Two new releases from Islay’s Ardbeg — the latest Committee Release, Anamorphic, and this year’s annual drop of Traigh Bhan, Ardbeg’s ever-shifting 19 year old expression. Details about each follow in turn.
Ardbeg Anamorphic – The story with Anamorphic revolves around barrel charring. After removing the heads of classic Ardbeg bourbon casks, they were scored deeply to expose more wood and then intensely charred before being filled. Jack Daniel’s did a similar trick with its Sinatra Select bottlings. Does Ardbeg need more wood on it? The nose of the non-age-stated whisky is every bit as dark and smoky as the classic Ardbegs you know and love, offering a bruising aroma of burnt end barbecue and dying beach bonfire embers. It’s a bit daunting at first, starting off as rather one-note until you let it settle down in glass, revealing more layers beyond pushy smoke. Let Anamorphic rest in glass for a while, lest you down sip after sip of charry, tarry peat, free of nuance. After 15 minutes or so, fruit becomes much more evident, with elements of banana and baked apples, then a significant chocolate quality, ringed with walnuts. There’s plenty of aggressive tar that lingers on the back end, but for many an Ardbeg fan, that’s just what the good doctor ordered. All told, Anamorphic doesn’t exactly shift expectations for the brand, but rather it doubles down on them. 96.4 proof B+ / $210 [BUY IT NOW FROM RESERVEBAR]
Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Years Old Batch 5 (2023) – The latest Traigh Bhan is designed to be a sweeter version of the whisky, though it is aged in both ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, much like Batch 4 was. “Sweet” might not be my most immediate tasting note, however. The nose here reminds me mostly of smoky bacon and burning campfire embers, with no significant trace of sweet sherry notes. As with Anamorphic, the spirit needs significant time to develop and temper, and indeed there’s a bright tropical quality on the palate that surprises, melding pineapple with baked apple notes and a squeeze of Meyer lemon later in the game. The finish is almost tart, though of course well-smoked, concluding on a light note of brown sugar. It takes its time to get going, but eventually finds solid footing. 92.4 proof. B+ / $300 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY BARREL]