Thursday, April 23, 2009

New releases ... Ardbeg Supernova

ardbeg supernovaSupernova is the eagerly awaited new bottling from the Ardbeg distillery on the western island of Islay. The whisky world has been waiting for the general release of this scotch malt, with it being touted as the smokiest whisky ever. Supernova has a peating level of over 100ppm (phenols per million). Compare this to the regular Ardbeg 10 years old and Laphroaig 10 years old, which have peat levels of just over 50ppm and are regarded as two of the smokiest whiskies on the market. Ardbeg continues to push the boundaries with their experimentation and Supernova has been released as a polar opposite of the recently released Blasda, which was their first lightly peated whisky with a peat level of 8ppm.

For more information on how peat influences whisky and how phenol levels are calculated, then read Explain about ... Peat. The previous 2000 bottle limited edition of Supernova went on sale to Ardbeg committee members in February and sold out in under two hours, jamming their phone lines and crashing their website!!

The colour of Supernova is a lovely gingery gold and the peatiness hits you before your nose even gets to the rim of the glass. The smokiness is very strong but maybe not as much as anticipated. There is a gorgeous sweetness that comes through and the effect is reminiscent of honey, vanilla and damp mossy earth. Once your nose becomes used to the intense sweet smoke and the high alcohol level (58.9% ABV), more subtle herbal notes come through (think of fresh green grass and leaves). On the palate, this is very peaty (earthy and mossy again) with that gorgeous sweetness from the nose giving it a rich, creamy feel. The sweetness is coming from the malted barley and has a distinct cereal note. This is joined by vanilla and something quite spicy (think of ginger) and this spiciness becomes more pronounced with time (now think of a chilli). With water, the peatiness is dulled slightly with the sweet vanilla and herbal notes coming to the fore. The finish is strong and in tense with the sweet smoky peatiness lingers on for absolutely ages. The fiery spiciness returns at the very end for one final go.

This is an excellent smoky whisky. It is rich, complex and well balanced considering the very high peating level. It would be easy for the peat to overpower everything else. Supernova is available from independent whisky shops only and should cost between £75-85 a bottle. This may seem a lot to pay for a malt whisky that has no age stated (it is actually eight years old), but it is a limited edition bottling and is released at cask strength. Fantastic stuff.

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