I’ll tell you right now: my big brother Paul, who might be an even bigger whisky fan and drinker than me, doesn’t care for the Uigeadail. My wife Juliette likes it, but doesn’t love it. But I’m a fan. A big, huge, 400 lb fan. I’m a fan of Ardbeg altogether – another independent distillery making things their way – and this is my favourite among those I’ve sampled.
In fact, this whisky gets my highest rating, the highly coveted: Fwooooohhhhh…
When I want a potent mouthful, a face full of flavour, this is what I want – the Oogie, as I call it. I find it strikingly rich and complex, but it’s not for the faint of heart or tame of palette.
I first bought a bottle of this at La Maison du Whisky in Paris on rue d’Anjou. (All of this Tours/Paris talk might make sound like I’m a rich world traveller, but the truth is, I’ve mainly gone to France for family occasions… and I haven’t been back in far too long. But I digress!) La Maison is a whisky-lover’s dream: located in one of Paris’ swankiest high-end fashion districts, it is a medium sized shop which is wall-to-wall whsiky. And employs some of the least snobby booze consultants in the city. Every time we’ve been we’ve gotten the same treatment as the customer who is coming in for a case or two, not just a bottle in a rather restricted price range. They’ve got it all and tried it all and suggest pairings and styles a-plenty (an exclusive – and shockingly affordable – bottling of Caol Ila with oysters was a particular winner!). Another reason to shop there when in Paris? Even after calculating the exchange rate, bottles are usually about 20% less expensive than at the SAQ – example: at the time of writing this, it cost 71€ at LMW and 147,50$ at the SAQ, which ends up as a 40$ difference for the same bottle of whisky. Of course, it’s all about buying power, shipping distances and supply and demand. And my demand for Uigeadaill is strong! Though I can rarely afford it any more… which is why I wasn’t able to take any whisky porn pictures for the review. But the memory is clear enough for me to write about it – I’ve talked about and recommended this whisky more times than any other, because it’s one of – if not my all-time (thus far) – favourite.
But when I can get a bottle of it, what am I looking for? Well, there’s the atypical Ardbeg potency. It’s all there, possibly at once magnified and mellowed out by the Sherry casking into a scent that is distinctly sweeter than the usual Ardbeg aroma. Some people use the words medicinal, tar and oily when describing the Ardbeg flavours. And while to the novice, those words might not sound particularly appealing, to anyone who loves Ardbeg and the more in-your-face Islays, each one of those terms is one of endearment. The Sherry casking does its job well here, lending a sweetness tot he smoke and rounding out the corners. It is still a mouthful of flavour, a full-fisted punch of Islay, but with a richness of subtlety only a few drops of water can reveal.
It has no age statement but is apparently an assemblage of Ardbegs ranging from 10 to 13 years, with some whisky dating back to the 1970’s. That doesn’t make it any less of a single malt however, as – you might have guessed it – a single malt was employed in the making of the various whiskies used in this bottling.
Whisky expert Jim Murray proclaimed it World Whisky of The Year in 2009, giving it his highest score ever and praising its “utter silky brilliance” and “complexity on a level only a handful of distilleries in the world can even dream of reaching.”
It’s what I call a campfire whisky: you want a dram (or three) when seated beneath the stars, feet at a campfire, so that the smoke and fire fill not only your eyes and nose, but mouth and belly as well.