Ardbeg Kelpie – The 46% Retail Release

With Ardbeg Day now an entrenched part of the whisky calendar, it seems unnecessary to go into great detail about the day itself and what it entails.  Of course, whilst the day itself is a great hive of fun and activity, most people’s  focus and attention is on the special release bottling.  This year’s release, Kelpie, is a belter, and an Ardbeg to make the purists happy.

The Committee Edition release – bottled at a higher strength of 51.7% – was released earlier this year and found many friends.  The commercial or retail bottling, bottled at 46%, will be released on June 3rd to coincide with Ardbeg Day.

Of course, many people make the mistake of simply dismissing the retail version as being a “watered down” version of the Committee Edition.  Chemically speaking, they’re correct, but from a sensory perspective, there’s so much more to it than that.  Yes, whilst the retail version simply has more water added to it to bring it down to a lower strength, the effect of this on the whisky is very pronounced.  The influence of the ABV is huge when it comes to how our palates react to the whisky.  Master blenders and independent bottlers often carry out multiple tastings or samplings to establish whether a special release should be bottled at, say, 46%, 48%, 50%, or 51.5%.  The different ABV’s influence how the alcohols and flavour compounds are balanced, and thus a different bottling strength will pronounce (or, in contrast, diminish) certain aspects of the flavour spectrum.  For example, a whisky bottled at 46% might seem saltier, or sweeter, or fruitier than the same spirit bottled at 48%.

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Ardbeg Day, 2015

Ardbeg Day continues to grow and build momentum each year, and on a truly global scale.  It is now one of the highlights of the whisky calendar, and the main events that get held around the planet are spectacular occasions.

Each Ardbeg Day has a theme, and this year’s was an entertaining mix of both retro and futuristic.  2015 marks Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary, and it was therefore fitting that we mark the past and acknowledge the distillery’s long and colourful history.  But the modern Ardbeg brand has never been one to look backwards, and so a glimpse of the future was also very much at the core of this year’s theme and this year’s festivities.

And so it was that the good folks at Ardbeg took over and transformed the International Cruise Terminal at White Bay on Sydney Harbour.   Walking in to the venue, one was instantly captivated by the set up – sharp, clean, sleek, and with some fantastic attractions and activities around the place to both amuse and entertain.  And, of course, to renew acquaintances with Shortie the Ardbeg dog!

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Ardbeg Perpetuum

Ardbeg. The very name conjures up evocative images, flavours, and pre-conceived ideas. For many, it means a big, peaty, smoky, Islay whisky. For others, it represents complexity, refinement, sweetness, and quality. Some link the name to the decline and downturn of the Scotch industry in the 1980’s, resulting in distillery closures and cutbacks. Many of those same folks also link the name to a Phoenix-like resurrection, given the distillery came back from the dead in 1997 and now struts the roost with style and finesse.

For me, it is all of those things, plus one more: Fun.

Ardbeg is a fun brand. The distillery and its blending/creation team can produce some of the most refined, stylish, and unbelievably-good drams on the planet, but the brand has never become stuffy or weighed down under a Rolls Royce-like persona. Rather, Ardbeg presents itself as being fun, vibrant, innovative, inclusive, cheeky, and left-of-centre.  If Ardbeg was a style or a fashion genre, it would definitely be a hipster!  And its whiskies are all the more endearing as a result.

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