Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5yr – The Review

By Andy Smith

Another Ardbeg is born. The Traigh Bhan and An Oa stand as fine Ardbegs but the reception has been politely muted. Will this be the bottle that becomes a shelf staple? Let’s start this out with a note from Ardbeg :

Ardbeg Wee Beastie is the latest permanent expression to join the Distillery’s Ultimate Range. At just five years old, Wee Beastie is a feisty young creature with a formidable taste.

SOMETHING BIG AND SMOKY…


Our whisky creators set out to make the rawest, smokiest Ardbeg ever. The result is Ardbeg Wee Beastie and this tongue-tingling, beautifully smoky dram is the youngest Ardbeg we’ve ever made.

THE REVIEW

Nose:

Polyurethane drying on pine. Ah yes, the fine smell of a fumy garage signalling a child is but a day away from a new bunk bed. Perhaps there’s a sack of potting soil from Lowe’s still waiting for spring planting.

Palate:

Thin and watery mouthfeel, but is still flavorful. Good choice not dropping this to 40% as it doesn’t seem like it could take more water and keep its punch. It’s simple and soil-y, perhaps with a hint of semi-sweet Werther’s Original candy. The finish is fleeting but makes you want to drink more, FAST.

THE VERDICT

This seems to clock in at around the $40-$45 range and may be less after tariff’s end. This goes down very easy, almost too easy. Ardbeg, with their odd-looking choice of ABV (47.5%), has managed to keep the Wee Beastie delicate enough not to burn, but flavorful enough to keep us interested.

Very few of you will remember the Ardbeg series that followed 5-10 years after the re-opening in 1998. The “Path to Peaty Maturity” (Very Young, Still Young, Almost There) follows the development from a 5-6 year old malt to 10 year (bottled as “Renaissance” but unlike any Ardbeg 10yr before or after.) It’s been a decade since I’ve had them, but I recall the youngest versions as vegetal and toe-curling but getting better as their age progressed. Because of the closure, those bottles couldn’t have included older Ardbeg. Wee Beastie, however CAN and likely does have older Ardbeg in it to smooth out those “Very Young” edges. Remember, “5yr” on the label just means that there is nothing under that age in the bottle. They could put 22 year old whisky in if they wanted. Aside from adding older whisky, the only other way this Beastie could be so different from the Path Series is that they used different spirit or different casks, but it seems unlikely that this could may up the difference.

At this price buy two so you don’t have to go back to the store tomorrow. It’s not epic by any means, but have a look at your fill level an hour after you open it… it may scare you a WEE bit.


Review: Ardbeg 19yr Traigh Bhan

It’s not often a new (permanent-ish) Ardbeg is born. Yay. Let’s start this out with a note from Ardbeg (Dr. Bill? The Kelpie?)

Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is a sublime 19 year old whisky and the Distillery’s latest small batch release. Inspired by Islay’s Traigh Bhan beach (known locally as the Singing Sands), this rare aged spirit is an enchanting reflection of the place to which it owes its name

They go on to spoil the surprise, like every marketing team ever, and tell you what you should smell and taste. But I don’t want THEM to ruin the surprise for you, I want to ruin the surprise for you. Let’s go spoil your innocence…

THE REVIEW

Nose: Newly finished wood on a a dry eastern (US) autumn day. (sounds like I’m polishing my resume for SMWS, right?)

Palate: Initially the mouthfeel is a bit thin and meh. The salty-ness hits first and then perhaps leads to a green tea tea that has been sitting too long in fresh cut wood. There’s a bit of a tamed rawness I faintly remember from the Ardbeg “Almost There” bottle from years’ past. It has a finish or aftertaste of asphalt or charcoal.

THE VERDICT

I wanna drink it, of course I do, it’s Ardbeg. Unfortunately, they watered it down too much and it’s noticeable. It has a nice one-note type palate, but for something that claims oloroso sherry, well, I didn’t see it. This is $300 in the USA. THREE HUNDRED?! I remember when Laphroiag 18 bombed at $150 years ago because it just wasn’t that much better than the younger releases. I’m afraid Ardbeg may be stretching for more of our pocketchange than they’ve earned here.

If you had lined up the Ardbeg range up and gave me a go, I’d probably be able to pick this out. But if I was a little busy and you handed be an An Oa and said it was Traigh Bhan, man, I don’t think I’d call you out.


Review: Compass Box: Tobias and the Angel

Jon Glaser does some for the masses and some for the whisky snoots. This one is for the snoots. Tobias intrigued me enough to purchase a couple of bottles for our member hour at Peatin’ Meetin’. It’s not easy to get as its SRP is set at $500, and is sold for hundreds over that. TatA is blended malt, which used to be called a vatted malt or pure malt, and means it’s all malt from multiple distilleries without any grain whisky. Technically we could call it a double malt as it is a product of Clynelish and Caol Ila. I’ll let them speak for themselves about what’s in the bottle:

“The expression is a blend of just over half 24-year-old malt whisky from Highland distillery Clynelish, which was aged in American oak hogsheads, and peaty whisky from Islay distillery Caol Ila “of a considerably older age”.”

Of course Compass Box being Compass box, they couldn’t just put on an ordinary label and give it an ordinary name. Since I don’t like repeating what has already been done, I’ll let our Scotch Club members tell you the story behind the name and label.

THE REVIEW

Nose: Intense.  Potpourri in a lumberyard.

Palate:  Fun and spunky.  Damp antique furniture in a tropical environment with salted caramel.  An oiliness coats your mouth and keeps it tingling as if a little electrical current is running for a full minute.  The Clynelish definitely asserts itself in the first second before the Caol Ila says ‘howdy’ . You can’t stop chewing on this one. I felt like a dog licking peanut butter off the roof of my mouth. This one is old and refined, yet lively.  It’s like an old gentleman dusted himself off to cut a rug at his granddaughter’s wedding.

Game of Thrones – The Whisky Review


By Andy Smith, House Snark

The 2018 release of Game of Thrones was a fairly brilliant marketing plan by Diageo to cross-brand one of the world’s most famous TV shows with many of the world’s most “whatever” distilleries (plus Lagavulin and Talisker.) There has been some grumbling in the community that these bottles are no better (or perhaps no different) than their non-Westerosi versions. We’ll look at what only one person thinks of them (me), in the order from worst to first.

Cardhu Gold Reserve – House Targaryen
“Fire and zzzzzzz”

Nose: Cheap fake wood furniture.

Palate: Well, this is pretty dull. It’s like wood finish lost its flavor (does that make sense?) It’s like a blander cheerio.

Pretty bold move making this the House Targaryen (possibly to spur sales on a hohum dram). I thought I was getting Balerion, but I got Puff.


The Singleton of Glendullan Select – House Tully
“Family, Blandness, Waste of Money”

Nose: Lumber soaked in sugar and alcohol.

Palate: Noticeably too watered down. Mild sourdough bread. Boring and pointless.

It’s the Season 8, Episode 2 of scotch whisky. It takes the high expectations we have for Glendullan and kinda meets them.


Oban Bay Reserve – The Night’s Watch
“My Watch Tastes Blended”

Nose: Very moldy citrus.

Palate: Cereal in musty closet. Also, that’s about it.


Royal Lochnagar 12yr – House Baratheon
“Ours Is The Whatever”

Nose: Old orange peel.

Palate: Moldy fruit on wheat bread. No finish.


Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost – House Stark
“Winter is Boring”

Nose: Very floral. Maybe honeysuckle.

Palate: Thin and forgettable. A rose petal in water. Makes you feel like, wait, what was I reviewing, again? Can’t remember, nevermind.


Clynelish Reserve – House Tyrell
“Growing Nowhere”

Nose: Bowl of not-quite moldy fruit.

Palate: Bitter peaches and pears. Bit of citrus toward the end but never defines itself.


Lagavulin 9yr – House Lannister
“A Lagavulin Always Peats His Malts”

Nose: Fake leather. Like being back in the ’70s Toyota Corona. Road trip to the Wall!

Palate: Earth and bitter greens. Like eating a garden, soil and all. Clearly young. Sort of metallic finish.

Earth, metal, and bitterness… like having the Dragon Queen stamp your broken dead Lannister face in the mud.


Talisker Select Reserve – House Greyjoy
“We Do Not Disappoint”

Nose: Watermelon saltwater taffey.

Palate: Salted sugarcane. Little bit of generic fruit jolly rancher toward the finish. Easy to drown in.



And so there you have it. Please see below for the grading scale (which means everything, doesn’t it.) Quite frankly, only the Lagavulin and Talisker are worth getting off your seat for. Lagavulin 9 is easily overshadowed by its cheaper, older, and better big brother, Lagavulin 16. The Talisker is the only expression I’d really recommend buying, but then only at its original price which seems only available in Europe. If, of course, you’re a whisky and GOT geek who just loves the fun of it (I have to admit the packaging is kinda cool) then you’ll have to go find a flipper who bought them up so you couldn’t. Hopefully the prices have dropped now that the premiere has aired.

If these reviews seem brief, I will say this… most of them didn’t earn more words. If there is nothing in a malt, then there is nothing in the review. I don’t make up words to fluff more than is really there. I’m glad I could make the sacrifice so you don’t have to. Special thanks to Nim Shah, who didn’t donate samples, he donated an entire set.