An islay great and a commoner for those who love their concoction peaty is the Ardbeg distillery, an establishment with over 200 years of whisky history to its name. A white washed building with the ‘Ardbeg’ name tag boldly painted across, the distillery sits comfortably along the southern coast off the Isle of Islay, where the air is moist, caressed by the cool sea breeze. The distillery gets most of its water from 2 major bodies – Loch Airigh Nam Beist and Loch Uigeadail, inspiration to their Uigeadail (Oog-a-dahl) expression and our review of choice.
The expression does not have an age attached to it and is vatted with whiskies matured primarily in ex-bourbon barrels along with those aged in European sherry oak casks, though a smaller percentage of the latter. What I adore about this distillery and the expression in particular is the spirit comes void of any artificial colouring or chill filtration. And as is with all Ardbegs, the spirit is peaty, robust and possibly lighter, than their Laphy counterparts.
I believe it gets its lighter character as an after-affect of the distillery’s purifier, relaying the more heavier compounds back into the pot still for another run, harnessing the lighter more fruitier spirits.
ABV: 54.2% v/v
Nose: A rush of caramel and cigarette ash infused with brine, sweetened with raisins and a hint of red wine. Plush tropical fruits- rock melons and coconut shards are caressed with rich milk chocolate and a fragrance that carries itself to the end. Green pepper, leather and hints of cardamom form the tail end of the nosing.
Taste: A beautiful balance between char and caramel accompanied by damp wood and moist cigarette buds. The presence of cantaloupe, raisins, candied red cherries and subtle sherried influences are further comforted with banana bread and cream. Mild hints of cocoa and coffee are interrupted by the more bolder brine and green pepper nuances.
Finish: Caramel and peaty with a few raisins and a drizzle of honey.
Light on the palate but bold and peaty in character, this expression is rich in caramel with an added layer of sweetness owing to its time in sherry oak barrels. You would think the high peat content would almost polarize the whisky but this is far from true; the sweetness is well balanced with the smoke and seaweed that it gives the expression a vibrant, unique and wholesome feel. The peaty influence does take centre stage no doubt, but the lovely raisin-sherry influences though subtle are very evident on the palate and in the right doses.
As is the case with most Islay whiskies, the Uigeadail is quite pricey when pitted against similar expressions, but nevertheless worth it if peaty expressions are to your liking.
Preference : The higher ABV can be hard on the palate but nothing a bit of water couldn’t resolve.