By Richard Thomas
Uigeadail was launched by Ardbeg in 2003, back when the Iraq War was new. To many who have come lately to the wonders of world whisk(e)y, that is a long time ago indeed, so it’s worth mentioning that Uigeadail was Ardbeg’s first no age statement (NAS) release in what became a succession of them, so much so that NAS malts now comprise much of what Ardbeg does.
Ardbeg Uigeadail is a blend of stock from ex-Bourbon (rumored to be the same basic stock as Ardbeg Ten) and ex-Sherry casks, and bottled at 54.2%. The name comes form the loch that the distillery draws its waters from, and translates from Gaelic as “dark and mysterious place.”
Reportedly Uigeadail was originally created to make use of some very aged Sherry cask whisky, which would have been very woody but not especially peaty. Blending this with some of the standard, mature-but-still-youthful Ardbeg stock was intended to restore the smoke and bring it back into balance. These same unconfirmed rumors say that the original, decades old Sherry cask stock has since been exhausted, contributing to a noticeable decline in Uigeadail’s quality. Yet it has to be recalled that stories of how good things were “back in the day” abound among whisk(e(y croakers, many of whom weren’t actually drinking the stuff back in the day, and the only vertical tasting written about to date revealed no chronological correlation between release date and quality. Instead, it just seems like the 2014 batch was a subpar one, since every blogger who can identify it also complains about it.
The appearance of Uigeadail is that rich, slightly off-tint gold, just a bit too dark to be actually golden. In fact, imagine gold smeared with a bit of soot and you’ve got the idea. In the glass, it streams with thin legs.
The nose presents a strong current of smoke upfront, one that mixes creosote with burning peat. Balancing this peat grenade are notes of raisins, brown sugar and malty graininess. It’s not as big and bold a scent as a 54.2% ABV might suggest, and without even a hint of harsh alcohol, but is instead balanced and structured.
On the palate, the silky liquid is briefly sweet, a mix of malty honey and fresh fruit, but this is swamped by a wave of peat (no creosote here, but just out and out peat) and a peppery note. Not nearly as balanced as the scent, the sipping experience is one where a gentle step leads into a full-on peat bomb experience. The finish, however, rights the scales, and the presence of both smoke and brown sugar sweetness lingers on and on.
A 750 ml bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail fetches about $75 in the U.S., whereas its 70 cl counterpart in the UK goes for £53.