Posts Tagged With: Ardbeg

Tasting Notes: Ardbeg – Uigaedail

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Ardbeg Uigaedail

Pronounced oo-gah-dahl, and named after the loch that provides Ardbeg with its spring water on the south east of Islay, this peaty puncher is one of the distillery’s core expressions. The master distillers have taken their revered smoky malt and given it a final and thorough sherry butt maturation. Bottled at a high percentage, this monster promises to be a heavy hitter in all aspects of the drinking exprience.

ABV: 54.2%

Nose

M: Quite sweet and surprisingly floral but sherry pokes through. The usual Ardbeg peat is there but seems to be restrained.

Taste

M: Ardbeg’s trademark peaty hit then really makes itself known upfront but isn’t as bruising as you would expect and makes way for a fruitcake/fudge taste with big, strong flavours to balance the peat.

Finish

M: A lasting burn with peat and sherry entwined, but the peat has the last laugh when you breathe again.

Verdict

M: This is a peaty whisky turned up to 11! It goes beyond being just about Ardbeg’s distinctive peat and power. The high ABV and peat on paper make it seem like it might blow your head off but actually it is balanced really well and doesn’t need taming with water at all – which makes it dangerous stuff. Definitely not a driver’s drink. The sherry influence is notable with rich, rounded fruit flourishes. Big flavours, big finish, big smile on my face.

Categories: Ardbeg, Tasting Notes | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

From Whisky To Beer – A Spirited Journey

It might seem odd for someone to be writing about beer on a whisky blog but stick with me on this one…

 

I’ve always been a whisky man. There’s never really been any other type of alcoholic drink that I’ve enjoyed more thoroughly. Like many whisky fans, I’ve had to have THAT conversation with people countless times. You know the one

 

Me: “Fancy a dram?”

Them: “I don’t like whisky!”

Me: “What?! Why not? Go on. I’ll get you one. A good one. Just to try it.”

Them: “No. It’s horrible.”

Me: “Just be open minded. You’re missing out.”

Them: “No. I’ll just have a beer.”

Me: “Fair enough. Your loss.”

 

For me, there’s always the thought at the back of my mind that I might be the one that gets this person over the line and make that first step into the wonderful whisky world. Short of pouring/wasting some down their neck however, there’s little that you really can do. Plus, I never want to become a whisky bore.

 

Until a couple of years ago though, I had experienced that same conversation with people but in reverse, because (shock, horror) I never really liked drinking beer. Sure, I had dabbled, but when it came to long drinks, I had always been a cider drinker.

 

[‘What? Now he’s talking about cider?’ Again, bear with me…]

 

One evening though, I was on holiday and absolutely gasping for a long, cold drink. Unfortunately though, they had no cider. In fact, cider didn’t feature in this country at all. Given that I was on holiday, the thought of a soft drink didn’t really cross my mind. Whisky certainly wouldn’t have been the right call. The barman took one look at me however and poured me a tall glass of their house lager, which he proclaimed to be brewed just down the road. His smile beamed brightly and, without wanting to be impolite (and therefore being incredibly British about it), I slaked my thirst and… I didn’t die. I didn’t dislike it. I didn’t entirely enjoy it. It served a purpose and that purpose was good. I ordered another, just to make sure.

 

Suddenly, the blinkers were off. I found myself on the other side of THAT conversation but instead, finally saying “Ok. Let’s do this!”

 

When I came back from the holiday, I met with a friend of mine – who was frankly delighted at my enlightenment – and we devised a map. By looking at the distillery map of Scotland, we plotted a beer drinking experience that would take on the features of some of my favourite whiskies to open up my tastebuds to the brewing beauties that I had avoided for years – looking particularly to those regularly available in UK shops.

 

[Incidentally, a couple of years before, he had tried to get me into beer by plying me with Innis & Gunn’s whisky beers but that experiment failed horribly…]

 

whisky-region-maps-with-beers

My Scotch-to-Beer Map

As with any whisky tasting, we started light. For our lowland dram equivalent, we went for a lager or pilsner. Something that’s an easy starter, with good fruity, zesty spark. Here Auchentoshan met Budvar.

 

Across to the west, we figured that the rich history, big flavours and cult-like nature of Campbeltown warranted a pairing with the much sought after Trappist beers and farmhouse Saison beers of Belgium. On this journey Springbank was twinned with Chimay.

 

Moving northwards to Speyside and the home of the whisky trail, any dram enthusiast is totally spoilt for choice. Here we decided to pair the myriad of available IPAs and pale ales with the region to reflect the mass popularity and wide ranging varieties available. For Speyside, we equated Glenfiddich with Sierra Nevada.

 

Further north still, we looked at the offerings of the highlands, and bearing in mind the broad, warming tastes and chilly temperatures experienced by the inhabitants we figured that they matched a classic pint of bitter or winter ale. Old Pulteney made way for Old Speckled Hen.

 

Surrounding the Scottish mainland, the islands’ offerings have always intrigued me. Whichever style they deliver, it always excels. With the interesting range of drams available from the isles that often require to be enjoyed and savoured over a period of time, we thought that they would be best suited to the fruity flavoured Hefeweizen or sour treat of Gose beers. Here we matched Talisker to Franziskaner.

 

Finally, we crossed the journey’s hypothetical seas to Islay and took the smoky and earthy notes that we enjoy so much to sampling some smoked beers, stouts and porters. Here Ardbeg’s rich and robust flavours met Guinness – and particularly their West Indies Porter.

 

And there we have it. A rough and ready pairing of whiskies to beers. Whilst the particular pairings might not be to your liking, the overview of each style certainly helped my tastebuds adapt and appreciate the different brews and experiences available. A couple of years on and I’m still exploring the delights of different beers from around the world and would consider myself a little more versed for the exploration and mapping. Truth be told, I’d still take a dram over a pint any day, but there’s a time and place for everything and this little spirited journey certainly helped me along the way. Of course, the other benefit here is that this theoretical trip could occur vice versa and could assist a beer-loving whisky-noob find his way along the path to dram discovery.

 

Scotch and Beer Table

Scotch-to-Beer Table

Just as a final point aside, I would add that the best whisky beer that I’ve had to date is the mighty Fyne Ales’ Fynebank smoked beer that is casked in ex-Springbank barrels. For me, the two worlds successfully collide on this one.
MH

 

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Best Of The West Festival 2015 – Day 2

After a brilliant day’s musical and liquid entertainment on the Saturday, I managed to wake up without a single regret on the Sunday, and the weather was also as surprisingly clear as my head. There are few sights in this world that I’ve been lucky enough to witness that are as serene, calming and stunning as Loch Fyne in the sun. With that breath-taking start, and some tactical lining of the stomach, we set off to enjoy the second day of the festival to take some more Argyll-based indulgence.

Loch Fyne

Loch Fyne

Today was not a day for hanging about as the punters lined up at the whisky tent to sample the wide range of delights offered by the Loch Fyne whisky stand. First up on the roster was Laphroaig 25, largely because I could see that there was not much left. As a self-confessed peathead, this was one of the drams that I had marked down for sampling from the offset, and I was not going to miss out, so regardless of whenever lunch time was, a healthy dram was poured. The nose was quite surprising. There was the Laphroaig smell, of course, but it seemed to have been tamed by the aging process, with a sweet and salty popcorn nose that got sweeter and slightly fruitier by the taste. The finish was very smooth and the trademark fiery smoke only made a late and lingering appearance as the sweetness faded. Clearly the additional years of maturing in the barrel had taken my favourite peaty dram in a new sweet direction, but without compromise on the smoke, albeit the ferocity of the dram was contained. What a start! (8.9/10 if we’re going down the scoring route). Before heading on though… food was needed and the wonderful smells coming from the food tent was driving my appetite wild.

The food options were incredible and having opted for a filling real Mackay stovie, my wife and I sat and witnessed a couple of food demonstrations. First up was a nice young chap from local restaurant Samphire who whipped up a storm. Next was the top chef Jamie Nicholson from Loch Fyne Oysters. Whilst oysters were not served – probably a wise choice in a festival environment – we were treated to a delicious freshly prepared cod dish. [After a quick chat with him, he invited us back to try oysters at the restaurant later that week, and bless him he remembered us and even gave us a dessert on the house! Gent!] The following demonstration was some sensational Thai food cooked up fresh from local favourite Sujitra Scott. Let’s just say that I didn’t need to eat much more that day…

Food Tent

Food Tent

After a graze and gorge session, I was back to the top dram mission, and acquired the second of my three 25 year olds of the day, and that was the Bunnahabhain 25. This dram offered a lovely sherry nose and was very sweet to taste. It was like honey, without being malefluous (yep – the pretentious dictionary came out for that one). The finish was fairly quick but the sweetness left a tang in the throat. It was incredibly drinkable and worringly so with the price tag that the bottle attracts. 8.4/10

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray Castle

Before heading into a comfortable festival stupor, my wife and I took the opportunity to take the discounted castle tour. Inveraray Castle is stunning. Just look at that picture. My wife suggested that it looked like something from Downton Abbey, and sure enough, as we got into the castle’s dining room, there was a still of Dame Maggie in her period drama pomp. The castle itself is magnificently turned out, as you can imagine, with the available rooms all neatly displaying the treasures that the Dukedom and Clan Campbell had acquires over the years. What was prevalent was that the Duke and Duchess had clearly had a great influence on modernising whilst maintaining the castle, with beautiful photos of their family throughout. The display of weaponry in the castle’s atrium was more than testament to that management.

Armoury

Armoury

Time was pressing on though and one of the bands that I really wanted to see were due to start, so we gave each room an appropriate amount of awe and appreciation and then made it out to the gravel for some more nourishment and folk, this time presented by the Shiverin’ Sheikhs and who doesn’t like rockabilly? Good times continued.

The third dram of today’s big line up was Bowmore 25. Again, the age of the dram brought a sugary sweetness, with a light almond and smoky nose. The taste matched the nose exactly but brought an increasingly spicy note and warmth to the smoky tickle. It had a fairly mid length finish that didn’t quite fill the mouth and stood as a very well rounded dram – all the key players bring their A-game for this dram. 8.3/10

Double Dramming

Double Dramming

The penultimate dram of the day was the 2014 release of the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. I’m a big fan of Lagavulin and was looking forward to tasting something different from them and this beast delivered. It had that distinctive Lagavulin coastal air and peat smoke, with a hint of sweetness. It certainly had the most ashen-tasting smoke of the Islay offerings of the day and had an underlying toffee taste and finish. It may have just been the fact that I’d been on the peat on all day, but this felt like a Lagavulin light, if such a thing could exist. As the effects of the day were making me more lyrical, my notes ended by stating that “the brakes aren’t on, it’s just a Lagavulin in cruise control. Possibly more rounded than its 16 year old counterpart. 8.7/10.” Ah well. I was having fun. Clearly.

The final dram was the most local of all of the offerings, because I tried some of the mysterious “Living Cask” by Loch Fyne Whiskies’ own store. This is a batch of whisky that is made in-store and constantly evolves as the proprietors cook up their own blend using a recipe of their own choosing – one which they were not willing to divulge at any point. Given the description of the process, it was no surprise that the nose delivered all sorts of elements whilst not having anything too distinctive. The mystery continued with the taste, which was surprisingly light with a delicate peppery kick which disappeared quite quickly. It might have been because I had spoiled myself during the day and had been on some fairly big hitters, but this didn’t really do it for me. It was great to take part in part of a whisky legend (see Ian Buxton’s 101 Legendary Whiskies…) but overall it was just a pleasant dram with nothing much to write home about the taste itself. 5.5/10.

[I must add though that I did go to the store the following day and sampled their “Living Cask 1745”, which is their own peaty, Islay-centric blend and that did deliver the goods for me. A great balance of fairly delicate peat smoke and silky sweetness. 8.0/10]

Skerryvore

Skerryvore

Sandwiching these drams with fine food and Fyne Ales made for another fantastic and enjoyable day, and the weather played along nicely and made for a wonderful climax as Skerryvore closed the proceedings. [I would heartily recommend their Decade album, and the Bruichladdich Skerryvore Decade cask strength single malt that was exclusively released for band, should you manage to get your hands on it!] It was a great send-off to a great, local, fun and friendly festival and I for one will certainly be returning.

Inveraray Castle Driveway

Inveraray Castle

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