I approached this expression with caution, after being quite underwhelmed with the Auriverdes, Perpetuum and the Dark Cove, and figured the NAS road chosen by Ardbeg will inevitably lead to progressively uninspired festival bottlings.
But I’m always open to be surprised, and indeed, I have been.
The Kelpie is finished in virgin oak taken from Adygea. Now, I know geography pretty well, but have never heard of the place. Turns out, it’s a republic in Russia, nestled in the Caucuses, between the Black and Caspian Seas.
What are the specific characteristics of this wood? Is it closer to European, American or Mizunara oak? There really is no information on this. And how about the name “Kelpie”. Where does that come from? Kelpies are mythical shapeshifting creatures said to inhabit Scotland’s waters, the seas and the lochs. They have been immortalized in the iconic statues at The Helix in Falkirk.
But there’s a greater conncection between Ardbeg and the Kelpie legend, as is evidenced in Charls Mackay’s poem “The Kelpie of Corrievreckan” of which I bring the opening and closing stanzas:
He mounted his steed of the water clear,
And sat on his saddle of sea- weed sere;
He held his bridle of strings of pearl,
Dug out of the depths where the sea-snakes curl.
I warn you, maids, whoever you be,
Beware of pride and vanity;
And ere on change of love you reckon,
Beware the Kelpie of Corryvreckan.
Ardbeg Kelpie – Committee Release (51.7% ABV, NCF)
Appearance: Gold, with thin legs forming quickly.
Nose: First thought that comes to mind is “Was this sourced from Lagavulin?”. Smoked meat, smoked fish, seaweed and a very warm smell of a barbecue going at full strength. This is definitely not your everyday Ardbeg, and is, honestly, a nice surprise. After some time in the glass, some massive saltiness comes in, and mixes with the ongoing burning campfire. A few drops of water shifted the nose a bit toward the briny with some malt coming through.
Palate: Very peaty and salty, it’s actually quite aggressive on the palate. It has a pine-y quality. A few drops of water bring out a touch of the bourbon barrel with a hint of vanilla on the palate.
Linger: Salami and smoke ,with the peat remaining on the tongue and peppery spice on the top of the gullet.
Has Ardbeg stopped the slump they were in over the past couple of years with the Committee Releases?
This expression is interesting and intense, and while the nose is better than the palate, this is a bottle I’d be happy to have on a tasting table.