Once a year, on Ardbeg Day, the Ardbeg Distillery releases something new and special. I've been lucky enough to take part in hosting Ardbeg Day in South Florida for a couple of years and those events are a ton of fun. This past July, my wife and I were down in that neck of the woods again visiting our friends at Fine Spirits Wine & Liquor in Cooper City. As it turned out, they were hosting a tasting of Drum, the newest Ardbeg Day release.
There are two different releases of Drum. One is a Committee Release at 52% ABV and other is the Limited Release, which is 46% ABV. I was able to explore the general release. Regardless, Drum is a very special and unique release from this Islay distillery because while it isn't unusual for them to age their whisky in ex-Bourbon barrels, they've never then taken that and aged it again in ex-Rum casks. Drum carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, and retails for about $110.00.
For the most part, I enjoy Ardbeg. There have been just a few "meh" releases that I've been very unimpressed with, particularly Auriverdes. On the other hand, one of my favorite peated Scotches is Corryvrecken. As such, I'm coming into this review hoping to enjoy it but prepared for the worst. And that, of course, is all part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. Let's get at it, shall we?
In my glass, Drum appeared as clear and pale, producing a thin rim and very fast legs that dropped back to the pool.
Aromas of peat hit my nostrils before I got anywhere near the glass. That's something almost required from Ardbeg and in fact, I'd be curious and perhaps concerned if that quality was missing. Once I was able to get beyond the peat, there was a briny quality. Typical Islay whisky, right? When I inhaled through my lips, there was a strong banana flavor that rolled across my tongue.
The mouthfeel was thick and coating despite the thin rim and speedy legs. On the front, Drum was a mix of flowers and sweet pineapple. Mid-palate offered dark chocolate from the malted barley and a bit of vanilla. On the back, it was peat, brine, and citrus. For the peat to show up on the back instead of the front is, at least in my opinion, uncommon.
A long smoky, briny finish left my hard palate tingly.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: Before I get started on the rating, I want to give some insight as to what I observed during this Ardbeg event. Drum was a very polarizing whisky. I heard folks saying they loved it and others who were very disappointed. I think that's something very fair when a distillery comes out with something other than a me-too whisky. Ardbeg took a risk with Drum. I think it is obvious I found this one unique and I am in the camp of "loved it." Personally, I give it a Bottle rating and I'd happily purchase Drum. If you've been following me long and our palates are fairly synched, buy it. However, because it is such a polarizing Scotch with a $110 price tag, I believe most folks should try Drum first and because of that, it will officially take a Bar rating.