Let’s get the puns over with – today was out of this world. It’s not every day that you’re invited to an Ardbeg launch(!) and it’s not every day that the whisky is so hotly anticipated that it’s almost sold out before release. It shows that Ardbeg are doing something right and they are doing it well.
Ardbeg Galileo is bottled at a natural cask strength of 49%, and is a mixture of 1999 whisky that has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels, mixed with some ex-Marsala casks that originated in Sicily. It is non chill filtered and has had no colouring added to it.
The inspiration behind the whisky is groundbreaking. In late October 2011 Ardbeg were approached to take part in a molecular maturation study aboard the International Space Station. They duly obliged and vials (technically known as mix stix) containing new make Ardbeg spirit and shards of charred wood were sent up into space. The actual study commenced on 11 January this year when the vials were broken and the contents were mixed. Control samples are kept on earth so that after two years the spirits can be compared. Fittingly warehouse 3 at Ardbeg contains one of the samples. So it seems only right that Ardbeg’s latest whisky should take on a space theme, and we really can now confirm that Ardbeg is out of this world!
The press launch started early at St Pancras and we were treated to a great breakfast aboard the train to Leicester and even a cheeky morning dram of Ardbeg 10. Our destination was the National Space Centre in Leicester. Dry ice and cocktails greeted us and we were spilt into groups; half went to the simulator to head off on a mission to Jupiter and half were treated to a fascinating hands on talk by the Director of Education for the Space Centre. We saw space hammers, space food (sauerkraut soup?!) bits of Mars (the planet) and even handled some dinosaur poo!
We were brought back to earth with a delicious Ardbeg Smokehitio that was sweet, smoky and minty before the big moment arrived. Mickey Heads (manager of Ardbeg) introduced us to the distillery and offered a brief history before we were asked to open the bags in front of us. Each contained a miniature of Galileo encased inside a mini rocket shaped cocktail shaker – brilliant! Mickey then led us through an informative tasting and explained why he loved this expression so much.
Ardbeg Galileo – 49% [Ardbeg]
Colour: Golden amber
Nose: Initially very soft and gentle with classic smokey traces. Popcorn comes through as does tropical fruit – especially banana
Taste: Salty to begin with before the smoke and spices take over. The Marsala sweetness is strong and lends a real depth to the whisky. Star anise flavours complete the balance perfectly
Finish: Shorter than the 10 year old but still full of smoke. The salt is back; this time with some liquorice.
Overall it is a lovely whisky. For me it’s one of the milder Ardbeg’s despite having the same PPM as the standard bottling. Its just that the Marsala has softened the whisky giving it a real sweetness that will appeal to many. It is still unmistakably Ardbeg and that is a big win – you’d instantly recognise it in a blind tasting!
Lunch followed and then we were let loose in the space centre. If you haven’t been it’s a fascinating collection of stuff – ranging from rockets and capsules, to reruns of the moon landings mixed in with plenty of hands on fun! All too quickly though our time was up and we needed to get our shuttles back to the station in order to make the train home! A great day out and really lovely to meet so many people who we know from Twitter! We are already looking forward to the next event!