Ardbeg introduced in September 2019 a new expression to its core range, featuring an age statement: Traigh Bhan. Aged 19, Traigh Bhan (pronounced try van), is a yearly batch expression, where Ardbeg does not seek regularity. Each year, they clearly show the batch number on the label, with a code showing when it was distilled, as well as short tasting notes giving the profile of this batch. Whilst Ardbeg’s marketing is running full steam with its Ardbeg Day (both Committee and Regular releases) expressions, with each expression’s backstory more over the top than the previous one, the marketing for the 19yo is here quite soft, and I must admit I like that they don’t invent crazy stories to justify the difference of each Ardbeg Day release, be it a fermentation length or a cask char or what the cask held before or whatever. Here, it’s just new Traigh Bhan batch, slightly different profile, and that’s it. Since the release of this expression, we’ve had now four batches, so let’s compare all four of those Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19-year-old whiskies.
Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19-year-old Batch 1 Review
The first batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan features the poetic reference TB/01-15.03.00/19.MH on its bottom front label. TB stands for Traigh Bhan, the beach known locally as the Singing Sands and the place that inspired this bottling. The story goes that when you rub the soles of your shoes over the Singing Sands Beach you can hear a singing sound. TB/01 then means it’s the first batch of Traigh Bhan. The date 15.03.00 means the youngest spirit used in this batch was distilled on the 15th of March 2000, and the /19 the year of release of this batch, so here 2019. Finally, the two initials at the end are the initials of a distillery member that supposedly helped create that year’s batch. And for 2019, it was Mickey Heads, then Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager. So in the end, we have a 19yo single malt, bottled at 46.2% ABV, without chill filtration nor colouring, and matured in a mix of ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. In France the RRP was 180€ whilst it was £169 in the UK and… $299 in the US it seems.
Smoked lemon, peat, smoky pineapple (Ardbeg got that right on the label), charcoal, and mint in the background. Unmistakably an Ardbeg on the nose. Lacquered duck, and some herbal notes. Not a lot of sherry influence on the nose. Some maritime notes as well with sea spray and campfire on the beach.
Citrusy and smoky arrival, then after a few seconds delay, some spices as well. Smoked and peppery dark chocolate, pineapple, chilli pepper and tabasco sauce, some blurred fruits (yellow fruits mostly). Campfire smoke. The mouthfeel is creamy but not very thick.
Long, on wood smoke, ginger biscuits, lemon zest, aniseed and chocolate. Over time a warmth develop in the oesophagus.
On the nose, no doubt we have an Ardbeg in the glass. There is something I cannot pinpoint that screams Ardbeg each time I have one in my glass. No, not the bottle itself or Ardbeg’s marketing army. On the palate, everything is intertwined with the smoke, as if all the fruits and other foods had been smoked over a campfire. It is well integrated though the fruits are a bit blurred and hard to distinguish from one another. The finish is long, very long even, as I still feels it as I write these comments. In the end, and at it’s original price, this is very good whisky, but I’d expect slightly more from it on the palate. I need to do a proper review of Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, and I’m not sure I’d put this first batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan over them.
Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19-year-old Batch 2 Review
The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan was released in September 2020. From its batch code TB/02-18.09.00/20.JT we can get than the youngest spirit was distilled on the 18th of September 2000, and it was bottled in 2020. The distillery employee of the
month batch was Jackie Thompson, then Visitor Center Manager of Ardbeg. The RRP was about €200 / £198 at the time of its release in September 2020. The whisky was matured like batch 1 in a number of American oak and Oloroso sherry casks, and bottled at 46.2% without chill filtration nor colouring.
Old gold. A shade lighter than batch 1.
Feels more sherried than batch 1. Soft peat, well integrated. Maritime notes, brine and seaweed. Smoked ham, dark fruits, strawberry jam, then it moves to yellow fruits
The arrival is a bit ashy, with some lime and greasy peat. Chocolate and pineapple smoked over a coal fire, honey and vanilla, and it feels maybe smokier than batch 1. A few wood spices as well, with the same kind of mouthfeel and the feeling on the tongue when you lick a stave.
The taste of wood, smoke and charred pineapple linger on for quite some time.
As my tasting notes say, this second batch feels more sherried than the first one on the nose. On the palate it feels oilier, with a more greasy smoke, an oilier mouthfeel, and there again more sherried notes, it moves more towards an automnal dram than a summery one. I didn’t like it better than batch 1 at first but now after a second try, I think my mind changed.
Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19-year-old Batch 3 Review
Batch 3 released in 2021 was coded TB/03-10.10.01/21.BL, meaning that the third batch of Traigh Bhan was made from whiskies distilled on the 10th of October 2001 or before and bottled in 2021. The BL initials stand for Dr. Bill Lumsden, the head of distilling and whisky creation at Ardbeg. Same 46.2% ABV / natural colour / non chill filtration, and the RRP continued raising, with €240 in France and £210 in the UK.
Deep gold. A shade darker than batch 1 this time.
Lighter peat, lime, some herbal notes, ashes, vanilla, distant notes of fertiliser, camphor and orange peel. Some brine as well, menthol cigarettes and oyster shells.
Cold and ashy smoke, full ashtray on fresh tar and grapefruit juice. Mentholated chocolate, sharp wood, nori algae dried sheets. Medium body, once again I would have hoped for something slightly thicker and creamier.
Aniseed, wood smoke, charred wood still smoking, for a medium length. Pinch of pepper lingering on.
Batch 3 feels a bit in between batch 1 and 2 in terms of bourbon vs sherry notes, but it’s also a bit more maritime on the nose and on the palate. Once again very good nose and palates, great length on the finish.
Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19-year-old Batch 4 Review
And we arrive now to this year’s batch, the fourth one. The youngest whisky in its composition was distilled on the 7th of March 2003 and of course bottled in 2022. It was bottled on the 16th of March 2022 and whilst the bottom front label shows ‘Bottled: under a full moon’ on the bottom right, the full moon was in fact two days later on the 18th. The featured distillery employee initials are CG, standing for Colin Gordon, the new distillery manager since the 1st October 2020. We will find once again the usual 46.2%, non chill filtered and natural colour. RRP was €260 in France, £250 in the UK and still $300 in the US.
Old gold. Close to batch 2.
Meatier and dirtier than the others. Burnt tire rubber, tar, overripe banana, but still a layer of vanilla, menthol and honey in the back.
On the palate the tar is here with the smoke, but the burnt rubber is not present. Chilli pepper, aniseed, menthol, vanilla and honey again. The smoke feels more present than on the previous batches. Some blurry fruity and slightly sweet notes but that I cannot pinpoint.
Quite long. Aniseed with chilli pepper and menthol cigarette smoke, and that mix of aniseed and chilli really linger on.
Quite different compared to the first three batches. Batch 4 is dirtier, almost sulfur on the nose, and dirtier and richer on the palate as well. There’s a light fruity sweetness I couldn’t pinpoint exactly, and it felt a bit smokier. The finish is excellent and might be the longest of the four.
Batch 1 is a typical Ardbeg, light sherry influence in my opinion. Classic and good. Batch 2 feels more sherried. Batch 3 feels like in-between batch 1 and 3 and more maritime. Finally, batch 4 feels dirtier than the others, with a bigger difference from the others. Very interesting. So which one I would recommend? Even though my ratings put batches 2 and 4 in front, I’d say it depends on your taste… and on which one you can find at a reasonable price. Knowing that none of them were really reasonable from the start, and the price situation worsened batch after batch. Or for the same kind of money, just buy a bottle of Ten, one of Uigeadail and one of Corryvreckan. Might be another excellent choice.