This review of Ardbeg Uigeadail is part three of my Ardbeg Assay.
Ah, onto Uigeadail. It’s a perennial favourite. In conversations about Ardbeg (well, ones that haven’t yet drifted into talk of Alligator, Provenance, and Supernova, you know, the 2009 one?) Uigeadail usually comes out as a collectively agreed upon favourite, the Ardbeg geek’s drop of choice, based on availability. And that fact shouldn’t be understated. Even with all the love, it remains readily available at all but the most meager single malt retail shops. Even considering the enormous hype that caused a buying frenzy back in 2009 when Uigeadail won some silly award that I can’t remember, from some silly whisky writer, who was so excited about how orgasmic Uigeadail is that he misprinted the abv% in his book.
The barrel selection for Uigeadail is 60% Oloroso sherry and 40% bourbon.
I’ve been looking forward to writing about Uigeadail, if for no other reason than it’s fun to type Uigeadail. Uigeadail. Try it. Your spell checker will hate you for it.
OK. And what more can be said about, ah… Uigeadail… that hasn’t already be said? Well, let’s get into it and find out.
Polished copper pot still. Once again, natural colour. However, it’s a shame that goes completely without mention on the packaging. In truth, Ardbeg doesn’t add any colouring to their whiskies, but it seems that they’re not the kind of distillery to toot their own horn, I guess.
This is where the trinity of aromas I’ve been talking about this week (medicinal/earthy/maritime) is at its most transcendent. There’s impact in the high up regions, down low in the foundation and in the middle, a forceful statement that is amazingly unified, but escapes one note-y-ness. Deep, I want to say dank, mossy long-ago fallen tree, bolstered by a sugary sappy characteristic. A freshly stripped and painted deck. A faint tinge of barnyard. Sultry. Summer night, the cooling air brings aromas of the soil up to our noses, bonfires smoulder in the distance.
A sequence of moments that fold into each other. Overripe blueberries, blackberries and prune plums lay a base for salted caramels and grilled steak with smoked salt and black peppercorns. Undeniably savoury, like a spoonful of pan glaze, right after a flaming dash of sherry. With a drop of water, the earthy qualities give way to more marine things, pickled herrings and weedy ocean water.
This is a whisky that gets me excited, that brings me a feeling of renewed life. The first sip absolutely crackles on the palate, but brings sherry sweetness to fill in the voids and smooth over the tongue. As it travels down the palate, the interplay of sherry and bourbon, in turn ignites a dry fire and settles it with creamy sherry luxury.
Like the 10 year old and Corryvreckan, Uigeadail finishes dry, which, in a way makes it feel a bit less accessible. We’ve all got a bit of a sweet tooth, let’s admit that. But in the end, the chalkiness of the finish on Ardbeg is so sophisticated. An aperitif for the brave.
After a few drops of water, the retro-nasal aromas intensify and the smokiness really starts to get stoked out.
For me, Uigeadail is an elevated whisky. It takes a bold and balanced profile to higher heights. And it’s worth re-iterating that I have a bias against whiskies aimed at balance (i.e., gimme George T Stagg over Pappy 20, all day, every day). Uigeadail is dynamic, without needlessly flying off into strange territories. Its got this feeling of being really ‘dialled in’, with a rock solid profile that is undeniably Ardbeg.
Whiskies like this are difficult to put a finger down on, and when I start to really reach for some delicate koan that can wrap it all up, and going back and forth between the glass, each time finding something different to think about, some new angle to consider it from, I know I’m sipping on a whisky that is extra fine.
The Ardbeg Uigeadail I sampled for this review was stamped with bottle code:
L60972 08/01/2015 | 15000159 10:16
Check out Tim Puett’s website The Ardbeg Project which gives, among many many other things, an in-depth explanation of bottle codes if you’re curious to know what they mean. It seems like the code format has changed since the page was last updated, but I’ll still provide the bottling codes in full with all my Ardbeg reviews.
An example of the importance of batch codes – I recently had the chance to sample L12113 18:17 | 12003519, which is a batch from 2012. I didn’t have the privilege of trying that one, and the one reviewed above in a back to back format, but I do know they each had a different effect. Wouldn’t it be interesting to organize a tasting based around 5 different batches of Uigeadail?
Stay tuned for part four of my Ardbeg Assay, a review of Ardbeg Dark Cove, and Dark Cove Committee Release