Review // Ardbeg Drum – The Spark that Lit the Peat

September 10, 2019

We are well on our way to Autumn, and soon you might start thinking of pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween decoration. However, there is still some time to celebrate the last days of summer! Perhaps you should try and get your hands on Ardbeg’s Drum, the 2019 special bottling. But is it 100% Ardbeggian?

Every year, the Ardbeg community celebrates the love for their favourite whiskies by having Ardbeg Day. This year, however, the community had reason for double celebration, as Ardbeg Day coincided with the release of a very special expression: Ardbeg Drum (46% ABV). This limited edition is the first Ardbeg expression that bridges Islay to the Caribbean. With maturation on both ex-bourbon and – tropical twist – ex-rum casks, the Drum brings you the Carnival of Brazil in a bottle. Intrigued and excited, I opened my sample bottle, and experienced the following:

I poured myself a generous dram of the Drum, and the first thing I noticed was its golden colour, best described as the colour of a nice Chardonnay. I expected a darker colour, though, as maturation on rum casks tends to result in a deeper yellow. Perhaps young(er) casks were used to mature this Ardbeg, though this is pure speculation. With a no-age statement expression, theorizing is fun, but bears no fruit. Sadly, Ardbeg keeps its secrets all locked up in airtight casks, and they are not willing to spill anything (see what I did there?). As for the origins of the rum-casks, we were left in the dark as well. Call it the secrets of the trade!

Nosing revealed the scent of banana bread, which, if you do your research, might be a sign of a good distillate. The note of banana bread apparently comes from the mash. Obviously, the smoky, peated malt notes are also present. As I tasted the Drum, I was greeted by a warm, rich gulf of flavours, followed quickly by that smoky, spicy after-burn that is characteristically Ardbeggian. A dry aftertaste makes this a pleasant whisky to nip from. Subsequent tastings revealed some “funk”, almost certainly the influence of the ex-rum casks. Lastly, there is a hint of ripe banana, a speck of ginger, and a whisper of vanilla.

The Drum was released during Ardbeg Day 2019 – Carnival on Islay

Now, my experience tasting the Ardbeg Drum is best summarized with the following analogy:

Imagine a summer night. The sun has just set, and the temperature is at the tipping point of cooling down. You are walking towards a campfire. Notes of smoke are entering your nostrils, and then suddenly fireworks are set off. You get an explosion of peppery peat, followed by sparks of funk. As the fireworks are trickling down the sky, so is the liquid trickling down your throat, giving you a nice afterglow. But instead of you as a person, I am obviously talking about your olfactory and gustatory perception (your sense of smell and of taste).

Now, if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, I would like to know what does!

Also, what did you think of the Drum? Is it a worthy addition to the line of Ardbeg Special Editions? Let me know in the comments!


Pictures are © Ardbeg

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