|"Oo-geh-dahl", before you ask.|
Readers of this blog may have noted thus far a suspicious absence of Scotch Whisky from this blog. This is in no way due to a lack of esteem for the spirit, but mainly from my relative lack of understanding of it versus American Whiskey; in general, you are perhaps better off reading someone else's blog if you want a deep understanding of the stuff. However, I have for a while now been more in the mood for whisky than for whiskey and so I will attempt a few posts on the matter from the perspective of an American whiskey drinker.
I, like most, started my love affair with single malt whisky with Glen-something (I think Glenlivet) and quickly followed this gateway malt into the dark and intimidating world of Islay whisky. I have recently rediscovered the pleasure a well-balanced Speysider can have (more on that soon) but the bulk of my malty affections remain rooted to the smoky and peaty whiskies from Islay and the Islands.
That I happen to have a bottle of this beastie around is very good timing as tomorrow is the Reddit r/scotch community tasting of the Oogie, and I am also coming down with something that has started in my throat (but that has not yet reached my olfactory apparatus); I know of nothing that better helps a sore throat than Islay (the flavor one gets from peat is phenol, the active ingredient of chloraseptic. I'm not making this up). I will have more to say about Islay at some point, but as I mentioned, I am not feeling all that well and so will save a long discussion about bogwater etc for later.
This particular specimen is a doozy and high in my running for the only Islay I need at all times. Peated to within an inch of it's life: Check. Unchill-filtered: Check. Cask Strength: Check. Sherry finished and well-aged: Also check. If there is something else you can offer in this style of whisky I can't think of it. This is a regular release product from Ardbeg and combines 1990-1993 distilled whisky aged in bourbon barrels with "much older" whisky that had been aging in sherry butts.
Arbeg Uigeadail NAS 54.2% ($58.99 from K&L)
Nose: Peat, bonfire and barbecue.Roasted nuts. Beneath all that some vanilla, smores and a hint of olive brine.
Palate: Huge and fiery attack with good body. Fireplace ash, grilled bread, caramel, salted nuts, vanilla and apricots. Successive sips just continue to reveal waves of evolving flavors: smoky then salty then sweet.
Finish: Long and warming. Echoes the palate then fades to a combination of apples and phenol-inflected sweetness. Slight anesthetic effect.
Water: A few spoons of water tame the nose significantly, but not in a good way: band-aid/hospital smell predominated with maybe a hint of raisin. The palate suffers less and the above flavors are easier to pick out, but not more pleasantly. The finish is creamier and spicier at the same time.
Overall this is a fantastic experience of a whisky and currently my favorite Islay. I have for some time been drawn to sherry-finishing in peaty whiskies as I think the sweetness and fruit/nut flavors bring a really nice balance. This, while enormous, actually still succeeds in balancing a tremendous amount of flavor together in a well-integrated package that seems like it might otherwise overwhelm. I will definitely keep buying this as it is an absolute steal for the $60 I paid, and is probably worth closer to $100.
Of note, this is not for the faint of heart, palate or esophagus as I tend to taste this for hours and am nearly sure it is made in part of liquid GERD (in these respects overshadowed only by the Octamore Comus).