Ardbeg 1975 43% 1975
Serge Valentin (92)
The owners have issued many 1975s, both general releases such as this one and single casks – almost all legendary. The general releases had been issued from 1998 to 2001. For the record, 1998 = WF90, 2000 = WF91 and 2001 = WF86 (but that was a very long time ago). I never wrote any proper notes for the rotation 1999, so now’s the time; after all this ‘blogger’ is only twenty years late… Colour: gold. Nose: this is why we all jumped on Ardbeg after it had been relaunched by Glenmorangie plc. This is way tarrier than any contemporary offerings, much more medicinal, and much less on ooh-ha peat smoke. Embrocations, camphor, bandages, tarry ropes, new wellies, seashells, heavy fuel, tarmac, seawater, iodine, creosote… This is a seminal nose, the kind that converted many to peat (and indeed to Ardbeg). You wouldn’t imagine the kind of impact these have had at that time! Mouth: sweet Mary and Joseph, this is some travel through time. Sure the old single casks, including those by the indies, remain extraordinarily impressive, but this larger - I almost wrote humbler - batch is just a perfect example of what Ardbeg was, and just goes to show how much it has changed. I’m not saying it declined, not at all, but God did it change! Oyster, pipe tobacco, cracked pepper, grapefruits, tar and even rubber, toothpaste, lemon and grapefruit juice, and this fatness that remained there despite heavy reduction. Some Ardbeg of Grand Cru quality. Finish: long, wonderfully tarry and rubbery, with some iodine and just salt in the aftertaste. It’s just a shame that they didn’t go for 46% with these wonderful batches – but yeah, 43 is better than the Very Old’s 40 (or the 17’s). Comments: it’s always a thrill to try this style that’s now vanished in Islay’s mist. And it’s so cool that they weren’t yet obsessed with fresh quercus.