Earlier this week, I published a write-up comparing Ardbeg Uigeadail versus Laphroaig Lore. Unfortunately, even as I was completing the words for the article, my suspicion of having tasted the Ardbeg continued to grow [this was in a restaurant, and I was extremely wary of them serving me the wrong scotch], only to be confirmed in a post-scriptum, after I’ve sampled the two side by side in a shop. Having put aside all my doubts, I set out to taste them once more, this time with my sampling notes. In the process, I discovered another expression from Ardbeg – a very limited release – so I couldn’t help myself from not trying. So in this post, I’m comparing the three, with a bit of a focus on Ardbeg. But first, we need music! Now playing: For Ukraine (Volume 1).
First, I immediately notice that both the Uigedail and the Lore are pretty much the same in colour, a deep copper glow, with influence from oloroso sherry butts, from which the two combined in a vatting. However, and this is a big *but*, both of the single malts have added colouring, so we can put this note aside. And now that I sip on the Lore, it’s definitely lighter in its ABV than Uigedail. But to be honest, the latter is surprisingly drinkable at 54.7% ABV, and I fail to remember and add a bit of water. The Uigedail comes in peaty right away. It’s salty on the sides of my tongue, but then the flavour is lengthening throughout my mouth as if gathering at the centre in a single stream and then slowly trickling down my throat. It’s an incredible sensation that leaves an even longer, turfy finish. Going back and tasting the Lore after the Uigedail imparts a bit of oceanic breeze, but then it recedes into that wonderful Laphroaig staple flavour that is unmistakable and welcoming at once. As I’m writing this, I decided to experiment and reflect on the experience of whisky using a way to describe how a sound changes over time with an ADSR Envelope. Maybe more on that later.
I finish the Laphroaig and move on to the Ardcore. This is a very limited release, available to the Committee members. And “what is this committee?” you may ask, and “how do I become a member?” Although some releases are exclusively available via this private forum, the membership is open to you all (from a list of supported countries, excluding the US), so you can simply join here yourself. I just signed up. This particular single malt was created with black malt – barley that has been roasted “to the extreme”, like dark roasted coffee, imparting those chocolaty flavours in the wash. “Described as tasting like ‘biting on a spiky ball’, Ardcore is a dram that wears its heart on its sleeve… its black heart!” The Ardcore is much lighter in colour and sweeter on the palate. It feels a bit thicker in the viscosity, and now the saltiness of Uigedail is washed away with a warm summer wind. Bottled at 50.1% ABV, it is a “cracking dram”, as some may say, with notes of charcoal, coffee grounds, and smoky bonfire. The peat is always there, but it’s sweet, with an aftertaste of raw cacao and toffee. I almost wish for it to be more bitter than it is. I like the sweetness, but it’s clearly different – it’s not from bourbon, nor from toasted oak, nor from port or Pedro Ximénez. It’s something else entirely, and it works, especially when mixed with all that peatiness and sea breeze.
So if I had to double-back and pick between the Ardbeg or Laphroaig, it would be a tough choice, with a slight nod towards one or the other, depending on that ocean wind again. I think I call a tie between those beautiful expressions. But Ardcore is a punchy lad and cuts through both above. I like it very much, and here, again, I feel a little torn in choosing. While Ardcore is unique, exploratory dram, I think there’s something special in the Uigedail that takes me back to the shores of Islay in the summer, and for that alone, I think I’ll call the Uiegdail a winner [at least at this time, in this space].