The Ardbeg distillery, on the Scottish island of Islay, can do little wrong right now. In his most recent Malt Whisky Companion, for instance, Michael Jackson spoke of the "astonishing diversity" coming from this "classic waterside distillery." Meanwhile, Whisky Magazine (of which I am the editor) declared Ardbeg the "distiller of the year" (the award also went to the parent company, Glenmorangie). Ardbeg Provenance ($600) confirms the claim that this revered house of whisky is one of the best.
Yet even by these high standards, the Provenance is special. Released in celebration of the purchase and restoration of the original distillery, it's a limited edition twenty-five-year-old that connoisseurs have come to see as symbolizing Ardbeg's rebirth and rise to the top of the malt world.
Provenance was bottled at the strength it came out of the cask and has a very high alcohol content of 55.4 percent (110.8 proof). Ardbeg is known for packing powerful peat and smoke flavors into its distillations—more than any other Scottish label. These notes are found again in the Provenance and are very palpable on the nose. Persevere, though, and add a good dash of water before sipping.
When it enters the mouth, the whisky goes into overdrive. There are some distinctly bourbon and cocoa characteristics reigning in the smoke with a slight oak taste nudging through. All Ardbeg finishes are long, but this one is immense.
Once the smoke clears, this whisky is highly complex and will only become more so as it ages. So the question is, store it or drink it?Only you can decide. Call Laura Coomes at 502-214-2961 to reserve a bottle.