Ardbeg Uigeadail 2016 Review



“The Ardbeg Uigeadail Reviews”

History:

At the start of 2014 I had the opportunity to review the Ardbeg Uigeadail bottled in 2012. I loved this Single Malt and it still occupies the # 1 spot in my All-Time Whisky List. Early 2018 I received a small sample of the same Whisky, bottled in 2017. I did a quick and dirty tasting session due to the very small size of the sample but it became clear that it differed substantially when compared to the 2012 expression. When I was in The Netherlands last year I received a generous sample of the 2016 Bottling from my brother in law Jan Bronkhorst with the request to do a full review on this expression in order to better compare it with the 2012 bottling. That's exactly what I'm gonna do today. Cheers and thanks for the sample Jan!


Ardbeg Uigeadail 2012 Review (Reviewed on January 1, 2014)

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Ardbeg Uigeadail (Bottled 2012)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 54.2 %

Colour: Amber

Nose: Give the Uigeadail sufficient time in the glass. At first I get loads of Earthy Juicy Peat accompanied by Smoked Meat, Bacon, Fish-Oil, Tar, Leather, Rum-Soaked Fruit Cake, Pepper and Salt. But be patient because this Ardbeg has more to offer. After a while I find Raisins, Espresso, Chocolate/Cocoa, Toffee, Caramel, Brown Sugar, a little Sherry, Malt and Cigar Ashes. The ABV is a bit too high perhaps and the Alcohol is not completely integrated. But other than that the Uigeadail is nicely balanced and comfortable on the Nose.

Palate: Juicy Peat, Creamy Barley, BBQ Smoke, Tar, Leather, Oak, Sweet Dark Fruits, Honey, Bacon, light Medicinal tones, Pepper, Cinnamon, Lemon, Sherry and a hint of Chocolate. This is Ardbeg at its best!

Finish: Very Long, Sweet at first but Dry later on. Juicy Peat, Earth, Caramel, Sweet Barley, Brown Sugar, Espresso, light Licorice, Cigar Ashes, White Pepper, BBQ Smoke and Toast with a nice slice of Bacon.

With a bit of Water the Nose gets more Honey and Dark Fruits (Prunes). Honey and Sweet Peat are reinforced on the palate but the Finish becomes shorter and not quite that expressive. Better sip the Uigeadail neat!

Rating: 92.5

Nose: 23 - Taste: 23.5 - Finish: 23 - Overall: 23


General Remarks: The Ardbeg (Little Height in Gaelic) Distillery is located on the South Coast of the Isle of Islay. The Distillery was founded in 1794 and commercial production started in 1815. It was closed between 1981 and 1989 after which it produced on a low scale until 1997 when it was bought by Glenmorangie Plc, part of the French LVMH Group. The Uigeadail takes it name from the loch that provides the Distillery with the peated Water. Uigeadail means Dark and Mysterious Place in Gaelic. It matures in a mix of Ex-Bourbon Casks and Ex-Sherry Butts and is married before bottling.The whisky is not Chill-Filtered and (in this case) bottled at Cask Strength in November 2012. It costs around 90 US Dollars, an excellent Price/Quality ratio.

Drinking Experience Neat: Very Good/Excellent

Conclusion: Ardbeg is certainly one of my favourite distilleries. Both the 10 Years and the Supernova 2010 are charted high in my Top 20 so far. But the Uigeadail seems to take the best of those two whiskies and add even more complexity and balance. Coastal, Floral and Fruity tones are in near perfect harmony. And despite its complexity it remains utterly drinkable as well! This could have scored even higher if the Uigeadail had been bottled at a slightly lower ABV. I think that anything between 46 and 50% would have been sufficient. Of course you can add a little Water but I'm not a great fan of that. Because in doing so you might make it easier to appreciate the Uigeadail but at the same time you alter the Spirit. I prefer to judge the whisky the way it is presented by the makers. But all in all this is a great Single Malt and it goes right to the # 1 spot in the Complete Ranking so far. What a great way to start 2014!


Ardbeg Uigeadail 2017

In the beginning of 2018 I had the chance to taste a dram of an Uigeadail that was bottled in 2017. For sure this expression has changed. It's less complex and shows more Peat and Spices. The Finish is a lot shorter than it was before. It's still a nice Whisky but the magic is gone. I would assume that the lack of good Bourbon and Sherry casks has hit the Uigeadail as well. Based on the sample I would rate the 2017 expression as follows:

Rating: 86.5
Nose: 22 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 22 =================================================



“The Magic Has Gone”

Whisky Review # 861

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Ardbeg Uigeadail (Bottled in 2016)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 54.2%
Maturation: A mix of Ex-Bourbon and Sherry Wood
Chill Filtration: No
Sample provide by: Jan from the Netherlands. Many Thanks!
Price Range: US$ 80-100 (February 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: Okay
Buying Advice: 👍It's not what it used to be but still a good peated Malt.

Colour: Medium Amber (Natural Colour)  - It's Lighter in Colour than the 2012

Nose:

Lots of Peat, Smoke and (Burnt) BBQ notes. Some Sweet, some Sour. I feel that the Sherry cask influence has diminished. It's not bad for sure but it lost balance and complexity when compared to the 2012.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Burnt Toast, Salted Caramel, Peat (Dirty Earth), Cold Campfire Smoke, Burnt Grass, Tar, Ashes, Bacon and Fish on the BBQ, Lemon, Pepper, Tobacco and Leather.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Brown Sugar, Toffee, Cooked Vegetables, Raspberry, Blueberry, Rum Soaked Raisins, Dark Chocolate, Herbal Tea, Black Espresso, Menthol and Old Cheese.



Palate:

Bitter Sweet, slightly Young and a little Rough. Still, it's my favorite part of this Uigeadail. Again quite a lot of Peat/Smoke, BBQ and Dark Fruits. It's a little Mineral and Medicinal as well.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Burnt Toast, Salted Caramel, Dirty Peat, Cold Campfire Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Bacon and Fish on the BBQ with a sprinkle of Lemon, Dark Cocoa, Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom, Leather, Licorice, Menthol and Dark Espresso.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Toffee, Brown Sugar, Honey, Vanilla, Wet Stones, Burnt Newspaper, Raspberry, Blueberry, Rum Soaked Raisins, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Forrest Floor, Oak and Cinnamon.


Finish:

Quite Long. Bitter-Sweet and Medium-Dry. It feels a little Young and Harsh and I wonder if some Fresh Oak was introduced to the maturation process. I find Sweet Barley, Burnt Toast, Dirty Peat, Cold Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Bacon and Fish on the BBQ, Salted Caramel, Toffee, Honey, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Oak, Dark Chocolate, Bitter Espresso, Pepper, Menthol, Herbal Tea, Lemon, Leather, Tobacco and Licorice.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and although you loose a bit of the Harshness, it gets too diluted in my opinion. You can add a few drops but don't overdo it!

Rating: 86

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 22 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion:

The Uigeadail is still a nice peated Whisky but, as I wrote in my 2018 update, the magic has gone. The main reason must be the lack of good Sherry Wood. I  suspect that some Virgin Oak was used in the 2016 expression. As a result, the 2016 shows a lot of Peat, BBQ, Spices and Dark Fruit but it misses complexity and balance when compared to the great 2012 expression. Its relative Youth becomes also more clear in a few harsh notes. I still wouldn't say no if someone offered me a dram of the Uigeadail but I wouldn't go running after a full bottle anymore. Another dream is over unfortunately. We must face today's distorted Whisky market I'm afraid. Let's hope the good old days will return some day!

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende
                                                                                         February 17, 2020

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Jan,

very interesting comparison of the different batches of Uigeadail - until now it used to be my favorite standard Ardbeg expression: honest and fairly priced.

You are right about the batch variation: still good, but the magic seems to be gone, as you rightly put it.

However, 2016 was still a very good Uigeadail year - there was this very special bottling (bottle code L12 016) that became sort of legendary amongst the German whisky community. I had one bottle, it was superb - but long gone. Marcus did a review on that one: https://whiskycuse.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/ardbeg-uigeadail-ob-2012-l12-016/
Lately even as video in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RAa9GeBd8c

Therefore, I am surprised by your 2016 Uigeadail experience...so also back than obviously strong batch variation.

Cheers
Björn

Jan van den Ende said...

Hi Bjorn thanks for your comments and the additional info. I'm afraid I can't tell you which 2016 Batch I tasted as I only had a sample and the original bottle has already been recycled in the meantime. I can only tell you it was very similar to a 2017 sample I tasted back in 2018. The L 12 016 bottle that you mention and that Marcus reviewed is a 2012 bottling, not a 2016. Therefore it is quite in line with my review of the 2012 expression that still ranks # 1 in my list so far. Cheers, Jan.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jan,

Ah I see I got the year wrong despite the actual logical bottle code (L12 = year 2012 016 = 16th day of the year) you are right...

Interesting comparison that you did here.

Cheers
Björn

Jan van den Ende said...

Thanks for your kind words Bjorn! Cheers, Jan.