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Ardbeg Spectacular




Whisky Review: Ardbeg Spectacular

Tasting Notes:

Released in celebration of Ardbeg Day 2024 (June 1st), the Ardbeg Spectacular is the annual special release from the Islay distillery. Ardbeg Spectacular was matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and port wine casks. In recent years, Ardbeg’s special releases divided the distillery’s enthusiasts and fan base.
Golden Sunset
On the pour, the nose is a mix of coastal salt, peat, and industrial smoke. After letting the dram breathe for a few minutes, some more notes develop, aromatic menthol (eucalyptus), lavender, and some peaty moss alongside a hint of leather – which conceal a slight sweetness, caramel or toffee.
A mix of sweet and savory. Initially a sugary sweet note, with orchard fruits plum, strawberry, and pear. This sweetness suddenly gives way to savoury notes, sea salt, leather, roasted nuts, tar, and woodsmoke, although there’s still a eucalyptus note – some characteristic Ardbeg flavors.
A long finish, that’s slightly drying. Hints of bonfire smoke, leather, and salted caramel before a final cooling hit of eucalyptus.
Personally, after a few tastings, this whisky fluctuates between a 7 and an 8, and I suspect this is another annual release that will divide Ardbeg fans. Not as sweet as expected with the port cask influence – any sweetness is quickly overtaken by salty savory notes. There are classic Ardbeg notes and flavors including smoke, leather, peat, and tar, but these seem restrained and muted compared to some of the distillery’s other bottlings. An unusual combination of peculiar aromas and flavors, I particularly like the cooling eucalyptus – this is definitely a dram to try, but it’s one I think will divide individual perspectives amongst tasting groups.
The Ardbeg Spectacular. Credit: Ardbeg Distillery

Each year on June 1st, Ardbeg Distillery celebrates Ardbeg Day. The event is marked by an annual release from the distillery in the lead-up to the celebrations. This year’s edition is the Ardbeg Spectacular.

The Ardbeg Day celebrations represent the culmination of the distillery’s Fèis Ìle activities. In 2024, “the Ardbeg circus is rolling into town in honour of the Distillery’s latest Limited-Edition – Ardbeg Spectacular.

Promising a “spectacle of flavours”, the Spectacular was matured in port wine casks and bourbon barrels, a first for the distillery.

Ardbeg fans look forward to this coveted event every year, with previous expressions including Planet Ardbeg in 2023, Ardcore in 2022, and Scorch in 2021.

Fèis Ìle, Islay’s annual festival, attracts visitors from around the globe. A week of whisky, food, music, and dance on the island, whisky fans flock to Scotland every year to sample the Fèis Ìle expressions released by the island’s distilleries. Bruichladdich recently unveiled its Fèis Ìle expressions, the Bruichladdich Rock’ndaal 03.1 and Port Charlotte Rock’ndaal 03.2.

A Brief History of Ardbeg

Ardbeg Distillery, located on Islay, Scotland, has a rich history dating back to 1815 when it was officially founded by John McDougall.

This distillery is renowned for producing peaty, smoky whiskies, emblematic of Islay’s distinctive style. Its remote location contributes to the unique character of its spirits, influenced by the rugged coastal climate and abundant peat bogs. Throughout its history, Ardbeg faced numerous challenges, including closures and changes in ownership.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the distillery experienced significant downturns, nearly leading to its permanent closure. However, it was revived in 1997 when it was purchased by Glenmorangie plc. This new ownership, combined with a passionate fan base, helped Ardbeg regain its status as a producer of critically acclaimed whiskies.

Mark Bostock

Since joining Mark Littler LTD as a freelance article contributor in 2019, Mark Bostock has become an integral part of our UK content writing team. His enthusiasm for whisky, particularly independent bottlings, drives him to deepen his knowledge through frequent attendance at tasting events and the thoughtful expansion of his own whisky collection. This dedication not only fuels his passion but also enriches his contributions to our platform, blending expertise with a genuine love for the subject.

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