Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review - Ardbeg Perpetuum

The annual release for Ardbeg Day at the Islay Festival always creates a big stir amongst the whisky community each year. This year's bottling is named Perpetuum, which means 'forever' or 'ongoing' in Latin, and kicks off the distillery's 200th anniversary celebrations.  The Perpetuum has been created by Dr. Bill Lumsden and he has taken inspiration from the different styles of Ardbeg that have been made over the past two centuries.  The final whisky contains a mix of different ages and casks, including a small amount of the oldest Ardbeg malt currently available.

The Ardbeg distillery is located on the south eastern coast of the famous Scottish whisky producing island of Islay. It was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall, although records show a distillery operating on the site as far back as 1794. Its recent history was slightly chequered - there was no production between 1982 and 1987, or for the majority of 1996 and 1997 - until Moet Hennessey (LVMH), the current owners, took over in 1997. Since then, their range of single malts has built up a cult following amongst whisky drinkers across the world.  Ardbeg is small with just one million litres of spirit produced a year.  It also boasts an award-winning visitor centre and cafe.

Perpetuum is bottled at 47.4% ABV and is non chill-filtered.  It is available to purchase now for Ardbeg Committee members via their website. If you are not a member already, then it is free to join via  Alternatively, it will be available on Ardbeg Day (May 30) from the distillery and at Ardbeg Embassies.  From June 13, it will be available from other selected specialist whisky retailers.  The cost is £85 per bottle.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is packed with hard-hitting aromas.  There is plenty of acrid, sooty peat smoke and it takes some persistence to get beyond that.  As the smoke softens, further aromas of honey, white chocolate, vanilla and a whiff of ginger, cloves and something savoury and leathery.

On the palate this follows a similar path and has an oily, mouth coating quality.  The acrid bitumen/tar peat smoke dominates initially and has a warm chilli-like peppery edge.  This becomes more sooty and ashy with time.  As the smoke begins to fade and settle, the savoury note detected on the nose comes through.  This again has a leathery and slightly meaty feel to it.  Underneath are notes of golden syrup, crisp green apples, coal tar soap and a distinct and welcome sweetness that is most reminiscent of icing sugar. 

The finish is very long and the peat smoke lingers for ages.  This smokiness begins in a very acrid way, like on the nose and palate, but again evolves to become softer and less bitter.  This allows the honey and apple notes to come through, along with a lasting malty element.

What's the verdict?
This is another interesting whisky that has joined Ardbeg's annual releases.  Those who are heavily in to their peaty whiskies will love it, everyone else may find it a bit of a challenge.  The intense and acrid nature of the peat creates a mouth watering bitterness and dryness.  This threatens to overpower everything before it is reigned in and balanced by the honey-like sweetness and green fruity notes.  Good, peaty and strong - grab one while you can if you are a fan.

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