Welcome to the current ongoing 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.
So far in my reviews of older 90s Ardbeg samples, all of them have been ex-bourbon casks. And that’s not a bad thing. Currently sherry casks are only seasoned, and the quality of these casks hasn’t really given us the amazing flavours of older sherry casks.
Don’t get me wrong: You can still do interesting things with these casks. However for me, Oloroso casks and finishes usually don’t mix. I know I’ve enjoyed some of them, however I prefer a full maturation of Oloroso and a finish of PX.
Thus I too don’t know why I would purchase Ardbeg 23 Darkness! Oloroso Cask Finish, save for the fact that the PX was no longer available and I need to review as much as humanly possible.
Or perhaps I read “Old Ardbeg” and just went blind after that. Or perhaps I’m still learning what I like about whiskies and finishes and only recently realized that Oloroso finishes aren’t my thing.
Hmm. None the less, I’m happy I purchased this as it gives me an idea of what sherry can do to 90s Ardbeg. Granted, this is from the Darkness! series, thus it Believes in a Thing Called Love. Wait, that’s incorrect. It’s an elemental force that allows access to an otherworld dimension and control over demons.
Still incorrect? Is it an ancient supernatural entity in the Grand Canyon? No, definitely not that one.
Ah, I got it. Darkness! is a special series of whiskies that were finished in 50 litre fresh fill sherry casks to give a greater amount of influence than a normal cask. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: No longer available
Cask Finish Type: A specialty made 50 litre fresh fill first fill Oloroso sherry cask
Colour: 5YR 5/8
Nose: Strawberry jam, brine, peach liqueur, manure, baklava
Initial sherry cask influence is very prominent. It’s mixed with the Ardbeg peach from before and added a booze-y flavour to it.
Some of the grassy/nutty notes still shine through. And oddly enough, for a 90s Ardbeg (based on the few I’ve had so far), the matured peat is here. Or perhaps that’s just the earth from the sherry showing up, giving us the manure note.
Taste: Spicy cherry jam, mushroom, currant, basil, butter corn
Okay so at first this is hot and jammy, however the earth comes in. This is mostly sherry influenced at first.
However, given time, that grass, butter, and vegetal element of Ardbeg comes through. Tasted blind and without the previous 90s Ardbegs before it? I’d not know this was peated.
Finish: Farm, chestnut, strawberry, lemon-lime soda, smoke, crab-apple
Interesting, almost sour finish that takes on a bit too much of the sherry. It’s nice, and the farm-y notes are helping add to it. Also some smoke there at the end.
Conclusion: Too much sherry. I get the feeling that this needed more smoke to it, and an old 90s Ardbeg no longer has that much smoke (again, based on the ones I’ve had). So it’s more earth, red fruit, and lots of butter.
It’s not a waste by far. There is some smoke. There is some well mixed flavours. I enjoyed sipping on it. However perhaps I associate Ardbeg with having big, powerful flavours of smoke. Or perhaps older 70s ones did, and they would have shined better.
That all said, I’ve read other reviews stating people got the big chocolate notes I was looking for. So I accept I could be wrong.
Scotch review #853, Islay review #211, Whisky Network review #1372