I have a long-standing relationship with Ardbeg’s whiskies. It is often one of compulsion. When I see a new release, I want to own it. And I know that’s not really fair, because my other Ardbeg bottles would be jealous, but I treat them nicely too. They have their own little spot in my drinks cabinet, right at the back. It’s darker there. They are kept in their slumber until the time when I take them out for a swirl. This review is about Ardbeg’s newest expression, the 19 year old Traigh Bhan.
Exploring the Islay Seaside
It’s been a while since Arbeg released a new addition to their core range. The last one, if I’m not mistaken, was Ardbeg 10 years old. With Traigh Bhan, the distillery releases its second age statement in their collection. Matured in American oak and Oloroso sherry casks for 19 years in total, this should be the most intricately balanced Ardbeg expression you have ever tasted.
The people at Ardbeg thought about the name for this specific expression, and ended up with Traigh Bhan, pronounced ‘tri-van’, which the whisky shares with a ‘captivating beach with soft white sands that sing beneath your feet‘ (Ardbeg.com). A mystery, an illusion, but perhaps also the herald of something dark and brooding?
Nippin’ Whisky at the Beach
The dram that I poured myself ‘tears up’ slowly but steadily. With 46.2% ABV, the Traigh Bhan has a lower alcohol content than its brothers, Uigeadail and Corryvreckan. It is light gold in colour, and its first impression is one of invitation and seduction.
When I nose Traigh Bhan, I get distinct smoke and a fruitiness that can be described as exotic (pineapple) and citrus-like (lemon & lime). There are traces of medicinal funk, and after a while, like a little gift, there’s that sweet creamy toffee.
Interesting to mention, is that the scent of the Traigh Bhan started to spread in my apartment. I was enjoying my tasting session in my office, and soon after, my girlfriend noticed a whisky breeze had picked up. At the sea side, you smell the salt and brine. The aroma of my appartment was slowly turning Ardbeggian.
As I am writing this, I have been taking sips of my dram for at least half an hour. I am surprised to say that the palate is not only beautifully layered, it also offers up a swirl of different flavours every time I taste this expression. From an opening sensation that dries out the edges of my mouth, the whisky moves to the saltiness of the sea, balanced with earthy notes. The brine is a lovely sensation. Then, the classic Ardbeggian burn, but muted, more mature, as if it does not have to convince anyone anymore. This expression just ‘is’, and it stands ever vigilant. It does not need to boast. Instead, it invites you to sit down and explore its complex identity. I might have compared this dram to a lighthouse keeper. More on that later.
As you might have figured out by now, I enjoyed the Traigh Bhan. Just like the beach it was named after, this 19 year old Ardbeg is a mystery I would love to continue to explore. From the first seductive sip to the afterburn that washes ashore, this expression proves yet again that Ardbeg only releases core expressions when they are absolutely satisfied.
I am satisfied too!
PS: Get a bottle of Traigh Bhan, smuggle it into a movie theatre in the middle of October, and go see Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. Then, tell me the result. I’m curious.
Photographs are © Ardbeg, “The Lighthouse” poster is © A24.