Ardbeg Blasda is one of the most eagerly anticipated new releases of 2008. When news spread that this famous Islay distillery were planning to release a mildly peated whisky, much interest was created. Ardbeg is traditionally one of the most peaty and smoky whiskies in the world and has a phenol level in the malted barley of around 55ppm (phenols are produced when peat is burnt and these are absorbed into the malted barley as it is drying). 'Blasda' means 'delicious and tasty' in Gaelic and has been released at only 8ppm in order to show the other distillery characteristics in Ardbeg's spirit. It is a limited release (there will only be 1800 bottles available in the UK) and is packaged in a black box and clear bottle rather than the traditional Ardbeg dark green box and bottle. Retail price should be around £40 a bottle.
There is no age stated and the colour is light and straw-like. On the nose, this is still quite smoky and peaty but it is lighter and fresher than normally expected from an Islay malt. There is some malty sweetness present with a hint of salty sea air. On the palate, the smokiness is lighter and quite herbal and grassy. This lightness allows the other flavours to come through. That lovely malty sweetness (imagine a sweet style of bread) from the nose is there and is joined by something fruity (dried fruits, i think), citrusy (think of lemons) and floral (can't put my finger on what it is though...). That salty tang from before is also there. The finish is fairly long, with the smoke, sweet grains and saltiness all combining extremely well. This is a really good whisky with all the elements contributing to a great all round, light and enjoyable drink. The other Ardbeg characteristics are allowed their own place in the spotlight and marry very well with the more subtle smokiness. This would be a good whisky to give to someone who thought that they didn't like smoky Islay whiskies.