Ardbeg Day 2022 is upon us, and as always the chaps in Islay have a special release in store for Ardbeg Committee members. Ardcore is a celebration of all things punk, made with roasted black malt that is “incinerated to hair-raising levels.” It’s the first usage of black malt by the distillery, which Friend of Drinkhacker Dr. Bill Lumsden describes as tasting “like biting on a spiky ball.”
In tasting Ardcore — the standard 46% abv expression, not the 50.1% Committee version — I can’t say that Lumsden is wrong.
Light gold in color as is typical for the brand, the whisky offers a densely smoky nose that’s a fun spin on Ardbeg from the start. It’s not particularly peaty; the smokiness is tied closely to the grains, indeed coming across like burnt toast or cereal heated to oblivion over a fire, almost charcoal-like. Some coffee notes are evident with time in glass, then finally some seaweed, at last evoking something about Islay. The palate finds room for a little sweetness — sesame and some marshmallow, a bit of nougat, then dark chocolate notes. Here the smoke is tempered, if only moderately, providing a smoldering counterbalance to the more dessert-like qualities in the dram, with a squeeze of citrus evident on the surprisingly bright finish.
While Ardbeg is iconically connected to peat, this expression shows what the distillery can do when its smokier qualities come from a different source. A fun change of pace from a distillery that’s always innovating.
A- / $130 / ardbeg.com