Thursday 1 June 2023

Planet Ardbeg Day 2023 - Heavy Vapours [Tasted #638]

If there's one consistent annual article on this blog, it's Ardbeg Day. Almost every year since 2012, Hendy or I have managed to at least taste the annual limited release, if not attend Sydney and/or Hong Kong events. From last year's "Ardcore" to 2013's "Ardbog", and pretty much everything in between (2014's "Auriverdes" event was a highlight, as was 2016's "Dark Cove" Committee Release) there's been a lot of weird and wonderful releases.

2023 is no different, with the distillery celebrating "Planet" Ardbeg Day this year with the launch of "Heavy Vapours", which saw Ardbeg spirit distilled without a purifier (the apparatus on the still responsible for maintaining Ardbeg's "unrivalled balance between extreme peat and floral fruitiness").
An experiment by Dr Bill Lumsden (who else?!), the change supposedly allows the "heaviest and untamed vapours to rise up the still during the distillation process". 

Because this release is for Ardbeg Day (which always means equal parts experimentation and fun), Ardbeg have teamed up with different artists to create a series of "Planet Ardbeg" comics, with the Heavy Vapours comic following Jackie Thomson, Ardbeg Visitor Centre Manager & Committee Chair (aka "Agent 46"), portrayed as an interplanetary detective on a quest to locate the elusive purifier ad restore Ardbeg's signature balance.

So we've established it's experimental and fun (as to be expected), but how does it taste...?

Ardbeg "Heavy Vapours" Ardbeg Day 2023 Release (46% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland $1,930HKD (with Wee Beastie 5yo) £120 / $250AUD)

Colour: Pale straw.

Nose: Spiced, briny smoke. Paprika at first, but then after time perfumed, settling into an ashy campfire.

Palate: Initially light, youthful and vibrant. There's a slight oak bitterness, some milk choc notes, some pepper and after time some mocha notes.

Finish: Relatively short, with hints of bitter oak and dark chocolate.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 86/100 (Martin). A perfectly drinkable Ardbeg, but (as with last year's Ardcore), I find myself preferring the core 10yo - which sells for less than 1/3 the price here in HK.

Ardbeg have clearly put a huge amount of effort into the marketing and event side of Ardbeg Day, and must be applauded for it, but I can't help but feel the whiskies each year are getting sub-par when compared to the excellent core range (in particular the 10yo & Uigeadail). That's not to say these are bad whiskies - not at all. They're fine, but in comparison to the core range, personally I don't find this one as good - especially not when it's almost quadruple the price of the 10yo, and more than double the price of the Oogie. "Fun" has to have a price cap. For the first time since 2013, I'll admit I didn't buy the release this year - either regular to committee version.

If you're keen to try it for youself, there are Heavy Vapours Masterclasses being held in HK (as well as Heavy Vapours cocktails being served) at the following venues - contact them for details:
  • Tiffany's New York Bar (including the main event on Sat 3rd June, 4-6pm)
  • Whisky & Words (10th June)
  • CNY Bar (17th June)
  • Bar Butler (29th June)

Ardbeg "Heavy Vapours" is available now from Ardbeg Embassies, whisky retailers and online. Thanks to MHDHK & Flare Communications for the sample.


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