Nose: Smoked bacon, Tarry ropes on a not-long-dry seashore. Loads of Vanilla. Pomegranates, Fizzy-sweets (refreshers, Sherbet Lemons) and Lemon-zest. Not convinced I’d have got Mocha, if not for the autosuggestion, but it’s definitely there now I think about it.
Palate: Initially sweet, restrained, more of that bacon, but this time it’s been cured with Muscovado sugar and maybe a touch of Juniper? Progresses through the inevitable onslaught of peat, but it’s there in a slightly different way – more ‘high’, medicinal phenols than we've come to expect with Ardbeg. From the palate alone, I’m not even sure I’d peg this as Ardbeg – I might be tempted to go two distilleries further down the coast…
Finish: Long. Cocoa, Charred corners of a pulled pork butt, becomes more ashy as it fades, but clearly from good honest casks albeit with charred heads.
Overall: It’s good. Funnily though, as the spirit’s not being bombarded with finishes/extreme cask-techniques the difference between this and the 10yo is strangely pronounced. There are palpable elements of Bowmore, and Laphroaig in this dram, whilst it does absolutely retain the overall Ardbeg character we know and love. To my mind that’s a good thing.