Ardbeg Heavy Vapors

Ardbeg Heavy Vapors (Photo by the brand)

Ardbeg Heavy Vapours

With the creation of the Ardbeg Committee, Ardbeg Distillery has released a slew of expressions they’ve promoted as “unique” and “unusual,” most of which have been aimed at their rabidly supportive membership. This release, Ardbeg Heavy Vapours, is no exception. The underlying juice is akin to its standard 10-year-old expression but with one significant difference – they removed the still’s purifier, allowing the heavier distillates to remain in the mix. Typically, they are recondensed, allowing them to be reheated and eventually removed from the final product. The result is a bigger, beefier, fatter whisky with greater peat impact. Interestingly, this expression has two similar versions: one for Committee members and one for the general public.

Tasting Notes

Heavy Vapours looks quite benign in the glass – it pours a pale straw and is crystal clear. But as you approach the trusty Glencairn, it attacks! There’s an initial punch in the nose of campfire ash, backed by notes of wet soil, cooked mushrooms, crushed bay leaves, sage, and pencil shavings. There’s a hint of sweetness as well, plus distant notes of dried mango and boiled plantains.

The initial sip explodes with pipe tobacco – it reminds me of walking through a pipe shop! The mouthfeel is moderately round but not oily. The flavors are more subdued than the nose would indicate (a good thing), with a sweetness more like dried fruit than sugar. Burnt sugar notes lead to a silky ashiness, followed by bitter cocoa, burnt-end meats, melon rind, baked apples, and poultry seasoning. None of the flavors overpower, allowing them all to meld into a more elegant balance generally found in older expressions.

The finish is long and luxurious, and the wet fire notes resurge in a big way. Hints of burnt licorice and dried spearmint leaves fade into a smoldering fireplace sunset.

Heavy Vapours is a superbly unique dram deserving of its place in Ardbeg history. Despite being touted as experimental, the end result is elegant and strangely familiar. It’s like Islay’s great uncle came to visit, smoking his pipe and spinning tales of his youthful adventures in the merchant marines. Sadly, this limited-edition whisky is limited to just one bottle per person. So, if you’re a Committee member, you better act fast. If not, you may end up suffering from a heavy case of the vapors!