Ardbeg Blasda at Black Bottle Prices Would be the Awesome Sauce of Cheap Whisky
The Blasda is a highly unusual expression for Ardbeg (and quite pricey as it is only available as a limited bottling). It’s only 40% ABV, and it is chill-filtered. Most unusual of all, it is extremely lightly peated, clocking in at only 8 ppm (parts per milion of peat). Most Ardbegs are at least 24 ppm. Ardbeg usually prides itself on its peatiness, and it’s non-chill filtering, so Blasda is basically the exact opposite of everything Ardbeg stands for in terms of the distillation process.
My overall impression of the Blasda is that, well, it’s rather blah when compared to core-range Ardbegs like the 10 year, the Uigeadail, and the Airigh Nam Beist. It has a nice, light peat taste, though nothing as complex and muscular as other Ardbegs. Whisky Exchange actually has a great post outlining why the Blasda is a bad deal for newbies and scotch fanatics alike — but I’m not sure I 100% agree with their assessment.
Yes, Blasda is WAY too expensive (clocking in at $94 US on eBay at the moment — one of the few places you can still find a bottle here in the states), but I actually agree with Cask Strength when he says that, purely in terms of taste, Blasda is a stellar introductory malt for anyone not yet familiar with Islay whiskies. It’s got a much smokier taste than Bunnahabhain or Bruichladdich (both Islay single malts featuring even less peat), and could be a good entry point to help someone work up to Laphroaig or Lagavulin.
Drinking the Blasda got me thinking about our recent project to sample 40 whiskies for under $40 a bottle. Regular readers will remember that so far we have tasted three cheap bottles of whisky, two of which were Islays: Black Bottle and McClelland’s Single Malt Islay. In both instances, we found that the scotches — which market themselves as having that signature Islay taste — fell far short of even the modest amount of smoky, peat flavor we expected. Ardbeg’s Blasda, on the other hand, tasted EXACTLY like I expected Black Bottle or McClelland’s to taste.
So these scotches each seem to possess a quality that the other lacks — Blasda has a basic, light peatiness that one would hope to find in anything marketing itself as a cheap version of good Islay scotch, but the price point is outrageously high. Black Bottle and McClelland hit the right price point, but lack the quality of product found in Blasda. I have no doubt that if Ardbeg began mass-producing Blasda and selling it at Black Bottle prices, they would have a monster hit on their hands.
And now, back to our usual tasting notes.
Nose: Vanilla with just a touch of peat, though slightly more than I might have thought. Pretty much zero alcohol on the nose.
Taste: First sip and the vanilla seems gone. I’m getting a nice light peatiness throughout with slightly salty finish.
Overall: Nothing too impressive here — it’s really just a lightly peated dram with not much else going on.
Nose: Reverse of the Blasda. The peat is heavy upfront but there is a whiff of vanilla lurking in the background.
Taste: Pow. Huge punch of peat — not quite as attacking as a young Laphroaig, but really a powerful punch. More like coal and smoke than just peat. There’s some saltiness that’s going on here at the finish as the peat slowly moves towards the back. At the higher ABV, it’s got a nice little bite that works well with the higher peat concentrations to add some character.
Overall: Pound for pound this is still my favorite dram. And at a price of $47/bottle here in New York City (at Warehouse Wine and Spirits), it’s probably the best price/quality ratio you are going to find. This should be in every scotch lovers collection, and on the shelf in every bar in America.