Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist

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Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist.  ABV 46%. Non chill-filtered. No color added.

This is a single malt whisky that has been in my collection for a time now, and it has been one of my favorites.   The bottle I am sampling is the 1990 vintage that was bottled in 2006.  It was aged in American oak ex-bourbon casks.  The vintage statement translates into this being a whisky aged 16 years.  There were two subsequent bottlings of 1990 Airigh Nam Beist in 2007 and 2008.  This whisky was a limited production, as the Ardbeg distillery was not in year-around production in the early 1990s.  Subsequently, other than the standard Ardbeg 10, the distillery has moved primarily to non-age statement offerings.  That is not all bad, since the two non-age statement offerings that immediately followed Airigh Nam Beist were two of my favorites, Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Ardbeg Uigeadail.

For an Islay whisky, this has a tame nose.  Peat on first exposure, then notes of vanilla, buttery oak with a hint of smoke.  On the palate, first sip is warming peat, with a smooth creamy feel.  On second sip, I find salt, black olive, pepper and smoked bacon.  A very pleasurable balance of flavors embedded in a silky texture.  The finish is long and complex.  There is certainly a foundation of smoke and peat, with a strong spice element and a sweet undercurrent – like a lightly sweetened vanilla-infused coffee.

This is a wonderful whisky.  Not as aggressive as the younger non-age statement Ardbeg offerings, but with all of the dimensions of a fine Islay whisky.  This is a more balanced, nuanced, peated single malt.  Unfortunately, since it had a limited production, it can be very difficult and quite expensive to find an Airigh Nam Beist these days.  This was a whisky that was selling here for around $80 when initially released.  Now, about the least expensive options I find online place it in the $350-$500 range!

Fortunately, I long ago started buying backup bottles of favorite whisky when sale time rolled around at my local shop.  I have an unopened Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist that was bottled in 2007.  If I were wise, I suspect I should save it as an investment.  But, I cannot quite see myself parting with this bottle.   Rather, a special treat that I set aside for some future enjoyment with friends.

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