Age: 5 years old
For close to a decade now, Ardbeg has celebrated its annual Ardbeg Day with the release of a new limited edition. And while some of these whiskies have been nothing short of breathtaking (think Galileo or Dark Cove), it’s always a shame when you’ve emptied your bottle and a replacement is nowhere to be found. So those rare occasions where Ardbeg decides to shake up the core range are always a cause for celebration. Coming hot on the heels of An Oa and Traigh Ban is Ardbeg Wee Beastie, the youngest member of the family yet. And while the former whiskies showcase a more restrained version of Ardbeg, this Beastie is not meant to be tamed.
Matured in a combination of bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry casks, Wee Beastie is bottled at a reasonably powerful 47.4%. But of course the standout feature here is this Ardbeg’s tender age. At only 5 years old, we’re in territory where most distillers wouldn’t even dare slap an age statement on the bottle. Much has been made of the unique purifier on Ardbeg’s stills, and now we will get to see if it can stand up to whisky being bottled without the soothing influence of at least 10 years spent in oak.
Wee Beastie is marketed at the same price point as its 10 year old brother. While this might raise some eyebrows, Wee Beastie is still very affordable when compared with some similarly youthful whiskies (Octomore, Kilchoman and Lagavulin 8 come to mind). I expect the fact that Ardbeg recently doubled its capacity from two to four stills has helped to keep the price down, and will hopefully continue doing so in the future. But for now, let’s see if this Wee Beastie has the claws to match its ferocious packaging.
Colour: Pale honey
Nose: Young and meaty, but unmistakably an Ardbeg. A healthy dose of salt spray mingles with the maritime perfume of kelp and dried shellfish. Cornbread and fresh wood shavings make way for an enticing concoction of two parts tar and one part gravy. This Ardbeg doesn’t hold back!
Palate: Sharp, lively and just rearing to go. Peat smoke arrives in a fanfare of phenols, before another swell of salty flavours comes crashing in. Grilled peppercorn steak is replaced by a malty profile of oat cakes and burnt toast, before dark chocolate is allowed to have the last say.
Finish: Woahh, as long and intense as any Ardbeg out there. Notes of charred oak fade ever so slowly, like the glowing embers of a dying campfire. The aftertaste just lingers and lingers, leaving me feeling like I’ve chewed a chunk of peat and washed it down with a barrel of tar. Thrilling stuff!
Verdict: What a welcome addition to the range this is! Does Wee Beastie lack subtlety? Sure, this feisty creature is not the most well-mannered of Ardbegs. Yet its tender age is by no means obtrusive, and only adds to the experience. In many ways, Wee Beastie is Ardbeg in its purest form yet. It makes the 10 year old seem – dare I say it..? – almost meek in comparison. Does that make this a better whisky? Not necessarily, there is something to be said for balance and complexity over raw power. But make no mistake, Wee Beastie is a leviathan of a whisky. I am going to be enjoying this five year old stunner for a long time to come!
Value for money: 🤩🤩🤩🤩