Amongst whisky drinkers, there are two types of people – those who love the smoky, growly and utterly unique peat of Islay and those lesser mortals. Well, they just don’t care for it. Still, it would be hard to find a single character within either sect who cannot appreciate the sentiment and passion behind Ardbeg Day.
Every year, around the 30th of May, Ardbeg release a limited edition singular expression with a theme or profile that adds to the legend of this distillery. This year the release of Perpetuum will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the distillery founded by John McDougall but restored to it’s former glory in more recent times by Glenmorangie. (Ardbeg closed for the second time in 1991, before being purchased by Glenmorangie in 1997.)
Why so much fuss about an NAS (non-age statement) whisky? Well whisky has always been and will always be about stories. So here’s my take on the who, where, what, when and why of the Ardbeg legacy… may it live on in Perptuum.
Where: An isolated cove near Port Ellen on the south coast of Islay, accessible at the end of long, purposeful road. Isolated enough that it was once the domain of smugglers, pirates and hard Scottish coastmen. Close enough for Loch Uigeadail (which means ‘dark and mysterious place’ in Gaelic) to be it’s primary water source; the very location of Ardbeg creates exception amongst the world’s great whiskies.
Who: A legacy beginning with a farmer and clan descendant of the Lord of the Isles and more recently embracing Dr. Bill Lumsden; one of the foremost distillers and whisky creators in modern history. His work to create the flavour profiles of two distinct yet equally important houses (Glenmorangie and Ardbeg) sets him apart as one of the great distillers of our time. This whisky, still made by hand and on a very human scale carries the essence of a people not easily dissuaded from great craft. Not to mention the Ardbeg Committee, a membership some 110,000 strong who ardently pursue and imbibe Ardbeg’s great malts.
What: Whisky, because whisky. Malt, peat, dark and clean waters of Scotland alongside her salty, crisp Islay air. Enough said. One of the best whiskies in the world.
When: Today and in short supply, the Perpetuum is only available at the distillery itself or at an Ardbeg Embassy around the world for the first two weeks after release. There are three in New Zealand – Sam Snead’s House of Whiskey in Auckland, Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington and Whisky Galore in Christchurch. I’ll be at the House of Whiskey from 12pm to taste, laugh and celebrate this legacy of 200 years from first legal distillery to today.
And most importantly; why?
Here’s what Dr. Bill Lumsden has to say;
“Ardbeg’s character has endured for 200 years and we hope it will continue for centuries to come. The 2015 Ardbeg Day anniversary bottling, Ardbeg Perpetuum, celebrates this milestone year with a recipe that includes some very old and young Ardbeg, silky Ardbeg from bourbon barrels and some spicy Ardbeg from sherry casks. The resulting expression combines classic notes of dark chocolate and treacle with sea-spray, peat smoke, vanilla and a hint of sherry casks, to create an unforgettable single malt with an after taste that is never-ending.”
Tasting notes: olive on the nose but the taste in the glass soon overpowers with creamy, vanilla oaky notes, hints of licquorice, white chocolate, cranberry tartness. Finishes with traditional medicinal notes and salt. It’s a tribute to classic Ardbeg expression. Sits at 47.4% abv.