After reviewing a few of Ardbeg’s latest releases, I’m now taking a leap back in time with an older release of the Ardbeg Supernova, which was bottled in 2010.

However, this is not the first Supernova release, it was released a year earlier. It was then said to be the most heavily peated whisky in the world for a brief moment (Ardbeg’s whisky is usually peated to a level of 50-55 PPM, but this Supernova has a level of around 100 PPM). But times change, and records are there to be broken and so this record has long since been overtaken by Bruichladdich’s heavily peated Octomore. In which the title of world’s peatiest malt has been held by the 08.3 for a while now (2017). The PPM of this Octomore you ask? Well, just a mere 309….

But what does this PPM really say, can we just assume that the higher the PPM, the smokier and peatier a whisky is? Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. The PPM (which is the measurement used to determine the phenol content of the malted barley) is usually measured after kilning. This means that all processes to make whisky still have to take place and that also means that the PPM will certainly decrease to a lower level since a part of the phenols will be lost during this very same process.

Mashing, fermentation time, the way of distilling (when is the cut point made for instance) and even maturation, all these individual steps in the production process have an influence on the phenol level. So using the same malted barley (with the same PPM), doesn’t mean that the final whisky has the same content of phenols left. It also explains why one whisky is smokier and peatier than the other even though the same PPM is stated on the label.

So when we talk about this Ardbeg Supernova, still Ardbeg’s peatiest whisky ever, you will probably taste a difference in smokiness when compared to other Ardbeg single malts. But a comparison with single malts from other distilleries purely based on the PPM alone could be a totally different story.

Personally, I take those PPM measurements stated on labels with a big pinch of salt. It may all sound interesting, but I’m sure that Octomore with its 302 PPM really wouldn’t taste well when it actually had such a high phenol level. As far as this Ardbeg is concerned, I certainly expect a difference with the others from the range. I think the normal Ardbeg single malts are quite smoky and peaty already. So I am very curious how this one will compare in taste to those. Will it be double the peat double the pleasure? Well, let’s see about that… 😉

This Ardbeg Supernova is bottled at 60.1% ABV.

Ardbeg Supernova 2010 tasting notes:

Nose: quite some vegetative peat at first. Sea salt and slightly ashy. A herbal note, mostly towards liquorice and a touch of damped earth. Wet rope. Followed by vanilla and there is a faint sugar note too. Lemons. Roasted coffee beans and a touch of mint. Adding water makes it a little fresher. Less peat and it goes more towards lemons. It also adds bonfire smoke and a touch of burned rubber.

Taste: this is much more towards a sweet kind of peat. Wet rope in the background. Quite some sweet vanilla at first, which is followed by salt. Lots of heat here because of the high ABV. White pepper. Bonfire smoke with a hint of bbq smoked bacon. The herbs are back here as well. Water adds more liquorice and sugar note. Rubber. The heat is fading away.

Finish: long with plenty of peat and salt.

Lots of peat in this one! And the difference compared to other Ardbegs is clearly noticeable although it’s a little less than I expected. It could use a few drops of water, which makes it less aggressive and a bit more ‘subtle’. Don’t expect a complex dram, but it’s certainly tasty.