This is a late 1980’s bottling of Ardbeg 1974 in the Connoisseurs Choice series from Gordon MacPhail. Many expressions from this legendary vintage have been bottled with a CC label, but this is probably the first (youngest) of them all, with the classic brown label.
Until 1974, Ardbeg relied almost entirely on its own maltings to produce peated malt. After that it started to use more external malt and the maltings were closed down entirely in 1977. Therefore 1974 is widely considered the end of a style era.
Ardbeg 13 yo 1974 (40%, Gordon MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice +/- 1988)
Nose: typical raw tar and highly expressive maritime notes. Flax ropes, smoked fish, dried kelp… Also lots of tiny notes like eucalyptus, camphor, iodine, kippers, chamomile and wet hay. Classic lemon. Subtle hints of diesel and undertones of sweet pipe tobacco, which makes the whole very attractive and warm. Quite superb, I don’t like my Ardbeg too austere but this is just fine. Mouth: fairly sweet, again the pipe tobacco is really unique here. Cigar boxes. Sweet marzipan and maple syrup. Nice waxy notes. Plenty of sweet peat and Lapsang tea. Surprisingly flavoursome and smoky for this ABV. Fades on all kinds of herbal notes, a bit of Fernet-Branca and cough syrup. Finish: long, peaty and herbal, with smoked fish and tar.
The combination of a young age and the right vintage makes for a peaty, complex Ardbeg. Always a treat. Around € 600 in auctions.