It’s that time of year again, Ardbeg release their eagerly anticipated annual special bottling. From surprise bottles with countdown websites they have switched to early announcements. The surprise factor is lost anyway when the mandatory US label approval process makes them public well in advance.
This year’s theme is football, and the Ardbeg Auriverdes owes its name to the flag and national football team of Brazil who is hosting this year’s World Cup. Also it suggests “golden whisky in a green bottle”, of course. But the parallel to football stops here because – other than for example Ballantine’s Brasil – this is “just Ardbeg”, and nothing in its production details remotely hints to Brazil or even football. Which is not too surprising.
Having attended the flamboyant Galileo launch party at the same place two years ago, I had expected the omnipresent Ardbeg girls to swap their wellies for football shoes and encouraging guests to do some good old-fashioned Torwand shooting. But much to my surprise this year’s event was on a much smaller scale. Tasting glasses for around 20 people set up in the (too) dimly lit bar, some bread, and this was it. This modesty was unexpected but much appreciated because much of Ardbeg’s PR has been a bit over the top in recent years.
Stefan Gabányi served his signature Peat Juleps as a welcome drink, then German brand ambassador Thomas Zilm took over for a tasting that included the Ardbeg Ten, Uigeadail, Corryvreckan and finally the Auriverdes. The main focus of the tasting was on the different cask types used for the different whiskies and how this afffects the flavours.
The Auriverdes is matured in a mixture of first and second fill bourbon casks that were fitted with new cask heads which had been toasted to a secret specification. Dr. Bill Lumsden’s handwriting is clearly visible here. Let’s see how this special treatment worked out:
My Tasting Notes:
Colour: Dark gold
Nose: Burnt down fireplace, vanilla, liquorice, butterscotch, cloves, hints of nutmeg and pepper, a bit restrained.
Palate: Not really strong peat, liquorice, bubblegum, vanilla, only minimal citrus, hints of chocolate, cloves and nutmeg.
Finish: Very long, smoky and slightly spicy, ashy.
Overall: Very smooth and mild upfront but it has great staying power. An intriguing combination of driness and aromatic spices gives way to wafts of ashy smoke.
Rating: 89/100 – Price Tag $$$$$ – Value for your Money $$$$$
The Auriverdes is indeed my favourite of the recent annual bottlings since the Rollercoaster. It is both approachable and complex at the same time and it has a magnetic quality that draws you in and makes you want to taste it as long as possible because it keeps evolving on the palate. It does not have an age statement but the Ardbeg Auriverdes feels much more mature than most of the recent new-oak-rush-matured expressions on the market.
I cannot spare you a comment on the infamous golden Auriverdes bottles making their way to auctions before the whisky even is officially launched and selling there for ludicous prices. These bottles were given to “VIPs” like bloggers, writers and Ardbeg Embassies as a token of appreciation. Turning these valuable gifts into personal profit is one of the most loathsome things I have come across in the whisky world so far.
While the Auriverdes we had at the tasting was poured from regular bottles, Stefan Gabányi being owner of an Ardbeg Embassy has a golden one on his bar counter. And it is open.