The three-pack will help you to have a beast of a holiday. (photo courtesy of the brand)

An ongoing gathering of the exquisite, fun, and hard-to-find,
for the hard-to-buy-for friend on your list.

Just in time for the holidays, one of my favorite Scotch distilleries, Ardbeg, has released their beastly “Monsters of Smoke” Trio sampler pack, and what a beast it is! The three 200ml bottles, all single malts, include Ardbeg’s flagship Ten Year Old, the fiery Five Years Old Wee Beastie, and An Oa, a rich and complex whisky finished in bourbon, sherry, and charred-oak casks. It’s a definitive and unique selection of Islay Scotch, smartly packaged in Ardbeg’s “Monster” themed gift box (too late for Halloween, but it works). Be forewarned that these are not for the faint of heart! They are big, bold, smoky, and spicy, crammed with the flavors that make Islay scotch unique.

The core of the gift set, Ardbeg’s Ten-Year-Old flagship whiskey, is considered by many as the ultimate Islay expression. Intensely smokey on the nose, it has notes of brine and tar with hints of dried fruits and toffee. A medium body leads to flavors of peat, tar, smoke, and iodine balanced by notes of clean malt, tea, burnt brown sugar, and marzipan. The finish reveals warm black pepper followed by a long warm glow of mild honey, candied fruit, smoke and peat.

Wee Beastie, Ardbeg’s 5-year-old monster, is truly diabolical! Rough, raw, and intense, the nose opens with a burst of youthful peat, followed by hints of baked pears, tart apple pie, and lemon zest. Growing smokiness reveals a medium bodied mouthfeel, youthful but not overly hot. The swallow starts with more peat, but exhibits a variety of subtle flavors, including salt air, citrus, burnt sugar, and sweet bacon. The long and warm finish reveals toffee and leather, with hints of black pepper, unsweetened cacao, and pie crust. Did I mention smoke???

Rounding out the trio is Ardbeg’s An Ao. Captioned “The Ultimate,” alluding to its more refined Islay styling, An Ao matures in three distinctive caskings: ex-fill bourbon, ex-fill sherry, and new charred oak. Each contributes its unique flavors resulting in classic Islay flavors combined with Highland refinement despite its lack of an age statement. As with other Ardbeg expressions, An Ao leads with peaty smoke, with notes of peach cobbler, tobacco shop, oiled leather, and hints of dried fruit imparted by the sherry casks. The mouthfeel is round but slightly thin, leading to brown sugar, baked dark chocolate, fruitcake, and more peat. The finish is long and luxurious but drying, with hints of raisin, allspice, vanilla, and smoke.

If you’re seeking a monster of a holiday gift for your favorite Scotch lover, look no further than the Monsters of Smoke Gift Trio by Ardbeg. It will make your Wee Beast happy and keep those long, cold nights at bay.