Gone in 60 minutes….

….40 minutes to be more exact.

Ardbeg Committee Tasting – 9 February 2015 – The Whiski Rooms, Edinburgh

I began my whisky tasting journey a few years ago in the small wine room at the back of Drinkmongers in Brunstfield. More recently it has been enjoying the excellent hospitality (food and whisky) of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) at both Queen Street and The Vaults.

Until this tasting I have not been at one that has lasted less than at least an hour and a half.

So, an event that had all the promise of an excellent evening with one of the most respected master distillers in scotch malt whisky, was instead a lesson in speed drinking whisky with someone from the marketing department. And if I’m brutally honest a bit of a let-down.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my Islay whisky, I like my Ardbeg, but I’d prefer not to take such swift guided tour through 6 expressions Ardbeg have bottled over the years.

The Whiski Room on the Mound proved a good enough venue, maybe a little cramp for the number in attendance, but provided a friendly and comfortable environment for such a short period of time.

(I may over emphasise how short this tasting lasted)

The tasting began at 7pm and started with a 20 minute introduction to Ardbeg, including a brief history of the distillery (which celebrates its 200th birthday this year) by Hamish Torrie, Ardbeg’s marketing manager and also the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at The Glenmorangie Company. So not just someone from the marketing department after all.

Whilst it wasn’t Dr Bill Lumsden, who we were expecting, we were (very quickly) guided by a gentleman that knew a lot and then some about all things Ardbeg.

A little unfortunately, the PA system tried to do its best to interrupt everything said by Mr Torrie, by providing almost constant feedback. But, that didn’t detract from the information about the whisky and the distillery.

The next 40 minutes passes in somewhat of a whisky fuelled blur.

What now follows is an approximate timeline of events:

7.00pm – We are introduced by one of the global brand ambassadors for Ardbeg to our host for the evening, Hamish Torrie.

7.01pm – Mr Torrie provides an excellent and informative introduction to Ardbeg.

7.20pm – We start with the standard 10 year old, the mainstay of the current Ardbeg line. Not one of my favourites, pretty standard and not very interesting, but drinkable and the only place to start at an Ardbeg tasting. The quick fire madness has officially begun.

7.27pm – Having coasted over the 10 year old (not a bad thing in my opinion) we moved onto something significantly more interesting. Another one of the main expression currently bottled, Uigedail. This is one of the best standard bottling’s from any distillery anywhere and one I never tire off.

7.35pm – Corryvreckan time. The strongest of the Ardbeg’s and ill placed in the tasting line up. This is a powerful dram, very good and one I enjoyed more than previous tastings, so we’re definitely on the right track.

15 minutes in and 3 drams down. This is now where the order of the whisky takes its toll on proceedings.

7.40pm – we move onto Auriverdes the Ardbeg day special bottling from 2014. To say this was bland and tasteless is probably wrong, but to put it after Corryvreckan was an error in the line-up. Needless to say I didn’t think much of this, but it did serve to clean the palate for what was next.

7.45pm – Ardbeg Ardbeg Day, not something I’d tasted before and would very happily taste it again.

45 minutes in 5 whisky’s drunk in 25 minutes, one left to go and plus some snacks to enjoy.

7.53 – The final whisky of the evening and it was a cracker 1992 single cask and one I’d really like to try again, which is very unlikely to happen.

8.00pm – All the whisky is finished and the platters of haggis balls, smoked salmon and (the highlight of the evening) haggis spring rolls. Maybe it was the 6 drams in under 40 minutes or maybe they were that good, regardless I could’ve eaten a lot more.

I can say with hand on hearth this was not my most favoured tasting of all time. Without any shadow of a doubt, it was most definitely the quickest. And for me whisky it not something that should to be drunk quickly, it should be savoured and enjoyed. The order of the whisky, in my mind was wrong and probably didn’t help my enjoyment of the night (or my headache the following morning).

It wasn’t a bad night, just disappointing when it had promised so much from one of the most intriguing distilleries in Scotland.

Stuart

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