I’m back after another lazy-bastard-hiatus with a huge backlog of whiskies to review from the past 9 months. By my remedial calculations, I should manage to catch up and complete these reviews around 2026, that’s if the world hasn’t ended by then.
So, here I am, with thankfully little to whine about compared to many others over the past 6 months, and a bundle of whiskies tasted whilst I shielded.
First up after all this time is Ardbeg Blaaack Committee Release 50.7%
I’ve had the past 5 Committee Releases from Ardbeg and – 2016’s Dark Cove aside – every single year I tell myself I won’t buy another. Then they get released near my birthday and I crumble, request a bottle, fortunately manage to snare one, and then become somewhat disappointed by it. It’s a habit I am struggling to shake: the fear of missing out and the intrigue for their new release always seems to trump the past experience of being disappointed and scolding myself that that year’s release will be my last. Maybe I just need to lower my expectations.
2020’s CR was the Ardbeg Blaaack, so-named due to the distillery’s self-perceived position on Islay as the ‘Black Sheep’ distillery. Basically marketing schtick that I fall for every year that also goes hand-in-hand with the NAS whisky being finished in ex-Pinot Noir casks sourced from New Zealand which is famous for sheep and wine. Clever.
I waited until July to open this bottle as a celebration for lockdown restrictions being loosened, plus another month or two to review, means it’s close to half a year since this was released to the masses and I suspect you will learn absolutely nothing new.
Rested for 10 minutes.
Nose: Deep peat, which isn’t a surprise, and whiffs of woody smoke . Black cherries, some sweetness in there too that’s akin to blackcurrant and liquorice sweets. Smells a bit enthusiastic, maybe due to it being a slightly younger whisky.
Palate: Sweet peat, quite similar to Ardbeg’s standard 10 Year Old, and it takes some time for me to notice and appreciate any of the Pinot Noir influence. I just don’t seem to notice it initially – not because it’s subtle, but because it just doesn’t seem to be there. There’s an acrid, meaty smokiness to it as well, quite savoury. The whisky does slowly open up with some dark fruits and red wine-inspired richness, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but on the whole it’s a bit of a miss for me.
Finish: Quite long, embracing, and warm. White pepper and cloves, sweet and savoury. The finish is actually very good, and it’s only brought down by the slightly lacklustre nose and palate.
Still, the Blaaack does taste a bit better with slow cooked ribs…
This would be a fantastic NAS whisky at the £60 or £70 price point, but there’s not much value for money when it cost £110 with postage, although I guess I am not just paying for the content but also the general buzz that surrounds these yearly releases. I do think my expectations play a part in my feeling of apathy towards the Blaaack, but I also think that for the last 4 years that all of their Committee Releases have fallen short of the Dark Coves lofty heights.