Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Tasted #302: Ardbeg 1973 15yo bottled by Sestante Imports (#101drams)

It's been far too long since I posted tasting notes for a #101drams charitable challenge, and while the tally currently sits at 69 whiskies, the actual number sits about 15 or so higher. The backlog of posts continues to grow unfortunately...

Helping me tick off #99 on the list, "A Scotch bottled in the 80s", is this stunning independently bottled Ardbeg, distilled in 1973, and bottled 15 years later (at a cask-strength 53.4%) by Sestante.

"Big deal", you might think - "an Indie Ardbeg from a Bourbon cask with a boring label..."

Ahh...but you see, this is no ordinary Indie. Whiskies from the Italian independent bottler Sestante are legendary, and even more so since they stopped releasing whiskies in the 1990s. This cask-strength bottling in particular seems to have caught the eye of whisky lovers over the years, as can be evidenced by its price tag whenever it does pop up (it was £995 on Master of Malt, when it was available, still sells for £1,500 at TWE, and in March Platinum Wines in Hong Kong were selling 3 bottles at $13,000HKD each). That's more than Sestante's 21yo Ardbeg from 1974, on the rare occasion it pops up for sale.

So not your average ex-Bourbon Ardbeg then...

The opportunity to taste this (from a recently-opened bottle) came up at Malt Masters Hong Kong 2016 recently, and it was an opportunity I wasn't about to miss...


Ardbeg 1973 15 Year Old, bottled by Sestante (54.3% ABV, 15yo, Islay, Scotland, £1,500 / $13,000HKD)
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Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Wow...such tropical fruitness. Loads of pineapple, some rockmelon. Some oat cakes, and minimal, minimal peat. A little creamy honey. Some sweet stewed apples. Such incredible balance..all notes working well together and in perfect harmony. Time to dive in....

Palate: There's peat, but it's subtle. It's more about the fruitiness (still tropical - peaches, nectarines, and the pineapple and rockmelon from the nose), but drizzled with honey and a light dusting of icing sugar. It's sweet, but not cloying in any way. In its relatively short 15 years, this whisky has taken on some incredible characteristics from its (no doubt) bourbon cask maturation, and presented them all in perfect harmony. Stunning.

Finish: Medium to long. BBQ pork with grilled pineapple on top. Brilliant.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. The phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" gets thrown around a lot, so I won't use it here, but suffice to say I've never tasted an Ardbeg like this before...

Cheers,
Martin.

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