Ardbeg Anthology: The Harpy's Tale

Ardbeg Anthology: The Harpy’s Tale (Photo by the brand)

The Harpy’s Tale

Ardbeg has a history of releasing increasingly edgier whiskies that honor the less traditional side of Scotland. The Harpy’s Tale is the latest in that history and the first of the new Anthology series. “The Harpy’s Tale,” inspired by one of the strangest creatures in Celtic mythology, is a marriage of bourbon and sauternes-cask matured whiskies, aged a minimum of 13 years. It’s delivered in a box emblazoned with a story and artwork depicting an Arbeg warehouseman’s encounter with the great winged creature.

Celtic Mythology

The harpy story is not native to Scotland, having roots in ancient Greco-Roman mythology. Harpies are often depicted as either beautiful winged maidens or hideous hag-vultures; however, they can be male or female. Their demeanor varies based on the intended message of the story. In general, they are mischievous creatures and considered dangerous. They are attributed to everything from playing tricks on the unsuspecting to stealing, tormenting wrongdoers, and even carrying souls to the underworld. The harpy often appears in cautionary tales for children, warning against all sorts of negative behavior.

The story posted on the Ardbeg box focuses on solving the mystery of the “knicked knickers.” According to the tale, some undies had disappeared from the line, and a resident golden eagle was suspected. Per the story, the warehouseman set off to confirm the thief, only to make a more shocking discovery- that the thief is actually a harpy!

Tasting Notes

One thing is for sure – you don’t have to believe in mythical creatures to believe how good Ardbeg Scotch whiskies can be, and this release is no exception. It pours a pale straw gold into the glass, immediately releasing the expected Arbeg smokiness. Additional aromas of moist peat, kippers, roasted pine nuts, grilled lemon, and sweet coconut lead to more distant hints of poultry seasoning, candle wax, and wine barrel spice.

The initial sip is fat and oily, coating the tongue like first-crush olive oil. The smoke is noticeably intense on the palate, followed by an equally intense sweetness. It’s like a battle of sweet and savory waging in the mouth! Traditional Islay flavors of tarry rope, brine, kelp, and anise give way to some unexpected fruitiness with stone fruit – apricot most notable – plus prunes, backed by sage, cardamon, and kalamata olives. The finish reveals more smoke and savory spice, toasted coconut, and, in the distance, sweet wine.

Ardbeg is no stranger to marrying sweet and savory, and this bottling is no exception. Despite the 46% ABV rating, it’s not too hot but still has enough body to withstand a touch of quality water or (G*d forbid) ice. At around $165 a bottle, it qualifies as a “special” dram (at least on my budget), but it’s unquestionably delightful in the usual Ardbeg sense.