Ardbeg is one of the most popular distilleries among Scotch lovers, famous for its strong peat flavors. For years, Ardbeg issued special and limited bottlings but didn't sell them in the US. Americans were left to read about these fanciful new releases while our shelves only held three distillery Ardbegs: the 10 year old, Airigh Nam Beist and Uigeadail. Luckily for us, that started to change last year when Ardbeg released its hyper-peated Supernova to the US.
This year, we already have two new Ardbegs to celebrate. The Corryvreckan, which will become a regular feature of Ardbeg, replacing the Airigh Nam Beist, and the new limited edition Ardbeg Rollercoaster. It is about as good time as any to be an American Ardbeg fan.
Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 57.1% alcohol ($75).
Corryvreckan is named for a Scottish whirlpool. It has no age statement. The nose is pure Islay goodness with smoke, straw, and a little bit of caramel in the background. The flavor is everything you would expect from a new Ardbeg. It comes on with big peat, followed with a bit of sweetness that picks up for the finish. Like the popular ten year old, there is a nice balance of smoke and sweet. I'm left with smoke in my nose and sugar on my tongue. I wouldn't say that it's my favorite Ardbeg, but it's a solid smoke monster that will please the peat heads among us, myself included.
Ardbeg Rollercoaster, 57.3% alcohol ($80).
The limited edition Rollercoaster is a high concept whisky. It is a blend of Ardbegs distilled in each year from 1997 (when the formerly closed distillery was reopened) to 2006, and the label even tells you the percentage of each year that went into the bottle. The nose on the Rollercoaster has some peat, but it's nowhere near the level of the Corryvreckan. You also get the agave/new make notes typical of young whiskies. When you taste, you immediately get the punch of a young whisky, with those slightly acidic qualities that have yet to be barrel tamed. Smoke is present, but much less prominent than the Corry.
These were two very different whiskies. If you are a real peat head, you should definitely get yourself a Corryvreckan. While the Rollercoaster is nice enough, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you are an Ardbeg fanatic and want to taste something with some real youth characteristics to it.