I purchased this on 30th May 2020, it is the committee 20th anniversary bottle. They have used New Zealand Pinot Noir wine casks to mature the whisky which seems to be the main point made on the bottle. Again there is no age statement on this bottle, but that is typical of these releases, usually indicating that there is young and old whisky in the bottle. It is also bottled at 46% apv which is also typical of these releases, higher alcohol content versions usually appear as committee releases a few months before the main release. I didn’t think we were going to get a special release this year, but after checking the website for the Ardbeg embassy store here in Auckland, found that they were not only supplying the whisky but they were also offering a free same day delivery. The bottles I purchased arrived just before lunchtime which is awesome. Another thing of note is that the bottles are pitch black and you cannot see through them like the standard bottles, an interesting way to present the whisky.
Anyway onto the whisky.
I scraped my notes for the first tasting, as when I opened the bottle I could not get any notes out of it, even in the tasting it was hard to distinguish any flavours of note apart from the peat. I was not getting the nosing notes or the flavours stated on the Ardbeg website at all. So for my second attempt, I found the following;
The nose on first opening was very smooth and hard to get a grip on any scent coming through, however after the second try and leaving the whisky in the glass for a little while I found that the nose started to roughen up a we bit. This is not a bad thing I am now able to get some of the sweeter notes coming through along with an earthiness coming through similar to a Japanese whisky. Although the website states cedar wood and aromatic cigar box, I don’t know what cedar smells like but I can get a scent that reminds me of old wooden boxes or furniture, I guess that is what they are getting. There is a sweetness, I am not totally sure what that is, whether it is baked fruits and jam tart or something different. Even on the second tasting it is hard to put a finger on the sweetness. I would expect a tart note to have more of a sugaryness to it but at the moment the smoke is overpowering it too much to get a good grip on. Maybe this will become more accurate over time.
There is a youngness on the palate, this seems to be there for a lot of these special releases, I remember this was quite strong for Grooves which came out 2 years ago. The influence of the wine casks is there, this gives the sweetness to the flavour. When I say sweetness it is not like a sweet whisky (like Jamisons), but more like a bitterness left where sweetness once was.
I don’t have any 10 year old to match it against, but I do have some Uigeadail to match it against. The Uigeadail has a stronger impact when it comes to flavour. However the subtle flavours of the Blaaack are not bad.