Ardbeg certainly loves their special releases. I have always enjoyed the Corryvreckan (which is actually a regular in the lineup, not a one-off release), and I thought Alligator was intriguing. I’m starting to wonder though if these bottlings might be more marketing stunt than cutting-edge whiskymaking. I mean, a rocket? C’mon. And just look at the silliness on the Galileo webpage. Do they mention the whisky? What’s in it? No. But you can upload a picture of yourself with a spacesuit helmet on! Anyway. Continuing with the theme of their one-distillery space race, Ardbeg has released a ~12 year-old vatting of ex-bourbon Ardbeg and (cool!) Sicillian marsala wine cask-aged whisky at a bold 49% ABV. I am actually a big fan of marsala, so I was hoping those nutty oxidized-wine notes would translate.
Nose: Lot of vanilla. Light brown sugar. Cereal. Very mild peat – this is Ardbeg?
Palate: Sharp, piquant peat. Vanilla & caramel. Hefty burn. Some wooksmoke (fruit wood – like applewood chips smoking). A little lime juice on the tail end.
Finish: Not too bitter. Peat shows through (finally) on finish.
With Water: Becomes very perfumey, like a room full of vanilla beans drying.
Overall: Lots of vanilla. Easy drinking, for an Ardbeg, but not much else to recommend it. I was 100% unable to identify the marsala. This is a particularly sweet, aromatic whisky with a very muted peat profile. If someone handed me a glass, I can honestly say I would enjoy drinking it. Alas, the total mistranslation of the marsala cask (I would have said this was 100% ex-bourbon), and the special-edition hoopla seriously undermined the experience for me. I would say this whisky is not worth the (exceptional) effort required to secure a bottle. (Although K&L still has some in stock for $95, while it lasts.) My low rating shouldn’t be taken as a denouncement of the flavor or quality of this whisky – but as a statement on the value for the money. A self-conscious $50 pricetag would have warranted a Recommended score.