Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 2 – Ardbeg & my review of Lord of the Isles

Last week I started my eight part series where I would try and explain Islay Distilleries and their whiskies, specifically to people that are new to whisky, by way of Rock and Roll.  In that post I compared Bruichladdich to the Sex Pistols – true punk rockers of the Scotch whisky world!

Most people seemed to agree (about 95% of all that gave feedback) with my analysis though I did get a suggestion that The Ramones were more fitting or perhaps The Clash.  Whether  the band choice was agreed upon or not, everyone seemed to agree that Punk Rock was the correct Genre.  Huzzah!

Now we move onto comparison number two.  As with my Bruichladdich post from last week, first the whisky review then the Rock Band comparison.

Ardbeg “Lord of the Isles” 25yo – 46%ABV£650 (£542 ex. VAT)

On the nose –  Strong nose with a fair amount of smoke and soot (more so than I expected, what with this being 25 years old; I expected something a touch rounder or, shall I say, softer).

Lemon pledge.

A good deal of green apples (who came up with the name “Granny Smith”?) and spicy thai red curry sauce.

Burning notebook paper; the white lined, 5 subject type notebook.

Oak, smoke, char and cherry syrup.  Interestingly reminiscent of mizunara oak (notes I’d get from a Yamazaki, actually).

Strong, oversteeped tea (green & white).

This nose is all over the place and has an unorganized feel rather than one that gives you a sense of evolution.

On the mouth – Now the roundness kicks in!  Soft, creamy, viscous & soothing but smoke starts to kick in after a few seconds.

Marzipan and lemons.

Then more peat smoke – warming, growing and growing leading up to the finish…

Finish – Mint and menthol, salt and lemons.  Looooong and zesty and slightly numbing after a while.

In sum – This was a odd one, for sure!  The nose seemed to be all over the place, hard to follow yet not unpleasant in anyway.  However, upon tasting the whisky it all comes together, gets buttoned up and starts to make sense.

A lovely, odd, old Islay that’s very different from the Ardbeg style of today.  It’s not my favorite Ardbeg but a nice one none the less.

Special thanks to David B for the 2nd sample (note: whisky does not hold well in baby bottles.  Hence the 2nd sample – thanks again, David)!


Ardbeg – The Band! — Perhaps the most CULT Islay single malt, Ardbeg has a truly devout following.

I’ve heard stories from the very recent past about people waiting in the rain for 30 hours during the Islay Feis Ile festival just to pay £300 (or so) for the distillery only, Feis Ile festival bottling.  If I had the time and money, I suppose I’d do the same…

Ardbeg tattoos are common place among devotees.  There’s also a well know website by Malt Maniac Tim Puett called the Ardbeg Project that deals with even the most minute of details about Ardbeg… all the way down to various bottle codes.  Talk about devotion!!

Given the above, my initial reaction is that Ardbeg is most like The Grateful Dead.  However, I personally can’t stand The Grateful Dead (sorry people) and their successors, Phish, turn my stomach even more.

Let’s compare it to their house style of whisky… Bright, brash, in your face, lively and invigorating.  Peaty without being a smoke bomb.  Clean and very confident.

So, big cult following +  an attention demanding, big ‘ol elephant in the room style…  You, my dear Ardbeg are Slayer (minus all of the death and devil stuff)!

Yikes!Oh my gosh! —  See, I told you (albeit without gore…)!!

…or perhaps it should read:

..perhaps this comparison is more fo Ardbeg’s fans (myself being one of them) rather than Ardbeg itself….  Hmmm… you decide.