It seemed appropriate to try something a bit special for Burns Night, so I’ve dug into my dram collection to find something suitable. And what could be better than the enormous Supernova – Jim Murray awarded it Whisky of the Year when it was released in 2010, and who am I to argue with whisky royalty?
This, by the way, is the first of a happily large pile of wonders from Master of Malt’s utterly brilliant Drinks by the Dram deal. Put simply, they sell a spectacular array of whiskies in small 30ml bottles to give you a chance to try something a little unusual. The Supernova is an excellent example; I wouldn’t normally buy a £90 bottle of whisky – or at least, very rarely – and this way I get to try something a little bit special without breaking the bank.
In the glass, the Ardbeg Supernova 2010 is very pale; beyond straw, it’s so pale I can’t help wondering how briefly it’s sat in the barrel. The nose is filled with big, big smoke and a seriously big alcohol punch – it’s bottled at an unsubtle 60.1% ABV. Through the alcohol you can detect hints of that earthy peat and a kind of salty seaweed that with the smoke makes me think of a bonfire on the beach. Burying your nose deeper in the glass gives you just a whiff of heather honey.
With a splash of water, the sweeter notes really have a chance to show themselves – more honey, and a distinct floral tone like a spring meadow and the sea, while still present, is more of a memory.
Although the alcohol is huge on tasting it raw, it is surprisingly not overwhelming. Yes, it burns all the way down but it’s very smooth, surprisingly and almost syrupily sweet and throughout, that smoke lies oil-like over everything.
Water curiously has the opposite effect on the taste – the smoke is if anything liberated, a big mouth of burning embers and the sweetness far more mellow, although still lurking underneath. There’s spices and sea salt left lingering as the whisky evaporates from your tongue and leaves your lips faintly numbed.
This is a seriously, seriously impressive whisky. Complex, sweet, smokey and hugely powerful, it’s Islay in overdrive. Magnificent.