Although (physical) Ardbeg Day celebrations this year were sadly cancelled across the globe, this year's limited release, Ardbeg Blaaack, is about to be available in South Africa. Blaaack celebrates not only the annual Ardbeg Day but also the 20th anniversary of the Ardbeg Committee, which was founded in 2000 a few years after the distillery was reopened.
"To mark such a momentous occasion, the Distillery vowed that the casks used to honour their global flock would be right on the nose. For the first time in Ardbeg’s history, we rounded up Pinot Noir casks from the country that lies the furthest distance from Islay – New Zealand, that other remote island nation where sheep have been known to outnumber the locals by 7:1."
The annual releases are limited, which always results in some disappointment. There are far more whisky drinkers trying to get a bottle, than there are bottles available. This is not only the case in South Africa but in many countries which are lucky enough to get any allocation at all. (Remember the days when South Africa never got any annual Ardbeg Day releases? It wasn't that long ago!)
South Africa has also been a tough market in recent years and whisky sales have been dropping steadily year-on-year. The volume of limited releases is usually allocated to the various markets based on existing sales of standard releases. If SA whisky sales are down, we can only assume that in general Ardbeg is not doing as well, and therefore as a country we are getting less limited release stock. (As much as this sucks, it makes sense and you can't really blame the brand.)
It's up to all of us, as whisky and Ardbeg lovers, to do what we can to build the brand. It can't just be about showing up once a year for a fun event and to buy the limited release, while for the remaining year we don't give it much thought. Let's not forget the Ardbeg Committee was created to stop the distillery ever having to close again, as it did in the 1990s.
With this in mind, we've taken the difficult decision to only sell Ardbeg Blaaack bundled with a standard Ardbeg 10yo. We know many fans won't mind this, while others will. Either way, we hope you understand why we have taken this decision and at the very least support the idea of growing the Ardbeg brand in SA.
Ardbeg Blaaack will be available on our website tomorrow, Thursday 4th June, at 12pm. Strictly limited to one per customer. We're giving advanced notice of this in order to level the playing field and give as many people as possible the opportunity to try get a bottle. The price for the bundle will be R2,070 - the Blaaack for R1,500 and a promo price for the Ardbeg 10yo of R570.
We only have 66 bottles allocated to us, 6 of which will go to the bar for whisky lovers to order by the dram (when lockdown finally ends and the bar can reopen). This leaves 60 bottles for online sales, and it goes without saying, we expect them to sell out in a matter of minutes.
Please understand, we wish we could get more stock, and we've made that known year after year with the powers that be. It's not like we want to disappoint 100s of customers, nor do we want to have to carefully plan the release to prevent negative feedback. You want more; we want more! The only possible way we can see that happening in future though, is to do what we've done and bundle the release with the 10yo.
OFFICIAL TASTING NOTES:
Nose: Baked fruit pudding knits together seamlessly with cedar wood and aromatic cigar box. Oak tannins and rich truffles then break away to reveal subtle notes of smoky jam tart. With a splash of water, intense aromas of bitter cherry and a curiously zesty note emerges. Naturally, this dram then travels in a different direction with lovely fragrant violet notes.
Palate: A velvety and surprisingly furry mouthfeel drives your palate into a complex symphony of contrasting flavours. Aniseed, soot and summer fruits – such as cherries, strawberries, apricots and pears – give way to crumbly pastry, dark chocolate, coffee and almonds.
Finish: A long, lingering sooty finish.