Autumn is officially over, snow has started falling, the wind is bitter and as a parent, I officially function more during the hours of darkness than of daylight. If Mike didn’t convince you enough in the Autumn to reach for a smoky dram, then a new season, my persuasiveness and something a little sweet and savoury will hopefully do the trick.
Ardbeg has already been popular on the Water of Life. Firstly, I reviewed the Ardbeg 8-year-old for discussion, then Mike examined the ‘Wee Beastie.’ After receiving an average score of 6, I feel that it is unbefitting of such an iconic brand that I decided to take on the 120,000+ strong Ardbeg Committee’s favourite, the Uigeadail, in order to put things right hopefully.
First released by Master Blender Rachel Barrie in 2003, the Ardbeg committee has fallen in love with the Uigeadail ever since. It’s not just the committee either; it’s been fetching gold and silver awards in various competitions since too. In fact, after Ardbeg was awarded World Whiskey of the Year in 2008 by Jim M@£$%y, with their ten-year-old, they repeated the feat in 2009 with the Uigeadail. Carrying on the theme of naming whiskies after geographical features significant to Ardbeg, the Uigeadail is named after their infamous water source and aptly means ‘deep and mysterious,’ which could arguably be a description of the whiskey itself (see tasting notes further below….).
So, the whiskey itself then. The Uigeadail is made from a marriage of bourbon and sherry butts, which Ardbeg seem pretty fond of. You can see the evolution from the ‘An Oa’ expression, and clearly, the refinement from the ‘Wee Beastie’, both matured from sherry and bourbon. This possibly asks why it actually sits in the core range when two expressions carry the same finish. For me, this is the top of the core range; this is the little bit of extra you want with your Ardbeg. It’s classic in terms of its peat, strong in terms of its ABV, and definitive in terms of its statement. It’s the type of Ardbeg that if you wanted to spend a bit more money, you wouldn’t feel bad paying a few more pounds on top of a ten-year-old to get something a bit more special.
It’s bottled at cask strength at a warming 54.2%. It’s stated as non-chill filtered but does not indicate an age statement. It’s clearly part of their core range, and you can typically find it from most reputable retailers. Amazon is the cheapest that I have seen at £57.99.
Nose: lots of peat! Strong coffee beans, lots of sweetness on the nose also, dark cherries, tobacco ash, salty smoky bacon and some diesel fumes. Nice hint of salt too that brings it all together.
Palate: carbolic soap, TCP, lots of peat and smoke (LOTS), more sweetness comes through with more cherries, some spice too with cinnamon, clove and pepper, treacle and smoky bacon
Finish: more espresso and treacle, dying embers of a bonfire that you could chew through…
Rachel Barrie back then described the want for a rich, luscious and deep whisky with perfect balance and complexity, and I can’t disagree with any of that. The central aspect of this whisky for me is the balance of sweet and savoury. Smoke is abundant without being too overpowering, and the savoury notes of bacon matched perfectly with the cherries and coffee beans is a match made in heaven. The influence of a sherry cask finish is genuinely evident here.
The cask strength nature of this whisky with the heavily peated influence could make the average whisky drinker think twice, but it’s just not the case here at all. The peat and smoke enhance and accentuate the flavour profile, but at the same time, it gets mellowed out and balanced by the sweetness. As Ardbeg themselves say, “an intense crescendo of flavour,” and I can’t disagree with that.
A lot of people have said that this is Ardbeg’s attempt to re-create a classic Ardbeg, something pre-1997, and whilst I haven’t tried anything from that era from Ardbeg, I can’t help but to try and understand why Ardbeg had to close then; any type of whisky created from this blueprint would have been well-liked by all whisky drinkers.
Mike and I are clearly fans of Ardbeg, but we’re objective, and I think we would both agree that this is a great whiskey from Ardbeg. We’ve branded them as a bit wacky and silly in our past reviews, and that is still the case, but with the Uigeadail, all silliness goes out the window and you just feel that classy, refined and sophisticated Ardbeg really comes through. Ardbeg clearly have the range, this just shows it so clearly.