Ardbeg Uigeadail

So… for awhile everyone I talked to seemed to love the unpronounceable NAS Ardbeg which launched back before both NAS and unpronounceable names were common in the industry. When I began discovering malts, Uigeadail was often spoken of in the same hushed tones as the original Supernova (which is coming back, by the way). I have a confession to make. As much as I love the peaty power of Ardbeg, and as much as I respect its parent company, LVMH, Uigeadail and I have never seen eye-to-eye. After three or four negative notes from tasting events in my book (none of them long enough for a blog post), I decided to jump on a sale at K&L and get a full bottle. Surely if everyone else loves this stuff, I should be able to figure out what’s so good about it. My bottle has a batch code of L13 245 15:18 6ML – so it was bottled on day 245 of 2013, or September 2nd.

Uigeadail (pronounced, believe it or not, “Oo-geh-doll”) is named after the loch from which Ardbeg sources its water. The whisky is a vatting of standard Ardbeg from ex-bourbon casks (supposedly the 10-year) with some quantity of sherry-aged Ardbeg. The result is bottled at cask strength. Originally, Uigeadail was conceived of to find a home for some old (1970s) sherry casks of Ardbeg left in the warehouse when new owners LVMH rehabbed the distillery after purchasing it from Hiram Walker. By vatting the long-in-the-tooth sherry casks (which would have lost a lot of peat character and become somewhat overly woody) with bright, smoky 10 year-old Ardbeg from bourbon casks, the whisky would become a peaty powerhouse with lots of resiny, old-oak goodness. It worked, and Uigeadail was a big success. Until recently, when they must have run out of vintage sherried Ardbeg and switched to much younger sherry-aged whisky, probably put down after the distillery reopened in 1998, or as late as 2003 when Uigeadail was first released. Internet gossip maintains that the whisky has decreased markedly in quality since those first editions. (Thanks for the info, Jordan!) It should be noted that the price has also decreased.

Update 12/17/2016: I’ve had a chance to sample a newer batch of Uigeadail (apologies – I don’t have the batch number). This time I find an aroma replete with smoke but devoid of fruit, and a palate richly-flavored and peppery. The finish shows ripe red fruits, at last. This batch is much better than the one I last reviewed, although I still don’t see a reason to buy this over Ardbeg 10 (cheaper) or Corryvreckan (better).

Nose: Ardbeg woodsmoke with a smattering of sherry influence: raisin, fig, etc. The effect, while wholly integrated, is two-dimensional. There is little to the peat character besides woodsmoke, and little to the sherry character beyond raisin. Deep as I dig (and get a snoot-full of alcohol fumes for my trouble), I can’t find anything else.

Palate: Mildly creamy body, and an expected amount of tongue-burn. A slight citrus note, but not as obvious as Corryvreckan.

Finish: Long. Sherry-tinged woodsmoke, fading without bitterness.

With Water: A few drops of water highlight some of the citrus notes in the nose, and somewhat tame the tongue burn. The water also adds a welcome orange-peel character to the finish. Diluting down to 46% yields an easily drinkable dram with some sweet citrus, but very tame peat. I suggest experimenting with water to find the right sweet spot for your tastes.

Overall: Alas, I’m not a fan. Despite several tastings from my bottle over several weeks (and a few over the last couple of years), I do not see anything redeeming about this malt. For my tastes, Ardbeg 10 delivers all the peaty complexity you could want for less money. For more money, Corryvreckan is better in every way and is very much worth the extra price. That’s not something I say every day.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

East of Lagavulin and Laphroaig on the southern coast of Islay, Ardbeg is known for being among the most heavily-peated single malts made. Their Uigeadail and Supernova (>100 ppm) bottlings push the envelope on palatable levels of peat (measured in Phenol parts-per-million, or ppm). Ardbeg’s water travels a long journey, first from Loch Uigeadail, which is the highest loch (~250m) in the quartzite hills of Islay. The water flows over hard quartzite, via the Ardilistry River, into the man-made Loch Iarnan. Finally, the soft water flows over heavy peat bogs to the distillery via the Ardbeg Burn. Like most [all?] of the other Islay distilleries, its malted barley comes, by specification, from the maltings at Port Ellen. Ardbeg used to have its own kiln-fired maltings, which were unusual due to a lack of a fan in the roof. This caused a heavy, tar-like influence of the peat smoke, which added to the inherent peat character in the Islay water. The maltings was closed in 1977, so Ardbegs casked before the late 1970s should still exhibit that old characteristic tar and smoke.
Ardbeg Uigeadail
54.2% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $55 - $65
Acquired: (750ml bottle) K&L Wine and Spirits $50

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  • I have to admit to feeling the same way. This is my least favorite of Ardbeg’s regular expressions. I want to love it as much as Ralfy does, but I just can’t enjoy drinking it. I used part of the bottle I bought as braising liquid for a brisket I was smoking just to make the bottle go away faster.

    In fact, because of this and humdrum releases like Auriverdes, I fully intend to ignore everything Ardbeg release BESIDES Corryvreckan or the 10 unless it carries an age statement. Then maybe we’ll talk.

    • new favorite. liked the standard 12 year Macallen, and the laphroaig quarter cask, and the triple wood, tried the ten year Uigeadail, and the Corryvreckan, but there is something so good about the uigeadail… for sure leather and tobacco, but something sweet too…

      i have had 3 bottles and they are all the same, outstanding… just dont want to pick anything else up. i hope they stay consistent

  • The linked article (and the ones that article links too) make me wish I could find an older bottle of Uigedail on a local shelf to compare to the new stuff. I don’t dislike the stuff but agree that for a few dollars more the Corryvreckan is far superior.

  • Yikes, after such a positive review of Bowmore darkest I would have expected you to enjoy this as well.

    I have a friend that calls these the dungeon malts, dark, dank, earthy, raisins. As for me I love all things Sherried.

  • For the price, I totally agree—would much more opt for the Corry. Not sure I’d even go for the aurivedes—-that simply didn’t live up,to the marketing hype.

  • Wow, I really can’t agree. Uigedail (or “Oogy” as Ardbeg fans call it for short) beats Corryveckran head-to-head every time. The Ardbeg 10 isn’t even close. Based on my reading of reviews and blog posts, I’d say most Ardbeg drinkers would say the same.

    • Not me. I’ve had many of the Ardbeg line over the years and to me Corry is the best. Oogie is good, but I’d rather have the 10 (at 60% of Oogie’s price), Galileo, Ardbog or Auriverdes. It’s not bad at all, just not one I want to buy again.

      • I’ve got to agree with Robert here. I am in general a pretty big Ardbeg fan, but I just never took to Oogie. I know that not liking it puts me in the minority, but it’s fairly large as minorities go. I like the basic idea of the spirit, but it just tastes too young to me. There’s a “young spirit” sickly sweet off flavor I get from it that I also get from whiskies like Kilchoman and Kavalan King Car. The difference is that it dissipates with some oxygen and time in those, but seems to hang around in the Oogie.

        At any rate, there’s whisky for everyone in this world. Glad we don’t all like the same thing.

    • Yeah, I agree. Uigedail is way better, and in fact one of the best peated scotches I have ever had. The heavy smoke and sweetness just feels like the whiskey version of thick cut bacon drenched in maple syrup.

  • I appreciate & respect your review , but I disagree 100%

    While I can agree Corryveckran is better (it’s in my top 3) , but Uigeadail I love as well.
    I actually buy and always stop all 3 standard expressions of Ardbeg, and feel all are worthy of their price. I can’t afford to drink Corryveckran everyday (around $85 a bottle), but 10 year around $45 & Uigeadail $65 is among the best at their price range – IMO.

    I feel other islay whisky’s like Kilchoman, are too pricey.

  • If you have the bottle could you tell us the specific batch number? You can find a number in very small white letters under the embossed word “LIMITED” on the back. It will read something like L13 224 18:19 6ML. (There is a second number in small white letters that is the control code). This code works for all Ardbeg bottles by the way. The LXX will tell you the year and the next three numbers tell you the day of the year it was bottled. Typically Ardbeg will make about 4 or 5 batches of Uigeadail every year. And EVERY batch is different. Some are much better than others. To me it sounds like a bad batch.

  • I really appreciate your reviews and enjoy your opinions on the drams. However, have you considered buying another bottle of this? I feel that it has a lot more to offer then your giving it credit for. Not all bottles are created equal.

    My club reviewed this dram and found it quite interesting. Got an averaged rating of 92 from 6 reviewers. I’ve tasted several bottles of this stuff and the quality seems to hold. You can check out our thoughts:

    Again, love your thoughts. Just wanted to provide a counterpoint 🙂

    • Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your comment! I sometimes feel more positive about a whisky as I get nearer the bottom of the bottle – some whiskies just need to “grow” on you. However, I’m still cringing every time I pour a dram from this bottle, even though I’m halfway through it. It’s oddly (sickly) sweet, out-of-balance, and totally not what the product used to be like (by all accounts) years ago. It’s entirely plausible that my bottle is from a bad batch, but life’s too short to buy another bottle after a bad batch. So many other whiskies to try, instead! Still, anyone reading this article should take into consideration the possibility that my review is from a sub-par bottle. Your best bet is to sample it yourself and come to your own conclusions. Cheers!

  • This was one of the first bottles I ever bottle and I was blown away by it at the time, but now after having a bunch of islays that better balance peat and sweet notes, I just don’t think I’ll be getting another bottle of this at $74. I think I’ll just opt for the 10 next time it goes on sale. The laphraoig 18, laphraoig triple wood and ardbeg corryvreckan all balance peat with interesting flavor notes.

    Even watered down the finish is burny and dries out quickly, and the peat notes are simply salt and woodsmoke and the sherry is just grapes with an undertone of chocolate.

  • I must agree here with the ScotchNoob…

    Was not impressed at all with this whisky. To me it was nothing more than charcoal ash mixed with mineral spirits.

    For a peated whisky – I’m a big fan of the Lagavulin 16 yr.

  • glad I found this review. I tasted it at a festival and it really didn’t sit well. I’m not a fan of sherry vs peat. I find it sickly and unbalanced, I also don’t like Laphroaig QC too much.. thought maybe it was just me as there are floods of amazing reviews! Maybe I need to try it a few more times but I’ll stick with the ten year old next time I buy Ardbeg. It was super.

  • I’ve had the Ardbeg 10 many times and have always been fond of it since the first time we met. Generally a fan of the peatier single malts, started with Laphroig, then went on to Bowmore, Ardbeg, and then had Bunnahabhain last time I visited Scotland. Never tried Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila, or Kilchoman.

    Anyway, I was given a bottle of Uigeadail this year for Christmas and have to say that I’m very impressed and happy with it. I put a dram in a snifter at about 58 degrees F/14 degrees C, put about three drops of water in it, took a sip and was pleasantly surprised. It’s been a little while since I’ve had the 10 year so I don’t have an immediate reference to A/B them, but I generally know what to expect from the 10 and this is definitely a different beast. It’s a bit more fiery, which I assume is due to the higher alcohol content, sharper and more peppery in the front, but has a much weightier, earthier lingering aftertaste, which I quite like. I’ve always compared the 10 year to drinking a buttered campfire. The Uigeadail tastes like using that same campfire to light a cigar. It’s a pretty intense sensory experience, but an enjoyable one. Looks like my bottle was bottled in November of 2015.

  • SN, I think you may find this information interesting. At an Ardbeg tasting event with LVMH’s west coast representative the other day, the rep told us that the current iteration of Uigeadail is a blend of 6 and 8 year old barrels. Honestly I about choked on my dram thinking that stores were charging $70-85 for that age of whisky. Then I about choked again when he told us that 10, Corry, and Ugi could all be priced much higher by LVMH, but they care too much about us consumers to do that. (FWIW I don’t have a problem with 10 priced at $45-50). He then proceeded to bash Laphroaig for using “cheap casks”. Overall, he did not shed the best of light on the brand he was there to represent.

    • That’s interesting, thanks Andrew. It’s also not very surprising. LVMH positions its brands in the “luxury” space, so they could indeed price those Ardbegs higher, and probably get away with it. I doubt the reason they don’t is because of how much they care… more likely, it’s that they have a strategy of incremental price increases (and more “limited” bottlings with much higher price tags, see Bacalta) to avoid looking like they are gouging. My opinion is that Uige got popular when it was first released because it had some much-older whisky in it. When whisky “boomed” more than expected, they ran out of those excess older casks and began lowering the ages of its components, which seems to have been a widespread occurrence in the industry (aka the “NAS Curse”). Now, Uige is a shadow of its former self. Again, that’s opinion, not fact.

  • This was the most disgusting whisky I have ever tried. I’m hoping it might of just been a bad batch? I would never ever try this again! Left such a bad taste in my mouth (literally).
    Yuck! Is the best word to describe this disgusting liquid!

  • I look at Uigeadail as the least desirable expression (of the regular offerings) from the distiller that produces the greatest whiskey under $50 and the greatest whiskey under $100 (10 yr; Corryvreckan). Not as successful as either, but the heart is Ardbeg and the one advantage over the 10yr is the abv. Still, I’d choose Uigeadail without hesitation if the other two aren’t in stock. Thanks for the blog, Noob! I read your review every week, and I wish you many more decades of good health and exceptional whiskey!

  • I know I’m several years late to the party, but as much as I value your opinion-and check your reviews before trying something new-I’ll have to respectfully disagree. While I love the 10 and the Corry, the Oogie is my favorite Ardbeg to date. I suppose I’m just a sucker for the smoky/sweet combo, and feel that the Oogie pulls this off far better than some of its contemporaries, such as the Laphroaig Sherry 10 year/Cardeias. (And, while we’re on the topic of smoky/sweet combos, here’s hoping you get around to reviewing the Port Charlotte 10 yr Heavily Peated.