Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Ardbeg. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced 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.
The Ardbeg Committee Selection for February 2022 is one that honestly could not be replicated even if Dr. Bill Lumsden tried. Usually we hear of “happy accidents” in the whisky industry, but some how that one-off whisky is found on the shelves over and over. For the Ardbeg Fermutation, a broken boiler is to blame that led to the longest fermentation period in the distillery’s history.
Ardbeg typically ferments its products for 72 hours. In November 2007, a dead boiler almost ruined six washbacks full of whisky. Dr. Lumsden, who always wanted to experiment with longer fermentations, told the distillery team to open the washback lids. With these lids open, the salty Islay air graced the contents as it fermented for another three weeks.
Alcohol conversion slows down dramatically after 48 hours, but the longer a ferment goes on, more flavor is imparted. Whether wood or steel, the washbacks also impact flavor. At Ardbeg, they are made of Oregon pine (Douglas fir), which has nuances of its own. With the Ardbeg Fermutation, no one knew what those extra three weeks would do to the whisky. No doubt a science project run by the mad scientist himself.
The Ardbeg Fermutation is only available to The Ardbeg Committee members at this time. While this sounds exclusive, anyone interested can join The Committee. There are more than 130,000 members in over 130 countries. I, myself, am a member of The Ardbeg Committee. If I did not have to buy wood for my woodworking class, I would have bought the Ardbeg Fermutation.
Tasting Notes: Ardbeg Fermutation
Vital Stats: 49.4% ABV. An Islay whisky matured in ex-bourbon casks (first and refill) for 13 years. Limited Ardbeg Committee release. 750ml ~$195.
Color: Pale straw
Nose: Upon first whiff, fresh mulch and sweaty socks make a stinky combination. After jamming my nose further into the Glencairn, the dram is lighter and more floral. Accents of baby powder and spearmint hit like fresh linen blowing in the breeze. Marzipan and macaron provide a touch of nuttiness on the end.
Palate: Soot and black pepper touch the tongue first. The smoke is not robust and lingers in the background. Overall, the whisky is earthy. Despite the earthiness, the whisky is also fruity with oranges and charred peaches with fresh cream.
The Ardbeg Fermutation is a pungent hodgepodge in flavor. From briny to smoky, to floral and citrusy, the whisky is an outstanding culmination of “why not?” Since, Dr. Lumsden has always wanted to play with longer fermentation, I am sure Ardbeg may have a lineup of future fermentation experiments. The Fermutation has seemed to unlock the full Islay flavor.
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Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...