accident” that led to this whisky was Ardbeg’s boilers breaking down. Instead of throwing out the mash until those were fixed, Dr. Bill Lumsden (the mad-scientist distiller behind Ardbeg) decided to see what would happen if they let it be. The washback lids were opened and the mash was allowed to ferment with the sea-kissed Islay air for three more weeks. To put that in perspective, Ardbeg (and most whiskies) usually ferment for 72 hours before distillation.

Once the boilers were back up and running, the whisky was distilled and then barreled in first-fill and re-fill bourbon casks. 13 years later, Dr. Bill decided it was ready and here we are.

Tasting Notes:

This. Is. Wild. The nose starts off with this burst of fresh green grass just after the rain that melts into a summer herb garden (mint heavy), grapefruit seeds, and smoked butter with sweet lemon candy and orange trees that’s underpinned with a dark and rich soil that’s been turned with manure. Going deeper on the nose, you get fresh tires, mossy fir bark, and maybe a hint of fennel-heavy focaccia.

The palate starts off incredibly soft with a toffee note before veering into burnt scones, hints of absinthe, what feels like powdered turmeric, and finally Marlboro Red ash (don’t ask me how I know this tasting note). That ashiness builds on the palate as a slight Windex note pops in next to a hint of mint candy and some more mild toffee. The finish lets that sweetness stay while the cigarette ash builds towards a crescendo and leaves your senses feeling like you’ve licked an ashtray (I guess you didn’t have to ask after all). Seriously though, it’s been a good two minutes and the finish is still vibrant with cigarette ash and minty toffee candies.

Five minutes later, my palate feels like I spent last night smoking a whole pack of cigarettes down at the pub. That’s from a single one-ounce pour.

The Bottle:

This comes in Ardbeg’s classic, nearly black bottle. The label almost feels like a sci-fi pulp novels cover and sort of makes sense, given how different this whisky truly is.

Bottom Line:

I wanted to say I hated this and would never drink it again. But there’s something there that kept me going back in for more. None of these things should work together. But it’s so out there that it grabs your attention and you can’t look away.

That all said, if any of those more “out there” flavor notes sound off-putting, then yeah, this is going to be hard to swallow. If you’re looking for something that’s not like anything else (maybe ever), then… give this a shot? We’re vouching for the craft here but not necessarily the flavors.

Ranking:

I honestly don’t know. This is one of the most unique whiskies I’ve tasted in a while. It’s brilliant in that respect. But, wow, this is a hard sell unless you both love crazy whiskies and are willing to go down a wild flavor path.

This is a true 50/50. Either you’re going to be obsessed with it or hate it to your core. It’s such an outlier that I refuse to offer a score. But, to be honest, I will probably revisit most of the Ardberg expressions on my shelf multiple times before I dive into this again.

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