Most if not all whisky lovers with a certain experience level will have noticed that the taste of any single malt bottling can vary over time. Changes may be only subtle but can also be significant. After all, whisky is a natural product juste like wine and its taste is deternined by many many different factors.
I just was reminded of this phenonomenon when I discovered a forgotten sample of Ardbeg 10 in the uncharted regions of my cupboard. The sample I tried for my tasting notes and rating is long gone, but I had enough memory of its taste that I immediately noticed that this expression tasted significantly different. I rated the Ardbeg 10 with 84 points, but this sample was so much better that it would have deserved a rating in the high 80s.
Now, especially hardcore Ardbeg fans have the habit of cataloguing each and every L number that is etched into the bottles. Because I neither have the number of the first nor the one of the second sample I will refrain from adding a new tasting note and rating because the bottlings are unidentifiable.
One might well smile about the L number “fetishism” of the Ardbeg community, but in all fairness this is the only way of keeping track of the different bottlings that look totally identical in any other respect.
To my knowledge, all recent whisky bottlings have an L number (by Europan law, I guess), but only Ardbeg fans seem to take notice of it.
And of course there is a lesson to learn from this. The uncertainty which bottling a specific rating or tasting note is based upon is just another factor that makes a whisky review so subjective. If you can’t find the flavours that Mr. or Mrs. X have described in their tasting notes, it just might be because you tried a different bottling.