Ardbeg Hypernova 2022 Release AT OR POST FEIS ILE?
Ardbeg has already announced both the Committee Member’s and general public’s versions of their latest creation, the Ardbeg Ardcore. Ardbeg Day for the 2022 Feis Ile has been set for June 4th this year, online and at the Ardbeg Distillery. And to celebrate the upcoming events, Ardbeg launched what they call a new “punk rock” expression, the Ardcore.
On January 10 this year, a new set of labels for the American version of Ardbeg Whisky has appeared on the Internet. According to the label, its corresponding wine is called Hypernova 2022 Release, which means that the Hypernova may be jumping off the shoulder of the Supernova series, with a progressive increase in phenol content, ppm.
What is known as of today is:
- Ardbeg to release Ardbeg Hypernova expression in 2022 as a Committee Release.
- Said to be the smokiest Ardbeg till date, "notes of pungent peat smoke, aniseed and toasted lavender, while bitter almonds and dark chocolates fuse with curious hints of plasticine and burnt rubber. Descend into a finish that collapses in on itself, before returning to earthy notes of roasted coffee and smoky heather."
- Bottled at 51% ABV.
- The toasted lavender and smoky heather notes are beguiling, which may be interpreted as the use of peated floor malted barley from Port Ellen and the use of heather in the kilns during malting. We'll only get to know when released. Evidently, we're getting a first glimpse of a new Committee Release.
- Labels submitted to the TTB have confirmed that Ardbeg Hypernova 2022 (HN22) Committee Release will be a limited edition, heavily peated single malt Scotch whisky.
The label upfront gives us standard but mandated data. The 750 ml bit shows that this bottle is heading into the USA. Then the trademark Ardbeg dramatic para:
Propel your palate at full force towards the smokiest dram ever to mature into existence at Ardbeg. Discover fabric-tearingly intense notes of tar, creosote and soot. Venture further into the glass and explore ethereal whispers of aniseed, smoke and dark chocolate.
The rear label also reveals a lot. The phenol content is very high at more than 101 ppm.
"Possibly the smokiest dram in the world (this one at least), Hypernova possesses a malty magnitude never before experienced. This is a brutally smoky dram that radiates flavour in every direction. Undoubtedly Ardbeg's smokiest spirit, HN22 is a cataclysmic event for the Distillery. It's big, it's intense and it's pulling palates into a whole new dimension...
Explore notes of pungent peat smoke, aniseed and toasted lavender, while bitter almonds and dark chocolates fuse with curious hints of plasticine and burnt rubber. Descend into a finish that collapses in on itself, before returning to earthy notes of roasted coffee and smoky heather."
Again, the toasted lavender and smokey heather notes. Do they come from heather being toasted in the kiln during malting? Heather is an evergreen pink shrub found in Scotland, even specifically named Scotch heather, that is known to hold peat about its roots and offers a woody and mossy, but also gentle honeysuckle scent. Generally it is known to be of light floral tones and heavy musky notes. Patience!
The bottle remains the standard Ardbeg.
The Ardbeg Twenty Something series, which is into the third bottling, is a look back into past whisky stocks of this fan favourite Scotch distillery. At one time Ardbeg was on life support, with new whisky being made in extremely limited amounts and only a small amount of casks being laid down. Things are quite different there today, and with some of that old whisky still sitting around ageing, it has been decided to put it into a limited edition offering geared towards Ardbeg Committee fan club members.
The third Ardbeg Twenty Something bottling, as we now know, is a 22-year-old expression which spent its entire time in ex-bourbon barrels. It is a pale gold-coloured Scotch bottled at 46.4% ABV and priced around at £440 (~$575$) when it went on sale exclusively to Committee Members through the Ardbeg website. It offers an incredibly flavourful, silky quality which is exceptional; the best way to celebrate those whisky lovers who helped keep Ardbeg alive during its darkest days. It was created with spirit from the retired Still which now stands in the Distillery courtyard, a magnificent reminder as to why Ardbeg should never be allowed to disappear. Ardbeg Twenty Something is for those who believed wholeheartedly in the Ardbeg Distillery, which is why it’s fitting that this rare whisky – a 22 YO – will be enjoyed by loyal Committee Members, who maintain that same belief.
The aroma is deep and sultry, perfumed with that classic Ardbeg coastal smoke, only dialled up with more camphor, sweet baking spice, and fruits. Ripe peaches and grilled pineapple add a bright sweetness that beautifully complements subtler floral notes of lavender and honeysuckle. The palate is silky with the well-tempered smoke of a forgotten campfire on the beach. A bit of lavender reemerges, along with a savoury dimension of sweet glazed ham and a bit of wood-driven spice. It’s gently warming from the outset and continues into a lingering finish spiced with a bit of clove and cinnamon and soft, ashy peat smoke. There are glimmers of this whisky in the Traigh Bhan, Ardbeg’s oldest offering off its current stills, but whether the distillery can produce another “twenty-something” single malt with this kind of balance and complexity, only time will tell.
Ardbeg has also released its first NFT (non-fungible token) single malt whisky, which was buried in a peat bog for nearly three years, the Ardbeg Fon Fhoid NFT. With the release of a limited edition collectable from its Ardbeg single malt Scotch whisky brand, Moët Hennessy has become the latest spirits brand owner to enter the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Ardbeg Fon Fhòid NFT will be available only on BlockBar.com, a website that sells NFTs (digital assets) directly from premium liquor brands, with each NFT corresponding to a real bottle. A whisky NFT is limited to 456 units and costs 1.00 Ethereum, or $3,100 (at the time of writing).
Ardbeg Fon Fhòid was bottled from casks buried for nearly three years. Two casks of Ardbeg whisky, aged in second-fill Bourbon casks, were buried in a peat bog for two years and 10 months near the distillery. The whisky’s name, Ardbeg Fon Fhòid, takes inspiration from this and means ‘under the turf’ in Scottish Gaelic. Bottled at 45.5% ABV, Ardbeg Fon Fhòid will be priced at 1 ETH, roughly £2,363 (US$3,100).
The time spent underground is said to have given the whisky ‘earthy, mossy and herbal’ flavours, rather than Ardbeg’s trademark ‘intense smoky notes’. Ardbeg’s has earthed and then unearthed a truly special Ardbeg here. Ardbeg Fon Fhòid is earthy and mossy with one hell of a herbal nose. Ardbeg Fon Fhòid is limited to 456 bottles, which was available to purchase exclusively on blockbar.com at 10am EST on 19 April.
Successful buyers will receive a digital certificate that will verify their ownership and the authenticity of the bottle. Bottles will be stored at Block Bar’s facility in Singapore until they’re redeemed. Buyers can also trade their NFT within the blockbar.com marketplace, store the bottle in their virtual bar, or offer the NFT through the company’s new gifting platform.
THE ADVENT OF THE HYPERNOVA
The Supernova Saga: As stocks of maturing casks went up steeply, Ardbeg went into overdrive. They introduced their famous and well-documented Ardbeg Supernova Heavily Peated Series.
ARDBEG SUPERNOVA (SN 2009)
Ardbeg Supernova has been a true phenomenon since the Advance Committee Release sold out in a matter of hours back in January 2009. This was the peatiest Ardbeg ever at over 100 ppm. It was also the first Committee release in the USA. 3,000 bottles were released to the Committee, reaching a final outtake of 21,000. The coded format of this bottle is SN2009.
COLOUR: A light golden wheat colour. Lovely legs, showing that this is a very oily whisky.
NOSE: Classic Ardbeg with peat, iodine, TCP, oil, petrol, road tar, pungent stuff, black pepper, chilli, dry earth. The peat is not overwhelming, but rather smooth and well-balanced with some floral notes. There are hints of vanilla sweetness. Another fairly dominant note is smoked crispy bacon. With water it is slightly more balanced the sweetness comes through more and lasts better with surprisingly, some heather honey; it also becomes slightly softer.
PALATE: Thick and creamy with peat, saltiness and notes of spices. Another fairly dominant note is smoked crispy bacon. With water it is slightly more balanced the sweetness comes through more and lasts better; the notes of bitter orange with some honeyed sweetness is also smoothed out. Even though the ABV is so high, there is no alcohol bite. Just smooth sweet peat and sweetness, perfectly balanced to create a fantastic drinking experience.
FINISH: Builds slowly to end in peaty, spicy notes. There are medicinal notes with hints of smoke and bitter orange again. Some bitter chocolate as well, which fades into nothingness with water. Nice and lengthy finish.
THE SUPERNOVA 2010 (SN 2010)ABV: 60.1%
COLOUR: Slightly dark wheat gold. Nice and oily.
This expression Features in Dominic Roskrow’s 1001 Whiskies You Must Try Before You Die. A limited release back by popular demand, this 2010 edition has a deeper, earthier character with the same phenomenal peatiness as the 2009 edition. Much sought after but sadly pretty much unavailable. Only 18,000 bottles were produced.
The 2009 edition was the most heavily peated whisky in the world for a brief moment (Ardbeg’s whisky is usually peated to a level of 50-55 PPM, but this Supernova has the same level of around 100 PPM).
NOSE: High-pitched citrus, chocolate, hazelnut, brine, fish oil, black licorice. All are very light, bright, sharp, high-pitched, and astringent (in a good way). Strong aromas of peat smoke, slightly medicinal; soon creamy maltiness comes to play, then coffee beans, a hint of ginger, pink grapefruit and quite surprisingly traces of freshly mowed grass.
PALATE: Spicy with lots of peat, red chilli peppers and black pepper but soon revealing its sweeter side with toffee, orange zest and steaming white coffee. Tar, industrial peat, earth, honey-mustard, black licorice, bright, light citrus, with little or no astringency.
FINISH: Long, warming and spicy, tobacco, Tabasco sauce, allspice, hint of sea salt with a touch of white chocolate. Bright, light honey, industrial peat, lavender, gentle floral notes, and a somewhat “fermented” note.
OVERALL: Crisp and clean. This has many of the typical Ardbeg flavours you’d expect. Still somehow bright and refreshing, despite the power and ABV. It’s not as heavy or severe as the Corryvreckan. At 60%, it’s no delicate flower either. There is a certain fermented note/ cheesiness which is distinctive. The obscure flavours do shine, but the classic Ardbeg profile is captivating. The peat here is large and in charge. Very potent, and very clear. Certainly, there are more complex Ardbegs than this, but few can match this one’s vividness and intensity.
SUPERNOVA THIRD RELEASE 2014 (SN 2014)
This whisky is the third edition of the Supernova bottling from the cult Islay distillery of Ardbeg. It was released to coincide with the return of a very special sample of Ardbeg. The distillery had sent a vial to the International Space Station in a cargo spacecraft in October 2011. It orbited the earth on the International Space Station ever since and it landed back on earth in 2014. This sample was analysed in depth at the distillery and results were made public.
The Supernova series is labelled as being Ardbeg's peatiest-ever malt. This time around, Ardbeg Supernova was a Committee Release (Ardbeg’s loyalty program) SN2014, with only 3000 bottles produced. The 2014 Ardbeg Supernova is different from the previous two Supernova Releases in that it has a greater amount of sherry-finished whisky and a significant increase in younger malt in the blend. It was bottled at the cask strength of 55% ABV and was sold out, just like its predecessors.
THE ARDBEG SUPERNOVA 2014 (SN 2014)
NOSE: The aroma of peat smoke immediately catches the nostrils. But it is lighter and thinner than expected. This has a hot, peppery and sooty edge. The peat here is more vegetal, barnyard peat than peat smoke. With time, other aromas begin to shine through - malty cereals, burnt oat cookies, golden syrup and icing sugar plus hints of lemon zest and something floral that is difficult to pinpoint.
PALATE: There is an instant mix of profound sweetness and intense, savoury smokiness. The sweetness is reminiscent of golden syrup and icing sugar, while the smoke has a distinct sooty, ashy, coal-like quality. This later becomes slightly hotter and more earthy/mossy. Rather than battling against each other, the two elements complement each other well. In a similar fashion to the nose a malty cereal barley note battles its way through the intensity, as does increasing zesty lemon. There are also hints of buttery shortbread, red chilli, white chocolate and a pinch of saltiness. The real strength of this Supernova rises till it peaks midpalate.
FINISH: The finish is very long and intense. The sweeter elements fade quickly and leave the smoke and peatiness to smoulder away for what seems like ages. It becomes increasingly dry, ashy and acrid with the spicy chilli-like heat slowly fading.
OVERALL: The 2014 Ardbeg Supernova is disappointing. Ardbeg has established the Supernova line as one of their showcase series, and they’ve priced it accordingly. But the 2014 release pales in comparison to the 2009 and 2010 releases. Part of the problem with this expression is the amount of young malt in the blend. In a peated whisky, young malt isn’t a bad thing, as young peated whisky can offer a lot of interesting elements to the equation. But the young malt in the 2014 Ardbeg Supernova isn’t properly balanced out with deeper, older malt.
THE ARDBEG SUPERNOVA 2015 (SN 2015)
This is the fourth (and Ardbeg says, final) edition of the Supernova bottling created for the Ardbeg Committee, to celebrate the conclusion of Ardbeg’s experiment in space. When first released in 2009, it was Ardbeg's peatiest whisky to date at 100ppm vs. their traditional 55ppm peat level; this peat level has stayed true for all Supernova bottlings, though the proof has decreased slightly over the years with this one hitting 54.3% ABV. All Supernovas have been in high demand and this final release should be no different, particularly with the imagery on the bottle referencing Ardbeg's space whisky's tasting results. Sadly, only 3,000 bottles were released to the Committee.
You’ll find there’s a lot going on beneath the peated surface of the Supernova 2015 (SN 2015): a lot of crisp, meaty bacon cooking on that campfire, for starters. And there’s an underlying sweetness, too, with notes of tropical fruit—pineapple, melon, a touch of lime—that comes to the fore with the addition of a little water.
Of course, if it’s the peat and smoke you’re after, the 100 ppm Supernova doesn’t disappoint. Ash, burning leaves, briny seaweed notes, a bit of old-school cough medicine… in short, a classic Islay malt. Many of the traditional Ardbeg usual suspects are here, particularly the savoury, meaty and ashy profile, but green grass, dried fruits, and crushed cookies also make their mark, albeit in tiny doses. Some sweet malt appears, but your palate is soon flooded with prickly spice, tar, iodine, and campfire smoke. If you add some water, the whisky fattens and softens just a bit with sweet malt dousing the flames so to speak. Try this whisky both ways to see which you prefer, but if water is added, add just a few drops.
COLOUR : Golden
ABV : 54.3%
NOSE : Basically smells like a smokier Ardbeg 10. Peat, fruit, malt, vanilla frosting, citrus and a nice malty sweetness glide out of the glass followed by lighter notes of Twizzlers and a slight bit of harsh alcohol bite.
PALATE: Peaty and similar to the aroma but with a richer tropical and orchard fruit flavor. Vanilla, light toffee, hazelnuts and a spiced fruity cake follow into the finish.
FINISH: Long and peaty with notes of orchard fruit, malt and a light bit of spice.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL : A rerun of the 2014. Not quite balanced with the peat overshadowing everything else. Medium body and a slick oily texture.
Ardbeg Supernova 2015 is a peaty beast of whisky. Like all of the previous Supernovas it’s the most heavily peated whisky Ardbeg puts out but that peaty powerhouse comes at a cost and that cost is balance. There are some nice fruity notes that come through, but they’re overshadowed by the denseness of the smoky peat. If they came through a bit more and brought a nicer balance to the whisky then it’d be a super duper whisky which would help reduce some of the sting from its hefty price tag. While the 2015 Ardbeg Supernova isn’t a fully balanced monster the prevalence of the fruity notes show signs that one could be on the horizon if Ardbeg allowed some of the barrels to age more, letting some of the peat die out and bring up those fruity flavours to create a nice balance.
THE ARDBEG SUPERNOVA 2019 (SN 2019)
2019 brought to the retail market a new limited release of Ardbeg Supernova. Said to be the peatiest whiskey in the Ardbeg lineup at 100 ppm, it has been described as a “peat bomb” or “peat explosion.” It was last seen like its predecessors on retail shelves back in 2015 as part of a celebration to mark the brand sending some of its spirit into space to orbit the Earth for three years with the International Space Station. Enter into realms of sweet treacle toffee, and navigate thick clouds of aniseed, menthol and soot, before finally re-emerging through a dense nebular of peat and smoke.
Young peat super monsters generally seem to do well at a young age, but they require careful balancing to prevent them from becoming stomach-turners. All that peat often leads to a surprising level of complexity in a malt that otherwise might take twice as long to mature to anything worthwhile. Once again, only 3,000 bottles were made available to its Committee Members at € 180.
COLOUR: Pale bronze
NOSE: It’s a full-body peat that wafts into your nose. The smell is quite voluptuous and strong, yet pleasant. This is not a “knock your socks off” smokey peat smell, nor is it acrid. For a Scotch, the smell seems very balanced between peat and sweetness which seems weird for the being the peatiest whisky brand. But this facet was obviously noted as lacking in the 2014 and the 2015 ‘final’ bottling. The low ABV for a Supernova is indicative of the presence of older whiskies. Vetiver and wet grass; sandalwood; concentrated lemon juice; honey; vanilla pudding. Wonderfully complex.
PALATE: The flavour of this single malt Scotch is very buttery and spicy with a smoky finish. Lemon meringue pie, with an emphasis on the lemon. It’s very smooth going down. For one of the peatiest whiskies in the world, this is one of the smoothest you might ever encounter.
FINISH: Very long. Smoky, spicy and sweet. BBQ sauce. Lemon pudding. Vanilla cream. Demerara sugar. Chardonnay.OVERALL: Extra peat apparently means extra cost. And that makes sense to an extent, although the majority of the high price is due to the fact that this is a limited release with a high amount of demand, and therefore Ardbeg can set the price as they know it will sell out regardless. This is not a beginner’s whisky. But if you’re a well-versed peat head and an Ardbeg fan, then Supernova 2019 is worth trying.
UPDATE: HYPERNOVA, THE SMOKIEST ARDBEG… EVER!
Hypernova is the late-2022 Committee Release from Ardbeg. There’s usually at least a couple of these limited edition bottlings each year but what makes this one particularly eye-catching is the ppm count, in other words, the amount of peat smoke in the malt. Hypernova apparently has a ppm count of 170, making it officially the smokiest Ardbeg of all time. However, the ppm count of the barley is only part of the story.
The peat smoke absorbed by barley changes and evolves, even decreases, throughout the distillation process. Therefore, a high ppm count pre-distillation doesn’t always translate into an ultra smoky whisky in the bottle. The unique quirks in production that can be found at each distillery have an effect on the flavour of the whisky, with Lagavulin and Caol Ila providing the example. Those two Diageo-owned distilleries use the same malt from the same maltings, are peated to the same ppm, yet the whiskies are very different.
Bruichladdich’s Octomore series has rather set the bar for outrageously high ppm levels but that whisky often surprises people. The slender stills at Bruichladdich promote lighter, elegant spirits, meaning Octomore often isn’t as smoky as expected. At Ardbeg, the stills are of a very different design but, thanks to the addition of purifiers on the lyne arms of the spirit stills, a similar effect takes place. The purifier filters away some of the heavier vapours that make it to the lyne arm. Those heavier compounds drop into the purifier pipe and return to the pot to be distilled again, whilst the lighter vapours carry on toward the condensers. So whilst Hypernova is, without a doubt, a very heavily peated whisky, it may not be as intense as you imagine it to be.
Ardbeg is well-known for its brightly-coloured, often bizarrely-named limited editions, which seem to annoy some purists, a somewhat baffling response. The clientele is getting younger as the world grows older. Must all marketing carry a sombre, ultra-serious tone? Should we go back to the days of old-fashioned labelling, when bottles were adorned by stags and tartan and glens and bens? Where the only information on the label was a number? When whisky was a man’s drink and no one would dare to be so reckless as to use a single malt in a cocktail?
Of course, people are free to choose how they spend their money and if the latest release from Ardbeg isn’t to their taste, that’s completely understandable. It would be boring if everyone liked the same thing. The internet is totally globalised. So it is with whisky marketing strategies. Not every release needs to be tailored to the individual’s personal taste.
Why Hypernova? Doesn’t hyper sound more upscale than super? There’s your answer. The previous “smokiest ever Ardbeg” was called Supernova and the definition of a Hypernova is “a very energetic supernova.” So in the canon of Ardbeg releases, the name makes sense.
It’s bottled at an un-chill-filtered 51% and retails for £185. Interestingly, the malt was smoked with non-Islay peat. This was done for purely logistical reasons – the maltsters on Islay couldn’t achieve the numbers required and shipping Islay peat to a maltster on the mainland would have led to a dramatically increased carbon footprint, so mainland peat was used instead. Strange logic, considering that the Octomore has crossed the 300 ppm barrier, but sound to its owners.
EYE: Pale gold.
NOSE: Powerful, pungent and almost brutal in its intensity, waves of tar, smoke, sea salt and brine in an almost ‘barnyard’ aroma fill the void. Smoky – yes but perhaps not as in-your-face as you might expect. Ethereal whispers of fruit, reminiscent of flowering blackcurrants. Seaweed. Seashells. Tobacco ash and cigar smoke. Stoor burning on old radiators. Beyond the smoke, there’s also liquorice, pepper, a touch of citrus and grass. Even a wee touch of menthol. Water releases a flurry of more rounded top notes, with a touch of lavender and a slightly chocolaty sensation, before finally arriving at curious hints of plasticine and burnt rubber.
PALATE: An explosive, peppery mouthfeel launches the palate into a most bizarre juxtaposition of flavours. The smoke is more to the fore. It’s there from the first sip but it smoulders and glows menacingly rather than blazes out of control. Charcoal. Sea salt and black pepper. Brine – like breathing in a damp, sandy beach in winter. There’s also some creamy malt under all the smoke and some fresh lemon citrus with a wee touch of young oak. The smoke builds in intensity over time.
FINISH: Descend into a finish that collapses in on itself with enormous, heavy smoke, before returning to earthy notes of roasted coffee and smoked heather.
OVERALL: This new Ardbeg is not for the faint-hearted and is a big and bold whisky. This is only to be expected from the pre-release hype and for something pitched as the distillery's peatiest and smokiest release ever. It is certainly the most intense Ardbeg that one can remember sampling. But is it any good? In a word - yes.
Hypernova shows Ardbeg in a slightly different light and hopefully, the brand will release something like this to a wider audience in the future. It shows that you can have super powerful peat smoke but in an interesting and balanced way, and is a definite step up from the regular bottlings.
Given the marketing of the whisky, you almost expect it to blow you away but in fact, it develops over time. At first, it seems only a wee bit smokier than standard Ardbeg expressions but with each subsequent sip, it grows. By the time you’ve reached the end of the glass, you’ll be wondering if you’ll ever taste anything but smoke, for the rest of your days. Maybe I could accuse the whisky of lacking complexity? There certainly isn’t a great deal of cask interaction. Indeed, the whisky feels young but I’d argue that’s kind of the point. What do people want from the Smokiest Ardbeg Ever, if not lots of smoke? Personally, I’m really enjoying it – perhaps a little too much. Given the price, I’d prefer to savour my bottle for a long time, if I can.
PRICE: It would be ridiculous to try to claim that it offers value for money. Sure, the production costs are higher than normal but £185 will never not be a lot of money for a young single malt. That said, I knew what I was getting into, so no complaints from me. I tasted it first and still wanted a bottle. Will obviously not be for everyone at the price, however. Good luck.