Ardbeg Blasda (Official Bottling)
40% ABV, £170 for 70cl
What they say:
We all know Ardbeg packs a peaty punch, but if you remove some of that peat, can Ardbeg still retain its perfect balance? The mind bog-gling answer is “yes”! By taming our usual mighty peating levels we created Blasda, peated to an average of just 8 parts per million phenol (8ppm) compared to the more usual 24ppm. Blasda is still perfectly balanced, but light, sweet and delicious.
Deliciously sweet and refreshing. On first nosing, the aroma is reminiscent of baked banoffie pie and roast chestnuts. On further nosing, cloves, pine cones and fresh mint rise from the glass, softened by creamy vanilla custard. A tingle of lemon and lime marmalade cuts through the vanilla with spiced pears followed by a breath of menthol and sea salt. Deep ripe fruits fuse with almond and vanilla.
With water, the sweet effervescence of sherbet vanilla and chocolate limes burst from the liquid. A bouquet of scented violet, narcissus and chrysanthemum bring a sparkling ethereal fragrance. Cured ham with a dusting of white pepper and cinnamon is served with gentle smoked fish and green peppers, with a sprig of leafy mint on top.
Refreshing, silky and creamy to the palate, the initial sip is sweet with a mixture of sugared almonds, marzipan and hints of dried fruits. Gentle peat oils well up on the palate, remaining soft, clean and dry with a dusting of powdery parma violets. Tangy lemon juice and orange rind freshen the palate with a gentle fizz. Later tingling spices and creamy cappuccino bring a gentle warmth.
The finish is medium in length and tingly with a refreshing balance of chrysanthemum tea, clean lemon zest, creamy vanilla and hints of cinnamon spiced apple.
What I say:
During our recent society trip to Islay we of course stopped by Ardbeg distillery for lunch and a wee tour culminating in collecting a whole bunch of Ardbeg samples which due to time constraints we had to load onto the bus as we sped on to Laphroaig. Later that evening back in the hostel in Port Charlotte we got a chance to work our way through some of these samples. Naturally the first being the un-peated Blasda, tasted before all the others which were more typical of the heavily peated Ardbeg style.
Very pale straw gold, light tears
Strong malt, slightly lactic, savoury sweetness, iodine and seaweed (Nori), sesame seeds
Light, creamy and oily, cereal, hay, lightly oaked, nutty hazelnut and almond, gentle earthen quality, copper, vanilla cream/custard – hints of crème brulee
Medium/short, malty and slightly lactic
Would I buy it:
My overall opinion of Ardbeg’s “lightly-peated” expression was that it was composed of nothing in extremes. Not particularly impressive I likened this to the Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve in that it seems to be lacking something (peat!) and in so doing reveals a whole host of jarring, unappealing flavours that didn’t float my boat. If you fail to like Ardbeg because of the peat, this 8ppm expression is unlikely to win you over.