Thursday 28 May 2020

Tasted #482: Ardbeg Blaaack (Ardbeg Day 2020)

Ardbeg Day - that annual celebration of all things Ardbeg with fun, games, music, and two limited release bottlings, is upon us again.

There have been some epic parties in previous years (in particular 201320142016 (twice) & 2017), along with some great bar events in 2018 and 2019, but sadly thanks to COVID-19 this year's celebrations will be significantly more...virtual.

Still, that hasn't stopped the distillery from ensuring Ardbeg fans get their fix, with #ArdbegDayLive this coming Saturday 30th May @ 7pm BST, where members all around the world can tune in and take part in interactive activities with a dram in hand. They've even provided a Spotify Playlist for the occasion.

Note: Ardbeg Fans in HK will actually have the opportunity to attend a real, live, face to face event this Saturday at Tiffany's New York Bar...get those RSVPs in ASAP!

Of course, it wouldn't be Ardbeg Day without a limited release Ardbeg, and this year to celebrate 20 years of the Ardbeg Committee the distillery has released "Blaaack", a NAS release matured in NZ Pinot Noir wine casks, in traditional Committee Release guise @ 50.7%, and regular guise @ 46%. Having tried both this week, I can safely say Ardbeg fans should be happy - even those who perhaps weren't so happy with the Ardbeg Day releases of recent years.

Ardbeg kindly sent a sample of the 46% release today, so we could share our thoughts...

Ardbeg "Blaaack" (46% ABV, NAS, Islay Scotland, $189.99AUD, $1,300HKD)
Colour: Light copper-gold.

Nose: There's a sooty peat initially, but it doesn't mask the rich notes of red berries, milk chocolate, blackcurrants and strawberry jam. After some time, some sherbet emerges, and more chocolate-coated strawberry notes, with a faint coastal note wafting over the top.

Palate: There's a sooty bushfire note, but again it doesn't hide what else is going on - notes of woodfired crumpets with jam, cherries, and strawberry jelly babies. Give it a bit of time and you might find some marmalade (slightly bitter but in a way that works with the other notes).

Finish: Medium in length, with a slight oak / tannic bitterness and an underlying campfire sootiness to the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. I'd say perhaps the best Ardbeg Day release since Dark Cove. Much more composed and mature than last year's Drum (which we still enjoyed), and a must-try for anyone who likes their Ardbegs big on the smoke, but also on the flavour.

No detailed tasting notes for this one unfortunately, but the committee release with its extra ABV is just as enjoyable, with big berry notes shrouded in a sooty peat.