Thanks to /u/RaunchyJowls for this sample.
Welcome to a new series I’m calling “I’m Ar-begging you to stop making these puns”, in which I review all of the Ardbeg samples I’ve had sitting around, unreviewed. Time to continue folks!
Everyone wants creativity. However just because your creative doesn’t mean it’s good. As most people who’ve visited modern art museums will tell you (Note: I don’t hate all of it, just some pieces).
You need to try things though. And when you do so in a company that exists to make money, you may not be able to just hide your creative oopsies. Which brings us to Ardbeg Kelpie.
This release for Fèis Ìle 2017 was made with whisky aged in virgin Black Sea oak casks sourced from the Adyghe Republic in Russia. And given all the hubbub with Russia, either this is the future of whisky or a one time try.
They then vatted the ex-virgin Russian oak casks with regular bourbon cask Ardbeg. And sadly I don’t own a Kelpie miniature, because frankly you never fight Kelpie’s in DnD, and they are rare.
So I’ll admit something: When I heard about this, my understanding of Russian oak is that it’s good for Brandy as it’s mostly neutral. Somewhat like Hungarian oak. I’ve since found out that it’s used to develop the freshness of wine and bring out the aromatic nature of the grape variety. It’s low in lactones, and thus it adds only light woody characters.
So for me I didn’t see the big deal. However I have friends who’ve enjoyed Ardbeg Kelpie and told me to stop judging a book by its cover and going through their trash, so I should try at least one of those things.
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: No longer available at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Pine, coconut, pear, white chocolate, rosemary
Initial nose is light, though it does have that coconut element that comes out from virgin wood.
Herbal, some white chocolate, and some fruit to balance it out. So far it’s tasting a little young, and different than other Ardbegs I’ve had, though I’m not turning away in pain.
Taste: Chocolate, perfume/raw alcohol, pepper bacon, leather, rosemary
So on the good side: We have those chocolate and peppery bacon notes. Lovely leather as well given some time.
On the rough side? Some of this is pretty raw. It’s floral, which we know is from the Russian oak. It’s rough, which I think means it’s either too young or the Russian oak is not adding enough.
Finish: Butter, lemon, brine, asparagus, alcohol
Finish starts out with this nice buttery mixture of citrus, herbal, and salty. However then it has that youthful note again that can’t be hidden.
Conclusion: An interesting idea that has some nice elements yet is rough around the edges. I get the idea of what they wanted: Try something out. Try out a new wood, something no one else is doing. Something that may end up being fun, or interesting, or at least different.
The barrels must have cost quite a bit. Maybe a few elections (I kid, please don’t kill my family Mr. Putin). And maybe, just maybe the Committee release is more subtle. However from what I tried here, this is too rough for me to recommend.
All in all an interesting idea. Perhaps a second maturation would work better.
Scotch review #847, Islay review #205, Whisky Network review #1365