Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: Ardbeg
Showing posts with label Ardbeg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ardbeg. Show all posts

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Islay 2014: Ardbeg

It's no secret that we absolutely bloody love Ardbeg's whiskies. After a great morning at Lagavulin, we meandered the 1.1 miles along the coast to this site of whisky pilgrimage.
Conveniently arriving just as it approached lunch time, we ate at Ardbeg's acclaimed Old Kiln Cafe, a dining area situated on what was once the malting floor of the distillery. There's oodles of local produce on the menu, and Mrs M's haggis and red onion marmalade jacket potato was definitely a highlight. A delicious Ardbeg Uigedail accompanied the meal (unsurprisingly) very well.

Before our tour, we had a couple of hours to spare in the glorious sunshine with a few drams. The scenery on Islay as a whole is stunning and nowhere more so than along the south coast. I think a few photos might speak for themselves here...

It was then time to head back inside for the tour to begin. Our guide, Gillian, firstly ran us through a brief history of the distillery. Plenty of photos of historical owners the MacDougall family adorn the walls of the old malt house, and we were able to explore areas of the distillery which are now no longer in use including the old wooden malt bins. This introductory element to the tour was really interesting and something a bit different to the other distilleries we've visited.

We were somewhat surprised to find out that Ardbeg is the second smallest distillery on Islay after Kilchoman (having been the largest in the late 1800s), given the prominence and reputation of the distillery. This definitely shows how having a big company behind them (Ardbeg has been owned by LVMH since 2004), with excellent marketing strategies, has worked to their advantage, but by visiting Ardbeg you definitely get behind the corporate sheen and it's clear that the traditional heart of the distillery is still beating strong.

Ardbeg takes advantage of the service provided by the maltings at Port Ellen, so our tour entered the production stage at the mill. 4.5 tons of the peatiest malt on the island (55ppm) is run through the Boby mill before reaching the mashtun. After the nine-hour mashing process is complete, the wort is piped through to the washbacks. The Tun Room is one of my favourite rooms of any distillery, with a rich, warm, beery scent, and they always seem to have an amazing view!

A leisurely wander through the magical stillhouse later, we visited the filling store to witness a few casks being brought back to life by the Ardbeg new make. A huge 80% of their total output goes into single malts, and Ardbeg uses the "marriage" system (not something we were previously familiar with) to create their core range, whereby the whisky contained within 2 casks is mixed together rather than being moved into another cask for finishing.  Of course, no tour would be complete without a dram, and Corryvreckan was today's whisky of choice... definitely in Mrs M's top 5 of all time!



Monday, 16 December 2013

The Curator's Collection

So we are for the second time sat in the upstairs room of the Broadfield, confronted by 5 delicious and truly special single malts, with the smell of smoke and warmth of spice drifting nosewards. This collection was put together and led by the charismatic whisky curator at the pub, Ed (you can read his blog here), and was a fine showcase of delightfully selected contrasting and exclusive whiskies, all of which were from the home shelf of the presenter.

Yet again this was a wonderful evening of tasting leading to a potential new favourite, although I think buying a bottle may set me back a few pennies...

With five whiskies on the cards, it was set to be a delectable night of malted peaty goodness.
The evening opened with a Glenkeith 1983, a dram with a light delicate nose and a stroke of liquorice on the finish that slips neatly down the palate, despite the dry nature of the oak.

Next was a Canadian Club 1975 - a 6 year aged bottle that was well kept from the ages of yore before the name meant cheap American 'liquor store' blend. Instead we are confronted by woody smells, a sligthly chalky nose, but backed up with the delightful taste of almost rum-spiced quality.

The third dram of the evening was a Tormore 28 year, bottled by the incredible whisky fanatics at WhiskyBroker. It has a depth of flavour like an apple crumble, sweet and lightly spiced with hints of cinnamon, which comes with a helping of warm vanilla custard. On the exceptionally long finish across the tongue were hedgerow fruits and hints of nutmeg all levelled with a flavour of oak wood. This is a very well rounded whisky with great warmth and sweetness. 

Komagatake 1989, is a spiced dram from a far lesser seen Japanese distillery, compared with Nikka or Yamazaki. It is a delicate whisky with a strong black pepper character, which dissolves to a toffee sweetness on the tongue. The long finish sums up the previous spice with a slightly smoked oak character. This was Laura's favourite of the night.

Some people save the best till last, and this for me could be the best ever. Ardbeg 1977 is an incredibly complex mix of powerful peat, with subtle overtones that constantly dance around the palate, up the nose and down the throat. It holds a magisterial concoction of flavour reminiscent of cocoa and coffees, that become creamy in texture across the tongue: a texture that brings with it a real depth and the phenols of peat smoke with fruit after citrus fruit. Really there are for too many levels of flavour into which I could plunge as far as this whisky is concerned, but I can comfortably say this is the greatest whisky I have ever tasted and that I am probably ever likely to drink. This would sell in a bar for upwards of £80 per dram, and due to its small run and now limited supply, will only increase in cost sip by delicious sip. 

But at the same time this is not the one I would recommend anyone purchasing. Instead I would opt for the Tormore 28 (now succeeded by the Tormore 29 year on whiskybroker) - it is well worth the money at £65. 

With the addition of christmas crackers containing miniature festive treats from Master of Malt in the form of single serve drams akin to our advent calendars, this was a smashing evening.

We are already looking forward to what the next series of whisky tasting nights will bring!