Ardbeg Uigeadail vs Laphroaig Lore [FAIL!]

This particular pairing was one of those rare occasions when I set out to compare some single malts before a meal [and a little during] in a restaurant, limited by the available options. This is not a simple task, may I add, as many establishments offer a pretty limited selection of scotch, and I usually end up drinking Laphroaig 10-year-old or Glenlivet 12-year-old or, on occasion, a Balvenie DoubleWood. In any case, as luck would have it, this particular brasserie [I won’t reveal the name for now] had plenty of single malts on the menu, and, as you have already concluded, I decided to pair the ones in the subject of this review. So let’s get to it and see what we’ve got here! But first, we must have music! Now playing: Spencer ZahnPale Horizon.

Pronounced “oog-a-dal“, this single malt from Ardbeg is bottled at a cask strength of 54.2% ABV. This is a vatting of ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry butts, which is non-chill filtered, but with added colouring and no given age statement on the bottle. It’s got a very candied caramel on the nose with a light hint of smoke, and when I sip a little, it goes down easy. I’m temporarily stunned – I have expected it to have a bite at such high alcohol by volume. Alas, it is not there. Not at all. I take a moment to reflect and sip a little on Laphroaig, and still, it feels a little light here. I finally get up and walk back to a bar, requesting to check out the two picked bottles as to confirm that someone hasn’t mixed them up along the way. It could have happened, after all! Alas, on colour alone [I didn’t taste], they are indeed correct, and I return defeated. There is that light bourbon flavour once again, more toasted oak, and more pronounced twisted caramel than smoke. I’m somehow not convinced that I have had the Uigeadail in my glass – it’s not the first time when I squint with much suspicion in a public setting. Another reason to perform my “studies” in a much-controlled environment. We live and learn… we live and learn…

The Laphroaig Lore is much darker than the Ardbeg. It’s got that deep and copper glow versus the lighter gold of Ardbeg. Not that it matters, to be honest – as both of these had added colouring for some unknown reason. And to surrender here, I must say it works. The colouring alone suggests a “warmer” flavour. It’s got that sweetness on the nose that comes from barbeques and open wooden fires. There’s plenty of peat now on the tongue, and it is earthy and divine, with a lovely round mouthful of sherried finish. The Lore is bottled at 48% ABV but has a bit more of a bite than Uigeadail [hence my suspicion all along]. This is a vatting of five different cask types, which include ex-bourbon barrels, large oloroso sherry butts [just like the Uigeadail, again], plus quarter casks of varied years. It doesn’t state the age but simply mentions [on the site] that there are whiskies here ranging from 7 to 21 years. And even though I’m still confused [including as I write these words], I take a note to state that after more than a single sip, “Laphroaig is unequivocally Laphroaig, of that I’m certain…” – it’s got that special character of peat that’s recognisable and clearly missing from the Ardbeg [if it was Ardbeg all along]. No wonder this bottle was selected as the “Best No Age Statement Scotch” in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2019.

I feel that I must make my peace. If I had tasted these alone, I would have loved them both. Alas, I spent more time bewildered, lost at sea, and can’t rule out some gaffe… oh wait! I think I only now understood! Yes, it all just came to me right now, after writing all of the above, trying to decipher a possible mixup. When I went over to the bar and asked to see the bottles for my pour, at first, the barman reached for a bottle of a Kilchoman Sanaig, and I corrected him to give me Uigeadail. I wonder if it was indeed what he poured in my glass!!! That would explain the lower ABV as well! Sigh… I guess I’ll never know for sure. Oh, what a fail! And with these thoughts, I’ll end this round, not calling out a clear win, but stating that I’ll need a re-bout of these two – and that is not a truly awful outcome. Let’s do another round shortly!

[Update] – The very same day that I published this writeup, I went over to The Whisky Exchange who have graciously allowed me to taste these two drams side by side again (just a drop), and upon the very initial smell of the Ardbeg I already confirmed my suspicions – it was stronger and definitely had pronounced peat. I’ve even rubbed a few of the drops on my hands and without a doubt confirmed all my findings. Alas, I’ve been duped! So, I think this tasting above is a “fail” but I’ll leave this post untouched to visit again on a re-bout.

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