Islay (pronounced "eye-lah") is an island off the southwest corner of Scotland known for its whisky characterized by strong, smokey flavors. The smokey flavors in whisky typically come from drying the malting barley with peat smoke. The other way peat affects the flavor of whisky is through the water source as some distilleries use water that has filtered through layers of peat rich fields before settling in aquifers and springs. While peat smoking barley is not exclusive to Islay, Islay is almost synonymous with peated whisky and the eight distilleries on this small island use it heartily. The longer the barley is dried with peat smoke rather than plain hot air, the higher the level of smokey peatiness, measured in phenol parts per million in the spirit. In the game of peated whisky, Ardbeg, owned by Moët-Hennessy, is one of the heavyweights.
The Ardbeg Day event on the Moshulu on June 1, 2017 was a nice way to spend a beautiful early summer evening, enjoying the company of fellow whisky enthusiasts being treated to a line of expressions from Ardbeg.
We were greeted with tickets for cocktails powered by Ardbeg 10 Years old. The 10 is a solid Islay whisky, heavily peated, not for the weak of heart (or GI system). It is bottled at 46% ABV, so it is just strong enough for cocktails. I chose the Queen Anne, which featured ginger ale, making the cocktail light and refreshing. The wife chose the Islay Espresso and it seemed to be a coffee lover's dream dram. The stations for small tastings were, in order, the 10 Years Old, the Uigeadail, the Corryvreckan and the new release, the Kelpie.
I am not going to post formal tasting notes on each whisky here. I will say that I do like Ardbeg's devotion to natural color, non-chill filtering, solid ABV levels and the creative way the flavors of the whisky are manipulated in the different expressions.