The folks at Ardbeg are known for having a bit of fun with various whisky releases – it also makes their whiskies sell out at a ridiculous speed.
This latest edition is the Galileo – it has already disappeared from retailers but Master of Malt has a little sign on its sales page saying: “Back Soon” while The Whisky Exchange has a link where you can get notifications if and when it is back in stock.
So, what’s all the space stuff about?
Well, a couple of years ago, Ardbeg was approached by a US company called NanoRacks LLC to take part in an experiment to see how the micro-gravity at the International Space Station would affect the maturation of a whisky in comparison to normal gravity found down here on earth.
Ardbeg agreed and a few vials were launched late last year into space, and those will be monitored in comparison to the control samples at the Ardbeg distillery in Scotland.
In honour of this experimentation, Ardbeg launched its special release for this year called the Galileo, named after the father of modern astronomy. The 49%, non-chill filtered whisky has been created from a vatting together of two styles laid down in 1999: a more traditional first and second fill bourbon casks and some whisky aged in ex-Marsala winecasks from Sicily.
When I poured it in my glass, it was still definitely an Ardbeg but it was less smoky on the nose than expected. It’s a beautiful, golden amber colour and smelled of a combination of blackberries, BBQ smoke, raspberry wine and a hint of paint thinner.
On the palate, my first reaction was: “Mmmmm…good.” Terribly technical, I know. After I got over my first enjoyable sip, I picked up buttered smoked fish, caramel, almonds, brown sugar, lemons, dusty leather books, black pepper, breadcrumbs and a hint of honey. It finished on a campfire and roasted marshmallow note.
This was a fantastic dram that brought together one of my favourite combinations in whisky: sweet and smoke. It isn’t a traditional Ardbeg, in the sense its peat reek and medicinal flavours are tempered by the Marsala casks. But, regardless, if you can get your hands on some, give it a go. Master of Malt still seems to be stocking 3cl samples, so that might be the solution if you can’t get your hands on a whole bottle.