Wee Beastie. The name is adorbs. The single malt scotch is aged for five years, two years longer than minimum. Non-chill filtered, no added coloring, and no cask finishes—matured in a mix of European (Oloroso) and American oak. And to quote Bry Simpson, the Canadian Brand Ambassador’s, favorite phrase: “It’s a belter!”
Aged at five years, this whisky doesn’t hide behind anything, including the casks used. This is a youthful Ardbeg that comes below the price-point of Ardbeg 10. Aged for a disclosed five years, it’s a great move during an era where selling no-age statement whisky is the norm.
For this reason, it’s a peculiar strategy on two counts. First, why give us an age statement? Many single malt distilleries would have left it off, kept it vague, and told people it’s “probably” around seven or eight years. That’s what’s done. There’s a template.
The It’s also peculiar because Wee Beastie isn’t finished in anything. Today’s single malt industry loves to finish their American oak barrels with whatever might be the trend for the year—Spanish oak, wine casks, Portuguese port barrels, etc.. Wee Beastie is fully matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks. There’s no “finishing” here to mask anything. This is the real whisky, aged for five.
Ardbeg is confident in this single malt scotch. They’re not masking young whisky with big cask influences, and they’re not being cutesy vague with how old the whisky in the bottle is. They are, though, being cutesy (in typical Ardbeg style) with the name.
While Ardbeg Ten maintains a complexity from that extra time spent in barrel maturation, the half-aged Wee Beastie is not a young whisky on the nose and palate. What it lacks in complexity, it gains in a sheer easy pleasure to drink. And it doesn’t lack complexity. Far from it.
Does it taste young? I’ve seen tasting notes suggesting it does, and I’ll take a moment to disagree on this. I find my palate particularly sensitive to ‘young’ whiskies. This is a more volatile drink at five years, but for me that volatility wafts away in seconds after a pour. Give it a moment.
Anyway, you can call Wee Beastie my latest peated scotch crush. Now, if I can only find a bottle of this stuff…
Ardbeg 5 Year Old Wee Beastie
Category: Single malt. Peated.
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Nose: Smoky buttery pie crust goodness, brown sugar, and lemon meringue. At the base layer, this will be reminiscent of many single malt scotches aged primarily in ex-bourbon casks, but here there’s a terrific oomph of depth from the European oak (but just a hint on the nose with cinnamon and dried fruit). It has that acidity, like an aged vinegar, with the sweetness from the sherry casks. The oaky smokiness is pleasant, and not overpowering.
Palate: Peppery, paprika spice (delicate), caramelized pineapple (both in sweetness and acidity), caramelized burnt onions, brown sugar, lemon concentrated, and of course a layer of peat smoky goodness. Lots of up-front flavor complimentary of each other. The peat is raw, like a terrific smoked mezcal (it’s the acidity that reminds me of mezcal). The finish is caramel sweet, dabs of brown sugar, vanilla bitters, plenty citrus (more lime-like toward the finish), and the spice mellows out in favor of the bitters and licorice.
Conclusion: No color added, no chill-filtration, no cask finishes, and proofed down for flavor. This is terrifically whisky that hides absolutely nothing and gives you all of Ardbeg’s potential. It’s also selling out in every market, so don’t pause in your purchase, as someone will try to snag it right out of your grip.
Disclosure: I was provided a sample of the whisky. It had no influence on my review.