1974 was an interesting year. It saw the beginning of of IRA bombing in mainland UK, Richard Nixon forced to resign after the Watergate scandal , Worldwide inflation and economic crisis, Paris CDG airport opening, and Germany (then called ‘West Germany’ winning the world cup. Indeed a very interesting year. In this same year, on a little Island on the South-West of Scotland, a distillery called Ardbeg was making extraordinary whisky. Despite that fact, a few years later it will be closed, and reopened only in 1997 by Glenmorangie. But again, you pretty much know the Ardbeg story, and if not, i am going to tell it in a later post in the coming weeks. August is going to be Ardbeg month here, at whisky Israel. What does it mean? will i only post about Ardbeg? well, not really. But, i will post an Ardbeg tasting note weekly, trying to present all those wonderful drams i love so much.
I chose to open my series of Ardbeg tasting notes with the oldest Ardbeg I’ve drunk to date. As you know Ardbeg is one of my favourite distilleries. You can say that it’s over hyped (and you are right!), you can say that they no longer do their own malting (right again, but hey! , lots of distilleries now rely on malted barley from other sources). But, you can not argue that Ardbeg does produce outstanding malts, now, as it did in the 1970’s. Enough with the talk, let’s get this one rolling!
In 1974 i was (-1) years old. that’s right, i was not even born. I always love tasting whiskies which are older than me. I love thinking of the spirit aging away on the windy and sea-sprayed warehouses of Islay, when i made my way into this wonderful world. How poetic. Ok, enough with the drama, let’s get to the dram. Ardbeg 1974, here we come!
Ardbeg 1974 signatory Distilled 22.3.1974, bottled 6.4. 1998, Casks 662 & 1034, bottle 50 of 362, 51.2% ABV
Colour: Golden hay.
Nose: I know Olden days Ardbegs are not as peaty and biting as nowadays Ardbegs, So i was not expecting a peat blast, ok? It’s not a 2009 corryvreckan, but some peat is to be expected, right?
Well, peat , but gentle due to the age i assume, and the 1974 profile… some fruity notes as well : i am getting some wee pears and apples mélange, a bit like a German schnapps , no sugar added. some damp wood, and very gentle sea spray feeling going on. nice combo, classy stuff.
Palate: Explosion of peat and smoke on the tongue. what a blast. was not expecting it from the ‘laid back ‘ nose. I’d say it’s less sugary and sweet than recent Ardbegs, and even though the impact on the palate was surprising, it’s nothing like today’s peat monsters from Ardbeg. this is much more well- behaved, sort of spirit. Some hints of fruit also here (Pear / Apricot) , to make it even more entertaining and complex.
Finish : Lingering Ashy,smoky. very very nice, bitter as a memory of a now smoked cigar, cold in the Ashtray.
Summing it all up:
A very different and mellower Ardbeg, but not a wimp at all. complex, fruity and peaty that delivers all i was expecting of it. I’d love to get my hands on a bottle of this… Excellent stuff. so, 1974 was not a bad year after all eh? Even if yours truly was only vague idea….
Many thanks to KW for this lovely sample.