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August 10th,
written by Arthur

I’m sitting down to write this post with a glass of the most intense liquid to ever pass my lips.

Ardbeg Supernova 2010.  Unlike a normal bottle of scotch this one has a year on it.  Like a vintage champagne, the flavors of the limited release shift from year to year.

Before I talk about the Supernova, let me back-up and tell you about Ardbeg.  Actually, let me first start by talking about making scotch. Simply, you take some barley, you spray it with water to get it to begin germinating (sprouting). Once that starts you hit the barley with some heat to stop the germination. You get the barley sprouting because it converts starches to sugars that the little seed would use to grow but the distillery uses to make alcohol.  You stop the germination because there is some magic mixture of starch and sugar that makes a great scotch. In scotch, the heat comes from the burning peat (aka decayed swap vegetation–click on word to see pictures and learn more).  This burning peat imparts a peaty (swampy) and smokey flavor.  Next the stuff is mashed, fermented, distilled, and put in a barrel.

Hailing from Islay, a region of Scotland known for having smoky and peaty scotch, Ardbeg is the  peatiest and smokiest, even among the Islays.  They let a lot of the smoke from the burning peat get to the barley.   It’s a scotch lover’s scotch.

Ardbeg Supernova takes the peat to the next level.  The 10 year Ardbeg has a level of peat that is about 50-65 parts per million.  The Supernova clocks-in at over a 100.  Oh, and it’s 60.1% alc/vol, in case you don’t want to do the math that’s over 120 proof!

So what does this insane concoction taste like?  Well, a little water (just a little) is necessary to open up the drink and let you taste some of the hidden flavors.  Yes, it’s peaty–though less smoky than it’s bonfire smell would suggest.  But the high alcohol content means you taste on your tongue, in your nose, and in your sinuses.  You can feel the heat slide across the back of your mouth, down your throat and then up through your head.  As the taste rises there is something light and refreshing.  I know it’s a slap in the face of flavor, but after the first sip, it doesn’t feel that way.  There is so much more going on.  Things I can’t put my finger on until the finish.

And the finish.  Oh, the finish.  After a sip, you can just sit, for minutes and feel the flavors change in your mouth: waves of peat, dryness from the evaporating alcohol, hints of smoke, charcoal, brine, maybe some olive oil, and when I breath in a delicate sweetness.  In my mind, the finish of this fine drink is where 80% of the flavor can be found.

It’s not for everyone, but I’m unquestionably in love.  At a price tag that I could only justify as a post-bar present to myself and where a small pour can be enjoyed for over an hour the  bottle is sure to haunt my cabinet (occasionally calling my name) for some time to come.



1 Comment

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