By Ben Kelly
Some scotch purists have panned Ardbeg’s Blasda. I see where they’re coming from – it’s a bit controversial. With a peat level of 8ppm (one third of the Ardbeg 10yo), and an ABV of 40%, it’s a far cry from what you might expect from the Ardbeg distillery.
Nonetheless if you are up for some peat, but you don’t want to be kicked in the face with a boot caked in it, then this might be a dram you will appreciate. It feels like training wheels for a real Islay malt. Just as you wouldn’t start someone new to wine with a big cab sauv, you wouldn’t throw someone new to scotch in the deep end with full powered Ardbeg or Laphroaig. This is an interesting precursor to the Ardbeg 10yo and has enough character to make it worth taking some time for.
A very pale straw colour with a clean nose. The peat is there of course, but is not cloying and has undertones of pine needles and boot polish. The palate is smooth and has a very faint sweetness of stewed apples or maybe pears that is almost immediately slapped into submission by peat smoke, leather and maybe a hint of hazlenut. The finish is not terribly dissimilar to the palate. The smoke and leather hangs around while a faint hint of fruit sobs quietly in the background.
Adding two or three drops of water didn’t appreciably change the nose, so I added a couple of more. It took a while to get through the alcohol this released, but once on the other side of it, there is an acidic sweetness to the nose. It’s like citrus without being sugary. With water the palate is less viscous and the apple and pear qualities, finding an absence of peat smoke come out and frolic like a caged animal enjoying its new-found freedom. There is peat there in a ‘grudgingly obeying its restraining order’ sort of way. The finish is of old leather and mixed spice.
An Islay malt should be like the stereotypical Scottish warrior – proud, strong, aggressive and like to kick seven colours of snot out of you if you disrespect it. The Blasda is like the same warrior’s less than spectacular domestic life. I did enjoy spending time with it, but if I’m completely honest, if I want a dram that has some peat to it without being overpowered I’d rather go for a more heavily peated Speyside malt than a neutered Islay malt.
Blasda is listed on the Ardbeg website shop at £46.97, and runs for about €75. At the time of publication, we were unable to find any pricing data for Ardbeg Blasda in the United States, and it may not be available except through retailers on the other side of the pond. Blasda is a limited edition released in 2008, so supplies are probably drying up.