For The Love of Peat
Ardbeg Dinner Tasting in Toronto
The rich oak paneled walls and plush leather chairs in the private dining room of Toronto’s swank Harbour Sixty Steakhouse provided a luxurious backdrop for a tasting of an equally luxurious libation: Ardbeg whiskey.
Global Brand Ambassador for both Ardbeg and Glenmorangie (we’ll get to the connection in a bit) David Blackmore presided over the tasting, introducing (or, in our case, reintroducing) a trio of Ardbeg Islay single malt scotches for a room of appreciative media types and scotch aficionados including (among others at our table) a trio of fun-loving guys from ScotchBlog.ca and the equally vivacious Tamsen McDonough from VIE magazine.
Ardbeg is the most heavily peated scotch in the world, so if you like your malts big, bold and smoky, it’s heaven in a glass. And though I would have never thought of doing it, the 10-year-old version (now a permanent listing in Ontario and priced just shy of $100) was used as the basis for a “Smoky Caesar” served with double smoked bacon as an aperitif and appetizer. Surprisingly tasty.
The Ardbeg 10 Years Old was up first. Launched in 2000, it was an immediate hit with connoisseurs. The nose showed sweet, kelpy, tar, brine and smoked meat notes. Rubbing a few drops between your palms, as instructed by Blackmore, evaporated the alcohol, leaving an aroma almost identical to smoke bacon. Viscous and oily in texture, it offered flavours hinting at spiced fruit, mineral and cracked black pepper.
This was followed by Ardbeg Uigeadial (pronounced “Oog-a-dall” and taking it’s name from the hill loch which supplies the peat-laden water to the distillery), a special vatting that marries Ardbeg’s traditional deep, smoky notes with luscious, raisiny tones of old ex-Sherry casks. Cocoa powder, mocha, mocha and nutty raisin all appear in the aroma with the expected underpinning of peat smoke. Fruitcake, spice, sultana flavours give way to a long, smouldering finish.
Finally, the Ardbeg Corryvreckan. The name here refers to Europe’s largest whirlpool which lies of the Hebridean Isles of Islay and Jura off Scotland’s west coast. A complex nose of currant, mild iodine, pine needles and menthol segue into a warm, smoky, earthy, meaty profile that finishes very dry and spicy.
It is indeed fortuitous that the Glenmorangie Company decided to purchase the historic but closed distillery in 1997 and to nurse it back into working order. Had it not, another one of Scotland’s great distilling treasures would have fallen to the wrecking ball to be lost forever.