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Ardbeg Whisky

by Michael Orson     14. May 2010 15:58

 Ardbeg Supernova

After one of the greatest montages in motion picture history (the training sequence in Rocky IV), came the epic fight between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago (a fight that ended with a victorious Stallone and also what looked like the beginning of the end of the Cold War).

A similar title fight took place in the whisky world last year, when Bruichladdich flexed its peaty muscles with Octomore, and Ardbeg came back with a well-placed right hook in the form of Supernova – the peatiest Ardbeg yet - weighing in with peating levels of over 100ppm!

The interesting thing was Bruichladdich’s riposte – Octomore 02.1, a monstrously phenolic whisky at 140ppm. The odd thing is, it just doesn’t knock your socks off like Supernova does. The ‘Laddie just doesn’t seem as punchy, and perhaps this is because Bruichladdich’s style is much lighter and fruitier than Ardbeg.

When we first tasted Supernova we were beguiled by the medium weight nose of toffee and tequila. It leads you into a false sense of security. What comes next is a palate entry of mescal, smoked paprika and iodine, and then it develops into the biggest chili hit you’ll ever experience in the world of spirits. It’s just mind-blowing!

Supernova flew off our shelves, even at what was a pretty lofty price for a NAS bottling. We were sorry to see it go, so we’re delighted to hear what might just be the biggest industry news this year: the return of Supernova!

The last broadside from Bruichladdich (we’ve switched from boxing metaphors to naval warfare) came in the form of Octomore Orpheus. It gave Islay fans a chance to try whisky at 140ppm with a finish (or Additional Cask Enhancement, should we say!) in top Bordeaux wine casks from Château Pétrus. The resultant flavour profile is the sort of red berry fruit and mixed conserve notes that you expect from red wine finished whisky, and also an interesting mix of very young, vibrant malt, topped off with a peaty kick. It really divided us – with some of us loving it for its ballsy, unabashed character, and others being put off by the hints of new make and its rather curious balance. 

It was groundbreaking, nevertheless, so this year’s brand new Supernova (set for release on the 31st May) had better be something special.  To add to the tension, the original Supernova was Jim Murray’s Scotch Whisky of the Year!

The new Supernova will have an increased strength (from 58.9% to a whopping 60.1% abv) and the distillers themselves (and by proxy the little Jack Russell, Shortie) are promising the same intense peating levels as before, but with an even “deeper and earthier” flavour.

Whatever happens, we’re sure it’ll be another knockout from Ardbeg!

- The Chaps at Master of Malt -


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