How do you top a whisky like Supernova? Simple, you just keep pushing the formula even further.
Ardbeg’s Committee release for 2022 is Hypernova, which eschews curious barrel finishes and trips to space for more of what Ardbeg is known for: pouring on the peat. Peated to a phenolic level of 170ppm, Hypernova is Ardbeg’s most heavily peated whisky ever, per the distillery. So they say:
Colin Gordon, Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager, said: “Hypernova turns on the afterburners and hauls our spirit into smoky new depths. Highly experimental, this whisky is peaty and intense, with a taste that’s totally surreal. This spirit is not just a slice of Ardbeg history, it’s a once in a lifetime event… not to be missed!”
Ardbeg’s Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, said: “This is without a doubt the smokiest Ardbeg ever. We wanted to really push the boundaries this time and boldly go where Ardbeg has never ventured before. A hypernova is a collapsing star explosion so powerful it threatens the fabric of the galaxy – while I don’t think this whisky will tear a hole in space and time, it’s certainly bursting with fantastically peaty flavour.”
They ain’t lyin’. Crack open the bottle and peat smoke pours straight out from the neck, practically filling the room. Powerfully smoky, the more brutish notes of seaside bonfire smoke are complemented by an ample petrol punch, chewy beef jerky notes, and a bold hit of malty cereal. It’s kind of a greatest hits of all things Islay, and surely a love it or leave it experience for most. The palate doesn’t surprise in the slightest, offering all the same elements, just in different proportions. On the tongue, beefy bits initially dominate, with tons of salty sea spray quickly taking over. Briny and full of notes of seaweed, iodine, and smoked kippers, again we are presented with a “best of Islay” construction, only one which is raked over the peat fire endlessly. Fortunately, some fruit arrives late in the game to temper all of the above and add something more to hold on to, folding in some notes of apple compote and lemon bars, with a touch of treacle to sweeten up the finish. The fade-out is ashy as can be though, leaving the drinker with the impression that he’s polished off a monstrous cigar, rather than a glass of Scotch.
B+ / $400 / ardbeg.com