We are big fans of Ardbeg Islay Scotch Whisky. Their standard Ardbeg 10 year old Whisky is one of our favorite base level whisky offerings – it’s a perfect union of peaty smoke, sweet, and salty. Strong but balanced, and so packed with flavor and complexity, it’s eminently drinkable.
As with Laphroaig with their Friends of Laphroaig, Ardbeg has its own affinity program called The Committee. Once a year Ardbeg does a special release to the committee which often rolls out to become a fully released product. Past Committee releases have included Ardbeg Rollercoaster and Supernova, both of which have gone on to become landmark Ardbeg releases. The latest Ardbeg Committee release is Ardbeg Alligator, set to arrive in wide release in September.
Ardbeg Alligator (102.4 proof) is an interesting spirit. Most Scotch Whisky is aged in barrels which have previously been used to age bourbon. Since the barrel has been used once, the impact of the wood is less than if were to be aged in a new barrel. For Ardbeg Alligator, Ardbeg takes the same spirit that they traditionally age in used bourbon barrels and puts it into a new American white oak barrel with the deepest char possible. The result is a distinctly different experience than anything Ardbeg has released to date.
Golden amber in color, the nose on Ardbeg Alligator has a strong smokey char note along with barbecue sauce, briny olive and salted caramel. As bold as the notes on the nose are, it still manages somehow to have an element of lightness to it. The entry is extremely bold, an instant symphony of flavors. Ardbeg Alligator wastes absolutely no time unfolding or opening up – it’s ‘bam’, right there on the palate from the moment it hits your mouth. The opening notes include smoke, peat, deep dark chocolate, white pepper, and vanilla. All these notes mingle on the mid-palate wonderfully with the smoke and spice intensifying. The mid palate is what we imagine tasting a seaside bonfire would be (in a good way). The finish is extremely long with smoke, salt, peat, and char sticking around for what seems like days.
Ardbeg Alligator is a much more wild, fiery, and flavorful expression of Ardbeg than their standard 10 year old whisky. Proofed higher and aged in new oak with a deep char, Ardbeg shows the wide range of flavors possible with their spirit. The result is a wonderfully complex and chewy whisky that is also very drinkable. With such bold flavors, it would be easy for the subtler notes to get lost, but Ardbeg manages an amazing balancing act and produces a truly unique expression of Scottish Whisky.