KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 7

7 12 2016

Oh snap.  Let’s get greasy.  Ardbeg is in the house.  When a distillery can scarcely be described without the use of the word “notorious” (in this case, for its well-known bone-crushing use of peat, like most other Islay distilleries but times ten), you know you’re in for some fun.  And when you can’t pronounce the name of the whisky even before you down its cask-strength madness (54.2%, the first bottle out of the 40s to date), all the more so.  It turns out Ardbeg’s Uigeadail, named for the lake that acts as the distillery’s water source, is pronounced “OOG-a-dal”, a suitable caveman name for a pretty caveman whisky.  That’s not necessarily a put-down — this is a $110 bottle, and one that Ardbeg’s 120,000-person-strong fan club voted their favourite out of the distillery’s whole lineup — but more a recognition that this sherried expression of Islay’s most ferocious peat bomb gets to something primal.

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It starts before your nose even gets close to the glass.  The massive alcohol content is apparent from the glass-coating syrupy way the Oog comes out of the bottle, shining sullenly like burnished gold.  The aromas are unsurprisingly filled with nostril-tinging peat, which lingers in the sinuses with a slight alcoholic burn after the other smells fade away:  dirty rags, kerosene, mechanic shop floor, moss, burnt cinnamon and spice.  Even with a fair dollop of water, this is still rich and lush and radiating power, honeyed maple-bacon sweetness offering a beat of relief before the oily smoke and swampy peat flavours, charcoal briquettes and skidding tires, ashtrays and latex gloves, take over and run wild.  Oog is not a whisky that sounds good when reduced to flavour descriptors, but it does hit you on an emotional as well as an intellectual level, something I don’t always get with scotch, as much as I enjoy it.  There is some bass and some soul to this liquid fire and brimstone, an oozy gravitas that I can’t help but admire.

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