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Saturday, 7 June 2014

Ardbeg Auriverdes Whisky Review

So, after receiving my bottle of Ardbeg Auriverdes the other day (with some extra goodies, thanks Cru Bar!), I had been undecided on whether or not I would even open it, at least in the short term. Why? Well, the first tasting was quite disappointing to be honest, and with the eventual and inevitable 'collectability' of these annual Ardbeg day releases, it could potentially be worth some money one day. But, whether I will ever actually sell it is doubtful.

But wanting to do a review and not being entirely satisfied with the last taste, I would not let this question go unanswered. Our solution was to head to Cobbler, my favourite whisky bar in West End (check out my bar review here ), and try it there. Cobbler held a tasting and event on Ardbeg day, so I knew they would have had their bottle open for at least a week, giving the whisky a good chance to open up. But would that make a significant difference and change my opinion of the Auriverdes? We'll see.

Ardbeg Auriverdes, 49.9%, No Age Statement (NAS)
Not chill-filtered, aged in bourbon casks with toasted cask lids. No mention of whether this is bottled at cask strength, I would guess it is not.

(tasted neat)
Colour: Pale gold

Texture: Quite thin, clean and light. 

Nose: Salty sea air, roasted coffee beans, hint of peat and old leather, bananas soaked in vanilla.

Taste: Salty, black coffee, vanilla pod sweetness. Considerably hot for the relatively low strength. Smoked bacon and mild, subtle, medicinal peat. Only a hint of smoke.  Not the signature Ardbeg on the palate, and not instantly recognisable as Ardbeg. I would describe it as lightly peated Ardbeg, inspired by Laphroaig. 

Finish: Still salty, slightly bitter dark chocolate and black coffee, a hint of spice. Quite a long finish though, with medicinal and sea spray notes at the end. 

Score: 2.5 out of 5. 

Comments: So yes, it has definitely improved and opened up considerably with some oxygen contact, but it is still not the big hitter I was hoping for. Would probably benefit even further from a proper decanting, as it might lose some of that heat and calm down a bit. 

I tried to taste this without comparing to the other Ardbeg bottlings, which is quite easy considering how different it is from all of those. It has been compared to the un-peated Ardbeg Blasda by other tasters, but I haven't tried the Blasda, as I see Ardbeg without peat and smoke to be like a muscle car with a tiny econo-box engine.

If you manage to judge the Auriverdes on it's own merits, it does hold its own, with an approachable palate and familiar Islay character. But I do wish it had higher levels of peat and smoke, I feel it is being held back slightly to make it more appealing to the non-Islay whisky fan. Certainly it doesn't hold a candle to 'Ardbog' (see here for that review) and the 'Ardbeg Day' releases, for me at least. It is just not risky enough, not adventurous enough. It's too mild and conservative. 

In my opinion, it is also not the best value at it's $190 price point. This is the price level the phenomenal Supernova bottlings were released at, and is 50% more expensive than the perfection-in-a-glass Uigeadail (review coming soon, don't worry!), which is much better than the Auriverdes in every single way. 

So, still a little disappointing, but far improved since the initial tasting and a decent example of a more conservative, approachable Islay whisky. Cheers!