Review – Ardbeg Kelpie

Ardbeg Distillery is located on the island of Islay and has an output of 1.2m litres of spirit per year.  Originally founded in 1815 it has come through several changes of ownership over the years until becoming part of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy) alongside Glenmorangie in 1997, after being closed for a short time by previous owners Allied Distillers (who also owned Laphroaig at the time)

Ardbegs latest release is the Kelpie, named after a mythical and mischievous water creature, usually presenting in the form of a horse.  It has been married together from a mixture of virgin oak casks from the Black Sea region of Russia and some regular bourbon casks.

Arbeg Kelpie, OB, NAS, 46%abv, Press Sample.


The nose is very Ardbeg. Phenolic and peaty, There is a slight damp note under layers of hay and citrus. A slight fishy and coastal note emerges after the initial smoke alongside hints of vanilla.

The emerging smoke of the palate fades to leave quite a oily feeling in the mouth. Big hits of sea spray here and a little woodiness pops up alongside some fruit syrup, and a slight hint of ash we continue onto the finish.

The finish is as you would expect from the palate, the salty notes continue to dry the mouth but there are some sharp and crisp oak notes here too, perhaps even a few olives and even a little dark chocolate.

There are many other writers and drammers more knowledgeable than I on Ardbeg (and whisky in general to be fair) who will be more accurately able to compare this against other expressions and rate them accordingly. To me its definitely a little less smoky than the flagship 10 yo and seems to have a much heavier, oilier palate.

For some reason I get a Campbeltown style feeling from this, a sort of mixture of fishy, brine and grimy (in a good way) elements.

There are some key stylistic differences between this and other Ardbegs that even I, as someone that doesn’t drink a lot of Arbeg, can pick up on.

This is all in all a decent dram but is perhaps lost within the myriad amount of recent Ardbeg releases, almost akin to Bruichladdich several years ago when they were putting out a lot of limited expressions such as Rocks, Waves etc.

In its own way it creates a cult, with the devoted clamouring to try them all, for those slightly more ambivalent towards the brand it’s simply another expression…

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