Sunday, September 21, 2014

Going Supernova - Sampling the Ardbeg Supernova

The Ardbeg Supernova mini
An unexpected treat arrived in the post on Friday. A sealed black bag sporting the Ardbeg logo. Interesting to say the least it did not take me long to break it open and glance inside. Nestled in the confines of this back space was a wooden box with again presenting the Ardbeg logo grooved and burnt into the the lid. Releasing the ties I unsealed the contents to discover a 50ml mini bottle of Ardbeg Supernova 2014 committee release. Wow this was very unexpected. Ardbeg is a big player in the D.T.W.C. and it would have been rude of me not to be sharing this very limited dram with probably the biggest Ardbeg fan of the club, El Capitan. A quick call later and things were sorted for a following evenings tasting.

The sequence of discovering the contents
Ardbeg Supernova is the distilleries peatiest whisky and is released as a NAS (No Age Statement). Being the peatiest whisky the exact PPM (Phenol count in Parts Per Million) of this bottling is not really known (as far as I have been told) but the Ardbeg site claims it to be ‘more than 100ppm’. That is pretty darn high in comparison to the 30ppm to 50ppm averages of other Ardbeg’s and other well know Islay whiskies.

This release, which is only available to committee members, is commemerating the return of the Ardbeg’s space experiment. Space experiment you ask? Simply create 2 files of Ardbeg then send one into space while the other is stored on terra firma. After several years in space equalling 15675 rotations of the earth, return the vial of spaced Ardbeg and see what effects zero gravity has on the whisky and maturation process. No this release does not contain any of the whisky sent into space but it does have a very spacey name.

Before reviewing though (here it comes), we cannot be discussing Ardbeg Supernova without touching on the Bruichladdich Octomore. In mentioning Octomore I wanted to make a very clear point. So many continue to perpetuate this rival fantasy of Octomore vs Supernova but truly Octomore is its own beast to be reckoned with. Octomore outstrips Supernova in PPM by so much that they are not even in the same classification. The only true relationship they both have is that they are both the peatiest whiskies produced by those distilleries. So push the rivalry aside and you will find virtues in Ardbeg Supernova that Octomore falls short on and vice versa. There is one direct comparison I will make but this will come later.

Ardbeg Supernova 2014 committee release
Distiller: Ardbeg
Region / location: Islay, Scotland
Alcohol / ABV: 55%
PPM: 100+

Colour: Light straw with a noticeable golden hue lacking in the Ardbeg 10yo.

Nose: Super sweet barley and honey with elements of fennel and sweet light peat smoke. The nose is becomes more excitable the longer thou let it stand in the glass. Almost an earthy herbal fragrance, briny, and smokey all st the same time.

Taste: At first the cushioning sweetness expected from the nose is severely pushed aside for a gritty ashy mouthfeel compounded by a metallic banding towards the back of the palate. On a second sip the ash subsides substantially to make way for more sweet barley and fragrant vanillas but you have to push through the first sip to start to really take in what Ardbeg Supernova is offering. Some medicinal brine also makes headway that was found on the nose. It is young but not too young it seems with wood complexity here and there and tell tale signs of classic Ardbeginess. Curiously the wood fired dryness reminds me very much of a older style Lagavullin 16yo. If you had not read the bel prior it would be a surprise to realise this is cask strength even with the long legs sticking to the glass as it just does not assault the palate with zany true alcohol burn.

Finish: Long and warming with the metallic banding and dryness remaining. Long after a sip though the malt sweetness perpetuates making you yearn for another dram.

Overall: A good dram and you know it is an Ardbeg. Yes it smells, tastes and finishes like an Ardbeg should and I am appreciative of this fact. The ashy dryness is in the forefront and overtakes most of the experience but the malt sweetness does perpetuate through and is not completely eclipsed. Balance sways towards assertive side. Makes a great cold wet weather dram especially when feeding a wood fired oven.

If I was to give a dram then it would be a 5.5 out of 7 for the Ardbeg Supernova. The lower score is all relating to price. It is the most devastating thing really. At $240AU this is out of the reach of even most Ardbeg Committee members. Limited release or not (here is the comparison) when you can buy a bottle of Octomore for $160AU sometimes you have to weigh up just why your buying the bottling in the first place. If your looking for a titanic peat experience then go for the Octomore, but if your looking for a chapter of Ardbeg history then buy the Supernova and for god sake drink it and not store it in a dusty cabinet. If it was priced better say around the $160AU mark I would be scoring well higher.

For those wanting to purchase the Ardbeg Supernova be sure to sign up as an Ardbeg Committee Member first and then make a trip over to the Moet Hennessy site where you will find it available as part of the Moet Hennessy Collection.

Torching the bottle while baking an apple pie.
Lastly for those not aware there is a roaring trade globally for whisky minis. So much so that if these traders get wind of a limited bottle offers to purchase soon roll in. Then to consider when a limited release comes out such as this one the real dollars start to to be quoted. I was offered £400 for this one mini. WOW!  So drink it and sell the bottle yo may say? The trade of these used mini bottles is almost as crazy and ones like these are easily forged by simply recapping. A unique code was stuck to the bottles in order to track who got these but what is to say one is not stolen or salvaged from a bin? For me I won’t trade these bottles, full or used, as I am supplied them to make a serious tasting. To continue to influencing this black trade by selling even the used bottle dishonours the whole reason for be asked to review so destruction of the bottle is somewhat required. Only days before Oliver Kilmek at Dramming.com, the lads at Cask Strength, and Gal at Whisky Israel all made a point of bottle destruction. How could I not be doing the same considering I was praising their actions? El Capitan and I decided to fire up the pizza oven and literally melt the bottle in the crucible. A suitable end to Ardbeg's peatiest whisky. Here is the official torching:


Enjoy this release while you can as bottles are strictly limited.

The Baron

D.T.W.C. was supplied a sample for review. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated.