Hot on the heels of An Oa, Ardbeg‘s latest addition to its permanent lineup is here: Traigh Bhan (pronounced tri-van). Not only is it Ardbeg’s oldest permanent bottling, it’s got an honest-to-god age statement, a “guaranteed” 19 years old. Aging is completed in a combination of bourbon casks and oloroso sherry casks.
Per the company:
This rare 19 Year Old single malt is inspired by the heavenly vista of Islay’s Traigh Bhan – known locally as The Singing Sands – and will be made available in annual small batches.
The captivating place to which this bottling owes its name has white soft sands that sing beneath your feet. But alluring as this beach is, it can also be treacherous. Bathing is ill advised in the seemingly tame crystal waters where jagged, volcanic rocks pierce the sands along the shore.
This is the first time in 20 years that Ardbeg will release an aged whisky that is a permanent expression, produced in a single batch each year. To mark this occasion, each annual batch of Traigh Bhan will feature a unique code on the carton, bottle and foot label. With subtle differences in flavour profiles each year, Ardbeggians can research their batch code at Ardbeg.com for more information on their whisky’s story.
Well-aged peated whiskies can be quite magical, but some miss the mark. How does the oldest Ardbeg in regular release fare? Let’s find out.
Spoiler alert: Amazingly well.
Let’s start with the obvious: There’s ample peat on the nose, but plenty more directly underneath. Citrus-heavy sherry, roasted walnuts, and a smattering of spice all give the whisky aromatic depth. The palate follows in stride, sweet sherry immediately tempering the peaty smokiness, with notes of spearmint, almond nougat, and dark chocolate all emerging in short order. A drop of water brings out more seaside smokiness — which may be a plus or a minus depending on your point of view. From my perspective, it doesn’t really need it, unless you find the alcohol to be a bit much on the tongue. Either way, the finish is iconic Islay, all brine and peat, filtered through layers of sweetness.
There’s a lot going on in Traigh Bhan — and a lot to love, too. All told, it’s probably my favorite whisky in the quintet that now makes up Ardbeg’s permanent lineup.