The whisky machine at Ardbeg continues to churn, with the launch of a brand new collection called Anthology. The Anthology Collection will be an ongoing series of whiskies built around experimental malts and asks (or combinations of casks) it has not previously used.
Round One is The Harpy’s Tale, a 13 year old whisky aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and Sauternes casks. (The mythical harpy was said to live on Islay.) Consider me surprised that Ardbeg has never matured its whisky in a Sauternes cask, which is a fairly common cask type across Scotland and a staple of sister distillery Glenmorangie, where it’s the key to Glenmo’s Nectar D’Or. But a little research seems to bear it out: I can’t find any Ardbeg releases that spend time in the famed French wine barrels.
With The Harpy’s Tale, Ardbeg has crafted another winner, though — huge caveat — fans of heavier, peat-forward Ardbeg whiskies will not likely be pleased.
The nose isn’t immediately distinct, offering a fairly traditional chimney soot profile with quite a slug of camphor in the mix. While lightly minty, with some barrel char notes showing, there’s no evidence of the Sauternes cask on the nose, which is a slight letdown.
That changes on the palate. Here, the whisky immediately showcases a much softer side, with notes of green table grapes, coconut water, and lemon curd — all informed by a rather gentle layer of smoke. Notes of grapefruit peel lead into an increasingly bright finish that evokes the honeyed, apricot-laced quality endemic to Sauternes. Mildly sweet but not overblown, there’s a suggestion of chocolate and even a touch of coffee bean on the finish, making for a complex but completely effusive and enjoyable experience. Definitely a whisky I’d love to explore in more depth.