Yes, it is that time of year, again, it is almost ARDBEG DAY (May 30 in the US) and this year is something extra-special for Ardbeg! This year Ardbeg is celebrating its 200th Anniversary and they are celebrating this milestone with another annual limited release – this year’s release is named Perpetuum.
Perpetuum is designed to convey the idea that even though time passes, Ardbeg continues, or as they say in their email to the Ardbeg Committee Members, Perpetuum represents,
“Ardbeg’s past, present and future – bottled. Dr Bill Lumsden, our Whisky Creator, has taken inspiration from the differing styles of whisky his predecessors have created over the last 200 years.”
Until now, my whisky reviews here on the Newcomers Whisky site have been of various bottles that I’ve had for several months, if not years, or samples from friends, but today I decided to jump on the Perpetuum review right away for a few very specific reasons: first, to be part of the general discussion about this latest annual release; second, so that if any of my three regular readers want to buy some, they can hit the local store and pick it up before it disappears (if this one disappears quickly), and third, to try to avoid reading or hearing too much about Perpetuum before I have a chance to make up my own mind.
The last reason to review Perpetuum now is probably the most motivational because comments, discussions and reviews have already started to hit the blogs, YouTube and the Malt Maniacs Facebook page, so the longer I wait, the more risk that my opinions get corrupted! I’ve studiously avoided reading anything related to Perpetuum – so far marginally successfully – in the hopes that I can get through my assessment without any unwanted influence!
Usually, at this point I add a bit of history and background on the distillery. However, since I just completed a review of Ardbeg last month, if you want some of the history of the distillery and their absolute fascination with the creation of incredible backstories, see my review of Corryvreckan.
Perpetuum and the Investment Market
Ardbeg fans, who eagerly await each year’s new release in a state of borderline panic, afraid that they won’t be able to put their hands on a bottle, actually crashed the Ardbeg website on the day that the distillery release became available in their frantic attempts to acquire a bottle before it sold out! Such is the annual demand for these annual releases!
Sadly, though, it is not just fans who pursue these new releases with such ardent passion, but also the usual scumbag opportunist investors who buy whiskies solely looking to make fast money. Unfortunately, as long as there are brain-dead buyers willing to overpay for a bottle to satiate their unfettered, senseless, “must have” desires, flipping will continue to permeate the marketplace, driving up prices, limiting access and denying drinkers the opportunity to try certain whiskies. Folks, whisky is a drink, buy it to drink, share it with friends, enjoy it for being the “water of life”!
Oh, come on, you say, how bad can this flipping issue be in real life?
Perpetuum is just the latest example of how sad this investment-only whisky-flipping has become! The distillery-only release of Perpetuum, which only became available May 1, was available with a list price of £70. That’s right, £70!!!! Yet within days, the auction market was offering the distillery-release bottles for sale….and they sold…...for ridiculous amounts! Whisky-Online Auctions brought the first bottles of Ardbeg Perpetuum to market; selling the first three bottles for £490, £410 and £400 per bottle. Whiskyauctioneer.com sold a bottle at auction for £250…..for a bottle that originally cost £70!
And remember, at this point, almost NO ONE HAD EVEN TASTED Perpetuum!
Review: Ardbeg Perpetuum
Okay, getting back on topic! The subject of our review today is the US retail release of Perpetuum, 750ml, bottled at 47.4% abv. Note: the Bicentenary Committee Release,which is available only at the distillery, was bottled at 49.2% (12,000 bottles).
Bottles of Perpetuum just became available this past Monday and I grabbed mine the day after they first became available here in TX (thanks, George!). I rushed to pick these up because I needed a couple of bottles for Mike D, which I will be hand-delivering to him later this year when we visit him in Australia!
My specific bottle of Perpetuum was bottled 24 March 2015 and has the bottle stamp, L61547 24/03/2015 15002802 15:03. So far there is not a lot of detail as to what type of cask has been used in producing this whisky, but given the color, it is likely predominantly ex-Bourbon.
Color: pale gold.
Nose: You are greeted by all the expected aromas: peat smoke, maritime notes, damp rope, a hint of creosote, rubber boots, something very mineral – ground granite. More medicinal than some of the past Ardbeg releases. Behind the peaty, earthy aromas: some cinnamon, a delicate touch of honey and just the barest of white fruits – green apples, pears. Subtle oak spice notes. Water doesn’t really help the nose on this one – it all becomes slightly muted, almost killing the smoke, and putting more focus on notes of old inner tubes, which can be good when part of a larger picture.
Taste: An almost sweet arrival. but then grows more citric and with a definite alcohol bite. The earthy peat becomes more evident. Vanilla, toffee, cinnamon. BBQ ham. Becomes softly ashy with an almost delicate smokiness. Again, water is not a benefit. The sweetness – a very sugary sweetness, now – goes up another notch and takes over the palate. Lemon and vanilla, remain evident, the ashiness in the mid-to-late palate is still there, but this now lacks some balance.
Finish: Ashy, earthy. Hints of the vanilla and green apples, smoky and fruity, ashy/sooty and drying. Good length.
Overall: I quite like the nose on this one and any flaws in this whisky show up on the palate, which can’t quite live up to the nose. And a word of warning, be careful with water! Ardbeg usually swims well, but this Perpetuum doesn’t take to water too kindly.
Ardbeg has always laid claim to being “the most peaty malt whisky in the world – certainly of all the Islay malts”, but I am not sure that this particular release achieves those lofty heights. There is peat and smoke, and there are fruits and vanilla and brine and more, but the palate is quite soft and a perhaps just a tad thin, almost delicate when you’re hoping for something bigger! I am an avowed Ardbeg fan, and this is still a good whisky, but it is not a “great” whisky that people will be talking about for years. It is better than Auriverdes, perhaps Galileo, but not as good as Alligator or Supernova. And the other consideration, once again, as a potential buyer you have to weigh the cost with the No Age Statement pedigree of Perpetuum. The Ardbeg 10 yo is, in some ways, what this one is not…..big, aggressive, smoky, peaty, brash…and less expensive. Perpetuum is more sedate, restrained, but I am not sure that is indicative of the use of much older stocks, which has been the case in past releases, but rather by design. Anyway, I give this a solid rating as a dram from a newly opened bottle and look forward to seeing how this whisky progresses with a little time.
Type: Single Malt
Maturation: likely predominantly ex-Bourbon
Price: Approximately $90 (Specs, locally)
Availability: Currently available
Sample Source: My own bottle