The stock of whisky distilled before the 1997 Glenmorangie purchase of Ardbeg was an indicator of what the distillery was going through. Besides some vintage releases, like this 1977 and a 1975, and the “core” 17 year old that took the distillery back from 1997 to 1980, the last full year of distillation, the distillery released some 60 single cask releases between 1999 and 2010, most of those were distilled between 1972 and 1976. What’s interesting is that many of those casks were distilled on certain dates or bunched ranges of dates, suggesting that the distillery was working only intermittently even when it was fully active. Thus, December 26th 1975 was an active day (seems almost like someone on vacation from another place of employment came to distill that day 😉 ), as was November 24th, 1976 as were June 14th and July 12th in 1974. You may think I’m reading too much into the dates on this list, but I’ll submit that with 365 days a year, such clumping has got to have statistical significance.
The Ardbeg Very Old 1977 Limited Edition was released between 2001 and 2004 in several batches, making the whisky 23 to 27 years old.
Today is also the festival day for Ardbeg Grooves (which has been actually on sale for over two months), named for the casks that are so heavily charred that they opened grooves in the wood. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really sure how this differs from the Alligator, but once I get some Grooves to taste, I’ll try to compare them.
Here is a stunning video of Ardbeg captured by Tiga Wong on Youtube:
Ardbeg ‘Very Old’ 1977 (46% ABV, NCF)
Appearance: Gold, tiny legs coming off a pretty sturdy necklace, leaving a lot of droplets behind.
Nose: When just poured, the peat is very subtle, and the initial nose is almost that of a white wine.
After a moment to settle, rich honey with a hint of peat and pine, with a lovely spiciness. The nose has a dryness, without quite reaching the oakiness you can sometimes get at these ages. Sweet minerals with a touch of Golden Delicious apples, and a hint of a floral bouquet. Left to rest a bit, you’ll get a light sourness with a farmy peat reek, that dissipates into the sweet mineral dryness.
Palate: Very sweet on the initial attack, with honey and a somewhat waxy fruitiness, again with those Golden Delicious apples, and very gentle, yet fizzy, peat and pepper. The palate is perfectly balanced between sweet and peat.
Linger: Sweet at first, turning dry with spices and peat. Gently bitter. Around the gullet the peat and spices remain for a while. The upper part of the mouth, towards the back of the palate, holds on to the sweetness and the peat for a long time.
What a dignified Ardbeg, and it’s so different even from the modern 21 distilled sometime in the 1990s. There’s something very gentle, yet powerful, in this dram. The balance is extraordinary!