It’s a mix of regular bourbon cask Ardbeg with some that has aged in Manzanilla sherry casks, all matured for at least 10 years. During the pre-release Ardbog tasting for Embassy staff, distillery manager Mickey Heads explained that the saltiness of the Manzanilla sherry complimented the generally briny Ardbeg spirit, emphasising that particular flavour. Putting that at the core of the Ardbog, they then brought in the bourbon cask whisky to round out the dram and add some American oak sweetness.
Nose: Underlying candy sweetness with a bit of tar, tyre-fire smoke and preserved lemons (Moroccan style, in salt). Lots of brine and hints of plimsoll rubber and new bandages.
Palate: More brine up front, along with sweet apple and lemon, bitter pith, coal smoke and dust, and a rich earthiness underneath. Quite dry after the initial sweetness, with sour woody notes creeping in around the edges.
Finish: Long, with apple skin, lemon peel, salted caramel, dry oak and a touch of black pepper.
Comment: On my first taste I wasn’t particularly impressed, with my comment being a not particularly disparaging ‘tastes like Ardbeg’. However, after a weekend of the bottle being opened it’s definitely opened up a bit – an interesting balance of salt and smoke, although maybe a little bit dry for some.