Review: Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardbeg (Port Ellen, Scotland)

This bottling is a classic of the Ardbeg range, indeed, quite a classic in whisky as a whole. Originally, it combined old Ardbeg sherry-casked whisky with young, muscular and smoky Ardbeg – a classic use of different ages to balance a whisky and create complexity well (and, a worthwhile use of a no-age-statement whisky!). However, the age of the sherry casks, many suspect, has dropped since the initial releases. Batches also vary – the best are among the best you can buy, and the worst make you really wish you didn’t blow all the money to get a bottle (though I haven’t had a terrible batch, but a few I would definitely not pay for, if not all of them – is any whisky worth the $180 you pay in Ontario for this? Whisky, as fabulous as it is…is just whisky, and there is much to be had at a lower clip than this one). Also, Uigeadails are pretty terrible for batch could be brilliant, or blah...

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L11 228 17:52 6ML

  • Bottling Date: ~2011

Sharp peat, vanilla, lots of minerality, without quite the vegetable complexity undernearth which makes the above bottling so good. Or the banana. A decent bit of sherry and rancio showing on the palate, pepper, cacao, grape – the lighter side of sherry showing, cardamom

The palate shows some dried leaves, underpinned by some caramel chocolate, lighter grape, peach, and pepper. Vegetal, spicy notes – reminding me of agave spirits in that peppery vegetal nature.

A very nice, dry finish. Creamy, with marula, peat, dark chocolate, rancio – oh, and lots of smoke.The creamy, fruity side to the finish, contrasted with the heaviness of the rest – is fantastic. A great whisky, but amazing to see how much better the subtle differences of the above batch improve the whisky.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. It’s a great whisky, but it comes at a cost.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L14 094 0843 6ML

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

More balanced and a touch less sulphur than the 2015 batch below, and more sherry. A great batch.

Well integrated, complex, very elegant and enticing. Apple, rancio, lemon, pepper and sweet balancing out the smoke - which is the backbone and edge to this whisky. Smoked paprika, terrific minerality, cigarette ash, and sherry...alongside some exotic spice like anise and Szechuan peppercorns. There is a light feel of creamy bourbon to all of this as well...makes me think a few really nice bourbon casks were used. All this with great mouthfeel, with a terrific dry-ness to the palate, and an interesting and enduring finish - fantastic.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation). One of the finest Islay whiskies I’ve tasted.

Value: High. The best of batches are terrific purchases, though not in Ontario where they run nearly 200$. However, in the US and elsewhere you can often find these for close to half this price.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L61360 31/03/2015 1500312 18:45

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Nose: Smoke, lemon peel, seaweed, biscuit, cacao, and absolutely brilliant mineral notes which seem to grow and supplement so firmly the rest of this nose. And, too, we have iIodine and medicinal notes, with some firm boggy peat, too…with time, it sweetens a bit and some raisins come through. Light vanilla and ever-so-light custard, sherry, and vanilla emerge with time.

Taste: Peat, and smoke, with the mineral element continued, and brilliant mouthfeel. A light sweetness, milk chocolate, and a dry sensation which makes the ashy smoke element come out quite a bit. The creaminess on the palate is nice, and there is quite a bit of dark caramel. The sherry is ever so lightly present, and adds brilliant complexity.As you get accustomed to the peat you taste more of the whisky you notice more of the sweetness underneath. But, a bit meaty and unappealing in places as well so it seems to me that not all the sherry casks did their best work.

Finish: Spicy on the end, with custard, smoke, oak, and dry white pepper, caramel, vanilla, some earthy peat, and capers. On the end, lots of tobacco off a nice cigar – similar finish as a cigar, with the oiliness too!

Good, but still not as good as the Ardbeg 10 which I tasted earlier this year (and is half the price!), or the Ardbeg 10 I had the previous year…indeed, that is a bit more of a consistent bottling in my experience, and of late it might even be getting better. However, back to this one – the minerality is what I really love – it’s well integrated and firm.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. This is the problem with Uigeadails, value is so dependent on the batch, since it’s an expensive whisky. If you can try before you buy, I recommend. It’s also one reason why Ardbeg nuts care so much about bottle codes.