The Details

Rating 91
Style
Whiskey
Produced In Scotland
ABV 46.00%
Availability Limited
Price $129.99 
Reviewed By
Review Updated 2024-05-20

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review

In an industry built on the slow march of time, whisky “firsts” are cause for excitement. (That’s especially true for marketers, whether the breakthrough is industry-wide or limited to a single producer.) Islay-based Ardbeg has been distilling commercially since 1815, and in 2024, we’re getting its first-ever whisky aged in port casks.

Ardbeg Spectacular is an aspirationally named release marking the distillery’s annual “Ardbeg Day,” held on the last Saturday of The Islay Festival. (In 2024, that’s June 1.) It’s Ardbeg’s first release that features whisky wholly matured in port barrels; Spectacular also contains whisky aged in ex-bourbon casks. This bottling is non-age-stated and bottled at 92 proof.

The LVMH-owned distillery is known for its heavily peated Islay single malts. Ardbeg is beloved among core fans for balancing peat smoke and sweet flavors. How its distillate held up in port casks — with the robust flavors they can bring — was basically unknown until now.

Ardbeg is marketing Spectacular as a “phenolic phenomenon.” Let’s dive in and see if this limited release can stack up to its name!

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Whisky review.

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch: Price and Availability

According to the brand, Ardbeg Spectacular is available with worldwide distribution, in both physical retailers and online. Though this is a limited release, as of this writing Spectacular is widely available online for American consumers at or very close to MSRP. If you’re interested in acquiring a bottle, I wouldn’t expect to pay much of a retail markup, if any.

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Review

As with all of VinePair’s whisky reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.

Nose

The nose is immediately and curiously composed. Instead of multiple notes vying for attention, each trying to find their place, the initial aromas come together as campfire-baked dutch oven peach cobbler. (That’s a rather specific sensory memory for me, but I’m running with it!) Rich baked fruit wafts out of the glass, and the classic Ardbeg peat is fruity and bready here. Concentrating on individual notes brings forth aromas of rising dough, rosemary sprigs, and fresh charcoal.

More time in the glass dials up the savory and dampens the sweet fruit. I’m a bit surprised how quickly this transitions, and given the additional port influence, I would have appreciated the peach and red fruit sticking around for a little longer.

That said, oily rosemary adds an herbal meatiness that pairs well with the smoke. It’s peaty, to be sure, but also earthy in a separate capacity; it reminds me of the smoke coming off burning damp leaves tossed over a bonfire.

Overall, it’s heavier on peach and rosemary than I would have imagined. (That’s certainly not a bad thing!) I’m curious if more classic port notes will shine through on the palate.

Taste

At 92 proof, the whisky sticks at the tip of the tongue, eliciting a pop of fruity sweetness; it’s a touch more berry than peach, though both are recognizable. The liquid (and flavors) move back along the palate, a trademark Ardbeg mix of peat and sweet crawling along the tongue thanks to a downright syrupy mouthfeel.

Ripe raspberries and dark chocolate gradually develop right before the midpalate. They’re joined by smoky burnt ends, toasted green and red peppercorns, woodfire-roasted bell pepper, and orange oil.

More sips bring additional dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans, and cacao nibs that build from the midpalate on. It’s a fairly elegant handoff from the meaty flavors at this point.

A barely-there salinity adds complexity toward the back of the mouth and carries on to the finish, which I wouldn’t have minded even earlier to pair with the early, fruit-forward sweet elements.

Finish

The finish is of mid-length (for Ardbeg, especially) and lightly cooling like spearmint gum. Subtle smoke lingers, with only a small portion of fruity sweetness compared to other parts of the experience. To be clear, it’s an appropriate landing for Ardbeg’s first-ever foray into port cask aging. I just wanted even more of what those casks were likely adding!

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Rating

91/100

Recap

Ardbeg Spectacular brings well-composed aromas and flavors. It’s likely to thrill the brand’s longtime fans while appealing to a fairly broad swath of Scotch drinkers. Successful as that seems, I can’t help but feel it’s just a preview of things to come, implying — but not quite clearing — a high bar for what the distillery’s product can accomplish by integrating port cask aging. Mostly, I’m happy to see Ardbeg continue what it’s built a reputation on: Having fun with releases that honor the brand’s core competencies while gradually expanding into new ones.

*Image retrieved from Ardbeg Distillery

91
POINTS
Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Whisky
In an industry built on the slow march of time, whisky “firsts” are cause for excitement. (That’s especially true for marketers, whether the breakthrough is industry-wide or limited to a single producer.) Islay-based Ardbeg has been distilling commercially since 1815, and in 2024, we’re getting its first-ever whisky aged in port casks. Ardbeg Spectacular is an aspirationally named release marking the distillery’s annual “Ardbeg Day,” held on the last Saturday of The Islay Festival. (In 2024, that’s June 1.) It’s Ardbeg’s first release that features whisky wholly matured in port barrels; Spectacular also contains whisky aged in ex-bourbon casks. This bottling is non-age-stated and bottled at 92 proof. The LVMH-owned distillery is known for its heavily peated Islay single malts. Ardbeg is beloved among core fans for balancing peat smoke and sweet flavors. How its distillate held up in port casks — with the robust flavors they can bring — was basically unknown until now. Ardbeg is marketing Spectacular as a “phenolic phenomenon.” Let’s dive in and see if this limited release can stack up to its name! Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Whisky review.

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch: Price and Availability

According to the brand, Ardbeg Spectacular is available with worldwide distribution, in both physical retailers and online. Though this is a limited release, as of this writing Spectacular is widely available online for American consumers at or very close to MSRP. If you’re interested in acquiring a bottle, I wouldn’t expect to pay much of a retail markup, if any.

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Review

As with all of VinePair’s whisky reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.

Nose

The nose is immediately and curiously composed. Instead of multiple notes vying for attention, each trying to find their place, the initial aromas come together as campfire-baked dutch oven peach cobbler. (That’s a rather specific sensory memory for me, but I’m running with it!) Rich baked fruit wafts out of the glass, and the classic Ardbeg peat is fruity and bready here. Concentrating on individual notes brings forth aromas of rising dough, rosemary sprigs, and fresh charcoal. More time in the glass dials up the savory and dampens the sweet fruit. I’m a bit surprised how quickly this transitions, and given the additional port influence, I would have appreciated the peach and red fruit sticking around for a little longer. That said, oily rosemary adds an herbal meatiness that pairs well with the smoke. It’s peaty, to be sure, but also earthy in a separate capacity; it reminds me of the smoke coming off burning damp leaves tossed over a bonfire. Overall, it’s heavier on peach and rosemary than I would have imagined. (That’s certainly not a bad thing!) I’m curious if more classic port notes will shine through on the palate.

Taste

At 92 proof, the whisky sticks at the tip of the tongue, eliciting a pop of fruity sweetness; it’s a touch more berry than peach, though both are recognizable. The liquid (and flavors) move back along the palate, a trademark Ardbeg mix of peat and sweet crawling along the tongue thanks to a downright syrupy mouthfeel. Ripe raspberries and dark chocolate gradually develop right before the midpalate. They’re joined by smoky burnt ends, toasted green and red peppercorns, woodfire-roasted bell pepper, and orange oil. More sips bring additional dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans, and cacao nibs that build from the midpalate on. It’s a fairly elegant handoff from the meaty flavors at this point. A barely-there salinity adds complexity toward the back of the mouth and carries on to the finish, which I wouldn’t have minded even earlier to pair with the early, fruit-forward sweet elements.

Finish

The finish is of mid-length (for Ardbeg, especially) and lightly cooling like spearmint gum. Subtle smoke lingers, with only a small portion of fruity sweetness compared to other parts of the experience. To be clear, it’s an appropriate landing for Ardbeg’s first-ever foray into port cask aging. I just wanted even more of what those casks were likely adding!

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Rating

91/100

Recap

Ardbeg Spectacular brings well-composed aromas and flavors. It’s likely to thrill the brand’s longtime fans while appealing to a fairly broad swath of Scotch drinkers. Successful as that seems, I can’t help but feel it’s just a preview of things to come, implying — but not quite clearing — a high bar for what the distillery’s product can accomplish by integrating port cask aging. Mostly, I’m happy to see Ardbeg continue what it’s built a reputation on: Having fun with releases that honor the brand’s core competencies while gradually expanding into new ones. *Image retrieved from Ardbeg Distillery

Reviewed On: 05-21-2024
91
POINTS
Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Whisky
In an industry built on the slow march of time, whisky “firsts” are cause for excitement. (That’s especially true for marketers, whether the breakthrough is industry-wide or limited to a single producer.) Islay-based Ardbeg has been distilling commercially since 1815, and in 2024, we’re getting its first-ever whisky aged in port casks. Ardbeg Spectacular is an aspirationally named release marking the distillery’s annual “Ardbeg Day,” held on the last Saturday of The Islay Festival. (In 2024, that’s June 1.) It’s Ardbeg’s first release that features whisky wholly matured in port barrels; Spectacular also contains whisky aged in ex-bourbon casks. This bottling is non-age-stated and bottled at 92 proof. The LVMH-owned distillery is known for its heavily peated Islay single malts. Ardbeg is beloved among core fans for balancing peat smoke and sweet flavors. How its distillate held up in port casks — with the robust flavors they can bring — was basically unknown until now. Ardbeg is marketing Spectacular as a “phenolic phenomenon.” Let’s dive in and see if this limited release can stack up to its name! Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Whisky review.

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch: Price and Availability

According to the brand, Ardbeg Spectacular is available with worldwide distribution, in both physical retailers and online. Though this is a limited release, as of this writing Spectacular is widely available online for American consumers at or very close to MSRP. If you’re interested in acquiring a bottle, I wouldn’t expect to pay much of a retail markup, if any.

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Review

As with all of VinePair’s whisky reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.

Nose

The nose is immediately and curiously composed. Instead of multiple notes vying for attention, each trying to find their place, the initial aromas come together as campfire-baked dutch oven peach cobbler. (That’s a rather specific sensory memory for me, but I’m running with it!) Rich baked fruit wafts out of the glass, and the classic Ardbeg peat is fruity and bready here. Concentrating on individual notes brings forth aromas of rising dough, rosemary sprigs, and fresh charcoal. More time in the glass dials up the savory and dampens the sweet fruit. I’m a bit surprised how quickly this transitions, and given the additional port influence, I would have appreciated the peach and red fruit sticking around for a little longer. That said, oily rosemary adds an herbal meatiness that pairs well with the smoke. It’s peaty, to be sure, but also earthy in a separate capacity; it reminds me of the smoke coming off burning damp leaves tossed over a bonfire. Overall, it’s heavier on peach and rosemary than I would have imagined. (That’s certainly not a bad thing!) I’m curious if more classic port notes will shine through on the palate.

Taste

At 92 proof, the whisky sticks at the tip of the tongue, eliciting a pop of fruity sweetness; it’s a touch more berry than peach, though both are recognizable. The liquid (and flavors) move back along the palate, a trademark Ardbeg mix of peat and sweet crawling along the tongue thanks to a downright syrupy mouthfeel. Ripe raspberries and dark chocolate gradually develop right before the midpalate. They’re joined by smoky burnt ends, toasted green and red peppercorns, woodfire-roasted bell pepper, and orange oil. More sips bring additional dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans, and cacao nibs that build from the midpalate on. It’s a fairly elegant handoff from the meaty flavors at this point. A barely-there salinity adds complexity toward the back of the mouth and carries on to the finish, which I wouldn’t have minded even earlier to pair with the early, fruit-forward sweet elements.

Finish

The finish is of mid-length (for Ardbeg, especially) and lightly cooling like spearmint gum. Subtle smoke lingers, with only a small portion of fruity sweetness compared to other parts of the experience. To be clear, it’s an appropriate landing for Ardbeg’s first-ever foray into port cask aging. I just wanted even more of what those casks were likely adding!

Ardbeg Spectacular Single Malt Scotch Rating

91/100

Recap

Ardbeg Spectacular brings well-composed aromas and flavors. It’s likely to thrill the brand’s longtime fans while appealing to a fairly broad swath of Scotch drinkers. Successful as that seems, I can’t help but feel it’s just a preview of things to come, implying — but not quite clearing — a high bar for what the distillery’s product can accomplish by integrating port cask aging. Mostly, I’m happy to see Ardbeg continue what it’s built a reputation on: Having fun with releases that honor the brand’s core competencies while gradually expanding into new ones. *Image retrieved from Ardbeg Distillery

Reviewed On: 05-21-2024