Whisky Review #131: Ardbeg 1975 23 Years Old Sherry Cask Hand-filled

Once again, after a hiatus of sorts, I’m back!

It has been a hectic month, filled with commitments, obligations, meetings, collaborations and of course, whiskies. Last Sunday was a great time too as I celebrated my 30th birthday in the company of some great friends that I consider to be a part of my family.

But this post is special, for it is a dedication.

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Ben and Marilyn with their beautiful baby girl, Lelia

A good mate of mine, Benjamin Chen, and his wife Marilyn, recently announced the birth of their first child, a beautiful baby girl by the name of Lelia, and to commemorate the occasion, Ben cracked open a rather special bottle of Ardbeg.

I had the chance to sample this expression during The Malt Affair Volume 2, which was held on the 5th of May at OUE Downtown, and mentioned to Ben that I was going to definitely review such a momentous dram and he said that he’ll pass me a proper sample of it to review.

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This expression of Ardbeg was distilled in December 1975, which readers would know was during the last few years that the distillery floor malted its barley requirements on-site. It was matured in a single sherry cask for 23 years before being bottled in October 1999 as a hand-filled bottling available at the distillery.

As far as I know, Ardbeg doesn’t do hand-filled bottles anymore, which makes this a rather rare commodity. On the basis of what Ben told me this bottle is valued at, this confirms my assessment.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this amazing sample, Ben, and my heartiest congratulations to Marilyn and you on the birth of Lelia!

Lelia, this one is for you!

So, let’s jump right into the review!

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Ardbeg 1975 23 Years Old Sherry Cask Hand-filled

Ardbeg 1975 23 Years Old Sherry Cask Hand-filled (45.2% abv)

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: Initial entry presents a dense and rich sherried note followed by rancio, dusky peat, black pepper and struck matches. Rich red fruits such as apricots and nectarines emerge soon after and are complemented by supple oak, green chilli, sea salt, marmalade and maraschino cherries. Cigar leaves, cloves and ginger emerge later on to provide further complexity to the proceedings. (24/25)

Palate: Initial entry presents more of the rich and dense sherried note followed by rancio, black pepper, cigar leaves and struck matches. The peat is rather restrained and takes on a more coastal character. Sea salt, marmalade, rancio, supple oak and ginger emerge soon after and are followed by pencil shavings, green chilli, fleeting hints of cloves and just a touch of the red fruits from the nose. (23/25)

Finish: Long and lingering on the finish, with the oak, cloves, green chilli and black pepper in full control of the proceedings alongside vestigial hints of sherry, coastal peat and creosote. (23/25)

Balance: A supremely well-balanced expression which exhibits a multitude of complexities in near perfect order. Every element works in tandem with one another and the aromas and flavours in place hint at not just the quality of the distillate that the distillery was producing back in 1975, but the superiority of the sherry cask in which it resided for 23 years. Simply magical! (23/25)

Rating: 93/100

Wow, what a dram this one is! A truly superb expression of Ardbeg and it is not very often that you find an whisky where the elements from the nose and the palate work in concert with one another to provide a holistically amazing experience.

I am truly humbled and grateful to have gotten the chance to sample this piece of history and I must thank Ben once again for this opportunity.

Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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