Ardbeg has never been shy about releasing interesting and eccentric whiskies. The Islay-based scotch distiller is known for making some of the peatiest drams on the market, and experiments have led to bottles like the punk-themed Ardcore made with extra-roasted black malts, and Fermutation, which was fermented for an astounding three weeks, instead of the usual 72 hours.
The new Ardbeg BizarreBQ channels the distillery’s fun-loving spirit and creativity into a bottle that fully embraces smoke—in this case, barbecue smoke.
Ardbeg’s Director of Whisky Creation, Dr. Bill Lumsden, teamed up with grilling guru, Christian Stevenson (aka DJ BBQ) to create a whisky with a meaty, peaty punch that captures and complements the flavors of barbecue. The result is the 50.9% limited-edition Ardbeg BizarreBQ.
Like grilling, distilling relies on fire as a key element to coax flavor out of raw ingredients. Ardbeg BizarreBQ uses an experimental cask toasting process that involves double-charred oak casks, Pedro Ximénez sherry casks and the distillery’s unique BBQ casks, which were extra-charred. This cask combination leads to a sweet, tangy and smoky flavor that’s perfectly suited to barbecuing.
“Ardbeg BizarreBQ is certainly a hare-brained idea, but with DJ BBQ’s help I was able to cook up something truly incredible,” says Dr. Lumsden. “Puffs of charcoal and soot mingle with smoky wood and aromatic herbs and spices. The undeniable smell of bonfire and BBQ embers linger in the background. Deep, warming smoke follows in flame-grilled steak, chili oil, cured leather and clove. If there’s one Ardbeg you want with you grill-side, it’s this one.”
DJ BBQ helped launch the whisky via a BizarreBQ World Tour, where he embarked on a global mission to find fellow smoke obsessives, and to uncover some of the weirdest and wildest BBQ dishes in all the land. He says that barbeque lovers and Ardbeg fans are similar: “It’s all about the smoke.”
According to the brand Ardbeg BizarreBQ has aromas of treacle toffee, hickory smoked ham, cinnamon and espresso in addition to all that charcoal, soot, smoky wood, herbs and spices. On the palate, you’ll find BBQ spices, smoke, flame-grilled meats, leather and cloves alongside ginger, aniseed and tar. The big, hot finish lingers with notes of grilled artichokes and black olives. It all conspires to evoke the feeling of standing around the grill or cooking over open flames.
Ardbeg has been busy. BizarreBQ is joined by another release, Heavy Vapours, which will debut at the annual Ardbeg Day celebration on June 3. It’s the first whisky the brand has ever distilled without a purifier on the still. This practice allowed the heaviest vapors to rise up the still during the distillation process so they could be captured, matured and bottled.
Ardbeg BizarreBQ ($84.99) is available now in the U.K. and will hit U.S. markets in June. Ardbeg Heavy Vapours ($131.99) will launch to Ardbeg Committee members on April 17 and then go live to the general public on May 1 at Ardbeg Embassies, whisky shops, online retailers, and at the Distillery Visitor Centre.