Islay Whisky Classics No.63 – Connoisseurs Choice 1979 Ardbeg

Connoiseurs Choice was the Gordon and Macphail label for UK releases of Single malt whisky at 40-43% , at one point (late 90’s , early to mid 00’s) there was an abundance of Ardbeg releases , you could pick up a load from the 70’s (73 , 74 , 75 , 76 , 78 , 79) .

cc79begThis particular one is a 1979 (September) bottled in 2005 (December) from refill Bourbon Barrels at 43% . it has quite a nice golden colour to it. The nose is quite relaxed ( as would be expected at 43% ) but you’ve got all the Ardbeg traits there , the Ardbeg-dine , creamy fudge , coffee , a slight hint of lemon and a touch of oak . The palate is very smooth , lots of oak spices , again Ardbeg-dine , and creamy coffee with a hint of sprinkling chocolate . The finish is medium and smooth as a babies bottom .

Not many 1979 Ardbegs about ( the 21yo Committee and another G&M branded Spirits of Scotland ones are the only that spring to mind) , the only disappointing thing about this one is the 43% bottling strength…….

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Islay Whisky Classics No.62 – Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (2008 Bottling)

The third and final release of the Airigh Nam Beist , this one at 18yo , this was somewhat of a bargain   at £45 a bottle ( yes £45 ) , what Ardbeg can you get for that price now ? And what age ? Not 18yo…. Served up at Ardbegs Standard abv of 46% .

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist

Bright Gold in Colour , the nose is really iodine at first , then it gets really complex , creamy fudge , lemon citrus , peat smoke , cocoa but we always return to the seashore iodine ( like standing on Ardbegs pier when the tides just went out and you get the seaweed smell immerging ) . The palate is truly amazing , more iodine than peaty , it’s more akin to a well aged Ardbeg than the youthful peat monster , there’s still the chocolate , creamy coffee , fudge  and sweetness but this is a step up from the peatiness of the youngsters ! The finish is long , sweet creamy fudge and chocolate topped creamy coffee !

What can you say about this dram ? it’s is totally different to the first release and my favourite of the three , didn’t like the second and only bought one bottle but this one…… Huge Smilie !

Islay Whisky Classics No.61 – Bruichladdich XVII

This 17yo didn’t go down too well with me when i first tried it , i thought it was too much like the old style Laddie which i didn’t particularly like but it grew on me rapidly . From 100% Fresh American Oak this was bottled at 46% in 2005 .

Bruichladdich XVII

Ripe barley in colour , it has the classic Laddie nose of green apples , fudge , a touch of lemon citrus and vanilla , it also has a hint of malted barley . The palate carries on from the nose with green fruits , fudge , sea air and vanilla but also includes a sweet maltiness . The finish is long with fudge , vanilla and oak spices .

A very relaxing Laddie , a superb session dram , will be interesting to see how Bruichladdichs own spirit matches up to this at the same age . 

Islay Whisky Classics No.60 – Ardbeg 1977

Ardbeg had released two previous vintages before this one , the 1975’s and the 1978’s , this was a total step in the other direction compared to them , it was released at 46% and  unchillfiltered ! Limited to an unconfirmed 2400 bottles when it was released in 2001 it shocked a few people after the lightness of the previous 75’s and 78s !

Ardbeg 1977

Bright gold in colour , the first thing you get on the nose is the Ardbeg-dine but then the nasal hairs are whacked with a great big brick of peat ! Lingering behind is a sweetness , fudge , also peat smoke and a slight oakiness . The palate is huge ! Incredibly chewy , peat soaked with a chocolate topping ! The finish is huge , loads of peat and cocoa .

Should a 24yo dram be this peaty ?  Who cares ! This is a wonderful Beg , huge and chewy in the mouth , When it was released i commented it’s amazing the difference a few extra % abv and unchillfiltered and uncoloured makes (very few malts at the time were this ) and i stick by it ! A few other producers should have taken note at the time…..

Islay Whisky Classics No.59 – Bruichladdich 1970

This is the near legendary First Edition of the Laddie Vintage range .  Vatted from 100% fresh American Oak this release went down a storm , I remember having this at the 2003 Jim McEwan Masterclass , i was sat next to the former Laddie stillman  Ruaridh McLeod (then aged 79) and at the end he turned to me and gave me his 1970 Dram and said ” here son have this , I made it me self !” Priceless ! What a character , sadly missed ! This was bottled at 44.2% in September 2002 .

 

Bruichladdich 1970

A beautiful bright honeyed gold in colour , The nose is incredibly complex , starts off with the trademark Laddie toffee sweetness , then very fruity (apples, pears ,melon ) along with orange essence and bananas . There also a slight oakiness to it , good oak not woody , The palate continues where the wonderful nose left off  , silky smooth across the mouth , again creamy toffee mingles with the green fruit and oak spiciness to give tastes that just go on and on and on…… The finish is very long , sweet and continues in the vein of the nose and palate .

 

An incredible dram , probably one of my favourite Laddies , so well balanced and thoroughly enjoyable . It is just as i remembered the first time i tried it , wonderful. Not half glad i bought a few of these……   

Islay Whisky Classics No.58 – Ardbeg Renaissance

The Renaissance was the end of the path to peaty perfection , it started in 2004 with the Very Young and went through the Still Young and the Almost there . All these were from 1998 Stock . We all wondered what Glenmorangies stock would be like at 10yo , we all wondered what 10yo would be like at Cask Strength ? This answered our questions ! The release was vatted from 1st Fill (Fresh) Ex-Bourbon casks and bottled at 55.9% .

Ripe Barley in Colour , the nose has bags of peat at first , followed by creamy fudge , a wee touch of Cocoa , Also seashore ( seaweed ) and dunnage warehouses (earthy?). The palate is 24 Carat Ardbeg ! Peat , smoke , Cocoa , Dark chocolate , creamy , very luxurious over the tongue….. Absolutely fantastic ! The finish is very long , cocoa , peat , coffee , creamy fudge….

This is fantastic stuff ! It’s a real shame they never continued with a regular 10yo cask Strength bottling . 

Islay Whisky Classics No.57 – Ardbeg Committee 21yo

Back in the bad ol’ days , before Flea-bay took hold , before a chaser had thought which bottle to go for , The Ardbeg Committee released a 21yo in July 2001 , vatted from 12 ex-bourbon casks filled in 1979 and 1980 . The ABV is 56.3% and the outturn was 2500 bottles .

Bright gold in colour , it has what i would consider to be the perfect Ardbeg nose , the beautiful iodine of the 70’s bottlings , lots of bourbon cask spices , a nice hint of oak and vanilla , a sweetness encapsulates the peat smoke . The palate explodes with peatiness , cask spices – cloves seems to be prominent , vanilla and there’s also a fruitiness to it . In the long finish there’s peat and smoke , spices and creamy coffee .

What can you say ? An aged Ardbeg from ex-bourbon Casks that is extremely yummy ! A true great amongst Ardbeg releases !