Whisky Review: Ardbeg “Arrrrrrrrdbeg!” Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Ardbeg. This in no way, per our editorial policiesinfluenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

What a trip this whisky is! From the island of Islay in Argyll, Scotland, comes this year’s Ardbeg committee release, Arrrrrrrrbeg! This whisky celebrates Mickey Heads, Distillery Manager of Ardbeg since 2007,. who retired in late 2020. The limited-edition bottling celebrates Heads and his thirteen years at the helm of the Ardbeg ship.

The label was created by Brazilian artist and graphic designer Butcher Billy, who sets Heads up as a pirate at the helm of a ship, forging through the waters into the great unknown with his own bottle of Arrrrrrrrdbeg proudly displayed in his hand.

Dr. Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s Director of Whisky Creation, said in a prepared statement: “Working with Mickey has been an absolute joy. He’s somebody with a genuine passion for Ardbeg and we hope that this bottling will take pride of place in his collection.”

Heads himself has said of the release: “As for this bottling, well I’m honoured that a place that has already given me so much would celebrate my retirement in such a thoughtful way. And to have my image on a bottle, that’s a dream come true!”

Winkingly proclaiming itself “unquestionably, the greatest distillery on Earth,” the Ardbeg Distillery was founded in 1815 by John Macdougall. Macdougall’s son Alexander managed operations until his death in 1853, after which the distillery was co-run by his sisters, Margaret and Flora. By 1887, Ardbeg was producing over 1 million liters of whisky a year, by far the most output of any other distillery on Islay.

As the years passed, Ardbeg changed hands many times. It floundered and flourished until, at last, finding a firm footing in the late 90s, when the distillery was first named Distillery of the Year. From there, Ardbeg only climbed, going on to launch the Ardbeg Committee, a coterie of the brands most loyal connoisseurs, formed to ensure “the doors of the Distillery never close again.”

Several more awards followed and the distillery found its way onto the list of some of the most reputable whisky brands, on Islay and off. In 2007 Michael Heads became the distillery’s Manager as well as the Chairman of the Ardbeg Committee, and now, thirteen years later, his image is cast in bottle on this latest committee release, the first to be fully matured in ex-rye casks.

Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg!

Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg! (image via Ardbeg)

Tasting Notes: Ardbeg “Arrrrrrrrdbeg!” Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Vital Stats: Matured in ex-rye casks. 51.8% ABV. Avg. price around $200/750mL.

Appearance: Half-brewed chamomile tea.

Nose: Holy smokes! No joke. Smoky, meaty, like jerky dried over a wood fire. There is a hint of banana and peat. I’ve opened this bottle just to smell it at least three times since starting this review.

Palate: Double holy smokes! This is a truly unique whisky. I haven’t tried any other Ardbeg whisky, so I’m not sure if this is par for the course, but Arrrrrrrrdbeg is a profile unto its own. Spicy and smokey, it is fruity and herbaceous. At times it is like chewing on a strap of leather, with a lingering, smoky finish isn’t easily forgotten.

The Takeaway

Summary

If I seem stumped by this whisky it’s because I am. From the color to the finish, this is a truly unique expression. There is a world of complexities within the spirit that emerge different with each tasting. I highly recommend trying it if you can get your hands on it, share it with a group of friends and see what each of you can get out of it. Then come back and share, I’d be curious to hear.

5
User Rating 2.82 (67 votes)
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