Ardbeg Supernova vs. Bruichladdich’s Octomore???

34 Comments on Ardbeg Supernova vs. Bruichladdich’s Octomore???

First things first: a hearty hug to my good friend Dr. Whisky, who is marrying his gal K on this coming Burns Night!  Can’t wait to see you guys – but I warn you, this blogger Strips the Willow for no man (nor even his wife!).

Now, to business.  Well, we’ve been having a grand old natter in the comments section of  last week’s post about all manner of nerdy stuff – and long may that continue – but in the meantime I thought I should say a few words about the hot topic on the forums.  No, not Oz & James’s Drink to Britain (although more on that later if I can muster the will to live), something much more exciting – It’s Ardbeg’s mega-peated answer to Octomore: Ardbeg Supernova!!This is a really fascinating case, with plenty to ponder and several unanswered questions.   But is it an unfortunate case of two buses coming along at once, or an insight into the special behind-the-scenes machinations and rivalries between two of the world’s most famous malt brands?

In the first instance it must be said that, if intentional, the timing, manner and pricing of this Ardbeg release is incredibly bold considering the almighty hoo-hah kicked up by Bruichladdich for Octomore over the last few years.  While Octomore was relentlessly hyped from its inception even before the first spirit had run off the stills (I remember it being alluded to on a trip to Islay in 2001!), Supernova only registered on most people’s radars last week when it briefly popped up in the Ardbeg online shop and was noticed by some eagle-eyed trainspotters, including Gordon from Spirit of Islay who got the buzz going in the online whisky forums.  I didn’t have a clue about it before then and even Sukhinder professed total ignorance.  This is in sharp contrast to Bruichladdich’s sound and fury with every new release, but particularly Octomore.

Octomore: Overshadowed?

Octomore: Overshadowed?

In addition to this covert – nay stealth – marketing, the timing of Supernova’s release yesterday would strike a cynic as being deliberately designed to pi$$ on Bruichladdich’s chips on the very day they were celebrating the PR coup of being featured on the telly in the afore-mentioned Oz ‘n’ James show (for anyone who managed to miss it, Oz & James put on their tiresome ‘odd couple’ shtick and went to Islay, where they drove a sports car fuelled on cask-strength Bruichladdich X4, before a trip around the distillery with Mark Reynier and Jim McEwan).

"Your breath smells like whisky" "No, that's the exhaust!"

“Your breath smells like whisky” “No, that’s the exhaust!”

Intentional or not, the good folk at Bruichladdich probably weren’t best pleased to be gazumped in such a sudden, emphatic manner after months of trailing their moment of small screen fame and, to add insult to injury, Glenmorangie plc (Ardbeg’s owners) were also represented on the programme in the comely form of Master Blender Rachel Barrie who is, let’s face it, rather more telegenic than Mark & Jim.

To cap it all, at £65 (still an awful lot of money for a NAS dram, but that’s a separate issue) the Committee Bottling of Ardbeg Supernova is priced a full twenty quid cheaper than Octomore, with a general release soon to come that could well be even cheaper.  This must be taken into consideration with the packaging of the products – Octomore has the special coating, the weird bottle-shape, the design features (all of which cost money and rack up the price to us mug punters) while Supernova is the same old Ardbeg bottle with a new label: total extra cost about tuppence.  I don’t think it’s even got a box.

Needless to say, when it finally reappeared in the online Ardbeg shop yesterday morning, the Supernova took off (sorry) at something approaching hyperspeed (really sorry again), sold out in a little under three hours and is currently in orbit somewhere around the Death Star in a galaxy far, far away (Oh dear.  Nurse, the screens!).

Admittedly the Octomore is more heavily peated and slightly stronger, but that doesn’t really matter too much once you get over about 55% and 100ppm as most people are going to put a spot of water in anyway.  If Supernova turns out to be a better whisky than Octomore when it arrives on people’s doormats in a few weeks time – and that is a real possiblity, given Ardbeg’s greater resources and the tepid reviews Octomore has thus far received – Ardbeg’s triumph will be complete.

So what is going on here?  Is this all just a total coincidence or are Glenmorangie being exceptionally clever?  Are we meant to believe that all this is just a confluence of circumstances that happens to leave Ardbeg smelling of roses, or is it in fact a calculated strategy to win back those of the faithful who were displeased with Blasda (after all, Supernova is the exact opposite) and cast Ardbeg as modest, classy and good value while attempting to portray Bruichladdich as brash, style-over-substance blowhards with an over-priced product?  Is it a glimpse into the clash of philosophies between a corporate giant and a small independent company on the most famous whisky island in the world?  Or am I just totally blowing this all out of proportion?

If it is the former, it seems like a pretty ruthless manoeuvre, even a bit Machiavellian – and the whole thing leaves this blogger in the hitherto unfamiliar situation of feeling rather sorry for Bruichladdich.  Of course, the unflappable Mark & Jim will brush this off like water off a duck’s back and move on to the next big thing, but yesterday was meant to be their day and they ended up being beaten at their own game.  That, unlike so much of their output, will leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

What do you think about Supernova vs. Octomore?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Tim F

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Kevin says:

I am a little sceptical of these super peated whiskies. Do not get me wrong, I love Ardbeg 10yo and other heavily peated whiskies, but these two take it to the extreme and I can not help but think that maybe it is too much of a good thing.

Picture a chip shop, you just brought a bag of chips and go to put some salt on then the top pops off and you get a whole kilo of salt on your chips. The result? Your chips are ruined. Is the same true for these two whiskies? I hope to one day find out!

Unfortunately I was unable to order a bottle of the Ardbeg despite wanting one as I did not get paid until a few days after the release dare so will have to wait for the full release in May (I think) and just hope they leave it as it is now.

bgulien says:

Tim, Nice piece and right on the money.
What I found amazing was the way James May drank the X4 without so much as a flinch, while Oz could hardly utter a word. Which was a blessing in disguise.
I tried it myself, with the X4+1 Valinch. I had the same problems as Oz, so James probably has some lead lining somewhere.

The Supernova vs Octomore battle:
The Octomore sold out about as fast as the Supernova. So that’s a draw.
The peat-levels: As Angus explained, in another article on this site, it is almost impossible for Bruichladdich to get the smoky, peaty, almost medicinal taste of the Kildalton distilleries. Theirs will always be more elegant and floral.
Maybe that’s a 2-1 to Ardbeg, just for the perceived peatiness.
But…Bruichladdich sold 6000 bottles at GBP 85 and Supernova 3000 at GBP 65.
That would be 2-2.
Tasting is a bit more difficult. We have to wait for a few weeks to do that.

Angus says:

I have to admit that I never knew anything about the Supernova. In all the time I was working at Ardbeg neither Mickey or Stuart ever mentioned anything about such a heavily peated run. I suspect that it may end up like a much older style of Ardbeg pre 76/74 era. I say this because the peat used back then was cut from very deep down in the bog meaning it was very rich in phenols, guaicols and creosols and the malting process concentrated the phenol levels. This is why these older single casks are all so oily and thickly phenolic. I suspect the supernova may represent that style of whisky in younger clothes. I may also be completely wrong. I’m very keen to try the supernova sometime but I’m not particularly interested in comparisons with the Octomore, they’re both different whiskies from different distilleries and both probably quite good. There are suspect similarities which are possibly the byproduct of whisky industry politics but I cannot for the life of me be arsed to get involved with all that twoddle. I’m glad to see that people are experimenting and pushing the boat out in terms of new flavors but lets let the spirits speak louder than the blurbs that promote them.

Leither says:

Tim, what a cynic you are 😉 Very well put tho.

I think LVMH have resorted to a very clever mix of Test and Guerrilla Marketing here in the new Peat Wars.

Blasda, quite simply, failed and Ardbeg want to hit back quickly to show that they can compete with the Laddie gang in the peat-freak stakes. And for Supernova to sell-out the initial launch within a couple hours in the the middle of January is a very good sign for them – what recession?

LVMH have been very clever to launch Supernova the same day as Laddie on TV, whilst also Rachel Barrie stealing the show with Glenmorangie. Talk about raining on their parade, the launch of Supernova being on the same day as the biggest Laddie PR piece to date was certainly no coincidence.

Let battle commence, but as Angus says – we should really let the products do the talking. I just find the marketing tactics interesting as I work in that field!

Pär Caldenby says:


I agree with what Angus says above. And I really like the piece, Tim. Perhaps being a lawyer means that cynicisms are no strangers?

On the products, I agree that the marketing machine of MR has been blurbing about the Octomore for yonks. Which is probably why that felt new to me, so hilariously peaty and wacky as it is, by common standards. I managed to get hold of two bottles of the Octomore, taking a fair beating of the old credit card to do so.

This might be why I couldn’t be bothered to even attempt getting one of the Supernovas.

What Bruichladdich does is very clever, I think. They’ve got a number of more or less different spirits. And with them, it is not just about the peating level, which frankly I suspect it is with Ardbeg. Now, Ardbeg is a very good spirit in its own right and can mature into masterpieces, given enough time. But I’m not convinced that more peat is what Ardbeg would be best served with?

And is this peat thing getting out of hand? Is more equal to better? Not likely. There are so many other factors that influence the final outcome and the sensations you get when nosing and tasting – not least the fermentation times, yeast strain, still shapes and cut points – oh, and the casks used. In all likelyhood, a 131 ppm malt can make good whisky. But ony if you get the rest of the set-up right. The same goes for 100 ppm malt, in the case of Ardbeg.

Am having an 11-strong Ardbeg tasting, from Very Young FD and on, this coming week. Would’ve been interesting to have the Supernova on it. But their delivery times suck (regrettably), so that was never on the cards anyway.

Interesting debate, this. / Pär

Gordon says:

Why is there a “Peat” war ?
Who’s worried about who distilled there’s first ?
Only people who seem to have too much time on their hands by the looks of it……
Bet the Distilleries aren’t (well apart from….)
I’m not , i’m just concerned about what it tastes like and up to now i was disappointed in the Futures , wasn’t impressed with the 01.1 and i’m eagerly awaiting to see what the Supernova is like , hopefully i’ll know by the end of next week .
What has disappointed me over all the bottlings IS the lack of tasting notes for any of them . For the Futures only myself and Armen from memory , 01.1 myself and Willie , Supernova none yet ! Anyone drinking whisky now ? Or just admiring their pretty bottles on the shelf……. 😉

Jon Pinson says:

You are bang on the money I think, although there is another aspect of all this that has been overlooked. Controversial as it may be, I feel compelled to mention it in the hope that it isn’t just me who thinks it.

While Supernova appears to be my dream dram, I can’t help having my enthusiasm tempered by the way Ardbeg is seemingly starting to treat its loyal customers. Example: A few months ago when Blasda was first released on their site, I ordered two bottles with the ‘Corryvreckan sold out quickly, I better get this while I can’ mentality. This was all good until the bottles didn’t turn up for two months, and Blasda had been for sale in my local Oddbins for 6 weeks. So much for the benefits of being on the Committee. I’m still waiting for a single reply to my numerous emails, too.

Likewise, if this early Supernova release was designed as they claim to give ‘those in the know’ a sneak preview, why was it limited to 2 per person, and not one? Instead of having 3000 expectant customers, there may be as few as 1500 lucky ones, and an awful lot of £150 bottles of Supernova on ebay.

Ardbeg is my favourite malt, but the decision makers are making it increasingly difficult for me to enjoy it as much as I should. Of course, the ‘committee’ thing is nothing more than clever marketing to make anyone who buys from the website feel special and important, but you might think Ardbeg would at the very least value it’s returning customers.

I have my issues with Bruichladdich too, but they are coming up smelling of roses to me.


kallaskander says:

Hi there,

I am with Leither. I think that after Octomore Glenmorangie plc and their overlords quickly re-thought the decission to reduce the regular Ardbeg portfolio to TEN and Blasda for the next years.

Considering that nobody seemed to know about Supernova very much beforehand and the fact that it most probably is not much older in its core than Blasda is one would be led to think Glenmorangie was driven by Octomore or Bruichladdich to a shot from the hip.

I do not think that better and deeper resources than Bruichladdich have anything to do with it. I consider the Supernova a peace offering to the peat heads and the attempt not to lose the marketing gold mine of the claim and title “peatiest malt in the world” etc.

And they do seem to be a bit in a quandry marketing wise as this quote from Serge of seems to underline:

“Ardbeg 10yo ‘Ten’ (46%, OB, L8, new label, 2008) The new label bears a strange text, claiming that ‘Ardbeg is considered by whisky connoisseurs to be not only the best of the Islay malt whiskies but the best whisky in the world’ (I spared you all the capital letters). Well, I wouldn’t claim that this is false or misleading (after all, Ardbeg is #1 on our list, thanks to all the wonderful single casks distilled in the 1970s) but I’m wondering who wrote that odd and rather inelegant line for them.”

That the Ardbeg stills produce the heavier malt is without question. But I do think that neither the malt of Ardbeg not the malt of Bruichladdich does very much care about peat levels at all.

But the marketing department of Ardbeg does seem to care very much.
And I think that here the decission about the release of something called “Supernova” was mad(?), erh made. The name alone does tell, doesn`t it?

butephoto says:

Tried the Octomore, didn’t bother writing a note it was that dull.

Bought one bottle of Supernova only so will probably keep that and try it when the general release is out. I suspect that will be the case with many.

I think this is all a load of coincidence. But it gives people something to talk about anyway 😀

kallaskander says:

Hi there,

see what Loch Fyne said yesterday.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Ardbeg Supernova
The Ardbeg Committee bottling sold out instantly but in late May it will be on general release in new packaging (and probably at a higher price) at 100ppm.

Also, last years Committee bottling, Corryvreckan, will be on general release from September replacing The Beast.

posted by Loch Fyne Whiskies # 10:23

To me it does not seem like coincidence. Blasda could well turn out a really wrong decision as absolut sales figures go.
So it is back to the roots or in this case

Corryvreckan for all!

Tim F says:

Thank you all for your comments, gents, it’s an interesting debate and I’m not surprised that it’s thrown up contrasting views.

BTW, I hope you don’t all think I’m a dried up old curmudgeon. The piece was not intended to be overly cynical, I just found the timing of Supernova’s release a bit odd and it struck me that if (and please note, it is an “IF”) it was deliberate it was quite an aggressive move by LVMH.

Angus – “I suspect that it may end up like a much older style of Ardbeg pre 76/74 era” – we live in hope 🙂

“lets let the spirits speak louder than the blurbs that promote them” – Amen to that. The hype ceases to matter once the cork’s off the bottle. Let’s hope that Supernova can live up to everyone’s elevated expectations.

Par – “And with [Bruichladdich], it is not just about the peating level, which frankly I suspect it is with Ardbeg” a very interesting comment, Par, and probably correct. Certainly the modern Ardbeg products are in a far less broad stylistic range when compared to Bruichladdich – although that’s true of just about everyone.

Independently-owned distilleries do tend to release a lot of expressions – they have to as they only have one distillery and they need a broad range of expressions. But do we really want to see wine-finished Ardbegs…?

Gordon – “Why is there a “Peat” war ?” Good question. Seems to me that the problem is that there are now so many devout peatfreaks prepared to lavish ridiculous amounts of cash on anything peaty. In fact, a lot of people won’t actually drink anything that isn’t peaty. There are an awful lot of people for whom peat is everything, and Ardbeg has profited greatly from being marketed as the most heavily-peated malt. So unfortunately we get this situation where a peat ‘race’ seems to have developed where some of the distilleries are trying to knock Ardbeg off their peaty perch, and this has led us to Octomore and Supernova.

Perhaps these bottlings will be the apex of this Peat-frenzy and people will realise that the law of diminishing returns applies with ppm. Look at the muted reaction to Octomore. It would seem obvious that over a certain level of ppm you can’t taste anything else – whisky does in fact need balance -to taste good. But at present, for many Islay fans, peat is everything and the more the better.

Jon – I know about the issues the Ardbeg shop have had in the past, but by all accounts the Supernovas started arriving a couple of days after the sale, so hopefully they have taken on board the complaints from last time and sorted it out. I’m not too worried, although I haven’t got mine yet. It says 28 days on my order form, I think, so I’m happy to wait.

Gordon says:

Some interesting postings , kallaskander , you seem to think Blasda is a failure , i would be interested to know why ? Of the Ardbeg fans i know ( lot of Plowed people , the group that were on the Ardbeg tasting with Mickey in my chatroom last November….)seem to like it , even a Lowland Distiller who’s presence graces our weekly chat raves about it !
I’ve tried a lot of peated whisky by others who generally don’t do peated whiskies and i must say most of them have been pretty bad to my palate . The Bunnahabhain Peated i find very good and i think Laddies own PC has fantastic promise at an older age after how good it has been at a young age , especially my own PC4….LOL!
I think distilleries need to stick to what they do best and are appreciated for (call me old Fashioned…). Too much experimenting going on……
Wine Finished Ardbeg ? hope not but i have tasted Wine “Matured” Ardbeg and it’s good !

kallaskander says:

Hi there,

well Gordon I can only draw conclusions from the data I have.

I posted elsewhere that considering what LVMH did with Blasda that it was my impression that LVMH thinks that the name “Ardbeg” as a brand carries very far and that with that name they can do anything. And that they will be proved wrong.

The facts I have are these:

Ardbeg Blasda was no rush seller. It sold moderately in the shops I visit at the beginning and now the interest has slacked considerably.

Friends and other customers I talk to say one bottle of Blasda is enough. You know the combination of age, 40%, chill-filtering and most of all price which many say is not justified for such an offering.

And last the reactions of LVMH with the Supernova and the last Corryvreckan announcement. Both cry peat. Both at that time. I thinks that speaks for itself.

LVMH is a collector of elite brands. Marketing is very important to them. They live in a world of marketing with their expensive portfolio. Whoever thought that Blasda will carry the day because “Ardbeg” is printed onto the labels made a wrong decision which cost customers and money in the peat head section of the market. That is not what LVMH did buy Glenmorangie plc for.

I do not like Blasda at all as the samples I had cry young grainy and spirity which is a combination I do not like at all. With a grain of salt it is a whisky in its own right. But I do not think that one can sell something like that under the name of Ardbeg.

Others sell young malts for high prices as well but they do not have the reputation and standing Ardbeg has. I do not begrudge Ardbeg the right to sell a whisky in a different style at all. That is ok. I think the how was very wrongly done.
I think that the attempt to sell young whisky by the power of the brand name “Ardbeg” alone has seriously back-fired and damaged that reputation.

Gordon says:

Kallaskander , from what i’ve read you don’t have any data !
Personal opinion , gossip and speculation !
Sales figures from LVMH ? E-mail / memorandum from LVMH ? that’s data .
Let me give you an example using your reasoning , tonight i went shopping in Tescos (Large supermarket ) , done my usual scan of the whisky shelves , they were full of Glenfiddich , Glenlivet , Glenmorangie etc etc . So the conclusion from your line of reasoning ? Glenfiddich , Glenlivet , Glenmorangie etc etc isn’t selling so must be an unpopular release ! Right ? Actually More or likely that the shelf stackers are doing there job right for once !
I’m not going to get drawn into an ongoing argument on this as at the moment Ardbeg/LVMH seem to be suffering from “Macallan Syndrome” on a lot of Forums and Blogs . Also i always end up getting accused of Being very Ardbeg biased , which i may well be but that’s because i love the Whisky , the distillery and the people involved and will always defend them in an argument .
I thought i wasn’t going to like the Blasda when i read Chill Filtered and 40% but i tried it with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised by it , not the greatest Ardbeg but something different , is the something different the thing that puts people off ?
I don’t buy your argument about the release of the Supernova and the Corryvreckan as i know differently (and i won’t discuss it anywhere!) .
One thing i have noticed lately is that you seem to have been having a go at LVMH at almost any opportunity on quite a few forums .
This tends to beg the question “Has someone upset you recently from LVMH ?”

mmmhumous says:

Kallaskander – if the May general release of Supernova is indeed a 100pm release too, then my sneaking suspicion has just been blown out of the water…

The Ist Ocotmore malt was peated to 80pm and Arbeg have just release a 100ppm malt, The general release Ocotmore 01.1 is pitched at 131pm, so I was expecting 150ish! Never mind. Even if Ardbeg are not intent on regaining the highest ppm level, it will certainly stop Bruichladdich quoting “twice as peaty as any other whisky”.

In the interest of declaring bias – I’m a huge Ardbeg fan and don’t usually like Laddie bottlings. My Favourite Bottlings are The two Ardbeg Kildalton releases but those aside most of my top ten malts are peated Islays (mainly Ardbeg).

I was lucky enough to get hold of a bottle of Octomore 01.1 before Christmas. I ran it at a Tasting for Burns Night and was surprised by just how many people liked it: ~ 20/30 people (ranging from whisky newbies up to drinkers with well over 100 malts under their belts). Personally I think it’s drinkable, and certainly better than PC6 but in terms of balance, the newly released “peat” is a far better (and cheaper) dram for my money.

Can wait to try the Supernova. The Blasda was a huge disappointment especially as I was expecting an affordable kildalton: The Blasda is too expensive and lacking body and substance (probably down to the chill filtration).

kallaskander says:

Hi there,

Gordon I know that you are much nearer to the secrets of Islay than I will ever be. And I enjoy your insights and your website. Congratulations on that.

And yes we are reading and posting in the same forums. Therefore we both know that the posting of mmmhumous about Blasda is a ver typical one. I do not deny that I read one or two very positive posts about Blasda but the tenor in most of the forums is the one we know.

Tue enough that is not hard data and not from the source of LVMH. Nobody has upset me personally but I do not like their attitude towards whisky and in consequence I do not like the developments initiated by that attitude at Glenmorangie and Ardbeg.
But never fear I do not like the attitude of Pernod Ricard either as shown with the new Scapa 16 yo or the recently Longmorn 16 yo.
And as we are about it, neither do I very much like what Diageo has been doing lately with the prices of last years Distillers Edition and the general development the Scottish whisky industry is going through. But that is a different subject.

My displeasement considering LVMH is stemming from the very nature of this group of collectors of luxury brands. There was almost a sector of the whisky business that was about luxury. But if a luxury company buys whisky distilleries because of the power of their brands and the standing they have they try to push all aspects of these brands into the luxury sector.
That sector is about money, not about whisky. That is why Glen Moray and the Broxburn facilities had to go.

It is my opinion that this development is not good. But that is a matter of one`s point of view.

Pär Caldenby says:

Interesting thread – although that might have been to be expected.

I did host a rather serious Ardbeg tasting two/three days ago (split in two due to the interest that the name, say: BRAND, Ardbeg induces). And first out among the eleven was the Blasda, with the rest being the young ones and the peaty path to maturity (i.e. to the new TEN), or whatever the PR folks called it. About the Blasda:

Blasda (40 %) – more peaty than the PR blurb makes believe. But the body is handicapped by the chill filtration and low abv. Decent, but borderline silly from a brand point of view? Score 81.

And about the voting and scoring of the night:

Now, the votes for these eleven little whiskies were cast with 2 points awarded to each persons favourite and 1 point for the runner-up. Plus we voted on four pairings. From the points vote, the Blasda, SMWS Bourbon, Still Silly and TEN (L8) received no points at all. The pairings went as follows:

TEN, L7 vs L8 – 15 votes to 2

VYFD vs VYCA – 12 votes to 5

Mòr I vs Renaissance – 14 votes to 3

SMWS Bourbon vs SMWS Sherry – 10 votes to 7 (some really loathed the Sherry)

And then, which one was the very clear favourite? And what where the scores for those that were voted, subjectively, as the favourite or runners-up?

Mòr I received 25 points.
Almost There received 8 points.
TEN (L7) received 6 points. (Take the hint, LVMH!)
VYFD received 5 points. (Only from day one!)
Renaissance received 5 points.
The SMWS received 2 points. (Only from day one, two persons.)

Now, the above voting should make interesting reading for the LVMH decision-makers. Every single person at those two tasting nights was an absolute peat freak or seriously loyal Ardbeg fan. The price of the tasting prohibited anyone else from taking part, I assure you! The Blasda was very clearly the least favourite whisky with all of them, most even stating out loud that “what’s the purpose of this thing, it seems a bit like dish water to me”, or something along those lines. And this was when nosing and tasting the very first whisky of the line-up, with no disturbance from the rest (the second whisky being an L7 TEN, which was really good, see above scoring).

Nothing wrong with charging high prices for young whiskies. But they have to be a) very good and balanced for their age, b) very special or limited and c) not priced to silly levels – both Bruichladdich and Ardbeg are breaking the last rule. And I dare say that both may be called in question as to the second. The first one is open to debate.

/ Pär

Jon Pinson says:

Gordon – There really is no point in having an online debate if you base your point on the old chesnut of ‘I know something but I won’t tell you what it is, but I know it makes me right.’ I’m sure you may well have some inside information, but don’t be shocked if people question you.

I think it is time for the distilleries to stop trying to out do each other, as they are coming over in a poorer and poorer light. At the moment, it is us the customers who are suffering. For instance, what makes Supernova worth £20 more per bottle? Have peat prices increased so much?

Come on Bruichladdich and Ardbeg. Go back to making good whisky, rather than messing with ‘interesting’ whisky. Octomore, while interesting, was not worth the hype it received and to be honest I don’t think Supernova will be massively different from any other CS Ardbeg. Don’t forget what you do best. Ardbeg stick to the heavy stuff, Bruichladdich stick to the light and fruity ones.


kallaskander says:

Hi there,

found the following on the Moet Hennessey USA page.

It sheds light on the question why Octomore does not seem to find favour with LVMH. Octomore pierced the very heart of the brand “Ardbeg”. Brand standing is the one thing that counts for LVMH and was the reason to aquire it in the first place.

“Ardbeg is known as the malt with the highest peat content. This is a claim that can be documented by measuring phenolic compounds in the whisky. These compounds are known as cresols, and they are the result of drying of the malted barley over peat. The level of phenols in Ardbeg is 54 – 56 ppm.

Ardbeg Key Selling Points

Ardbeg has the highest peat content of any whisky
The smoky, briny nature of Ardbeg makes it the favorite of those who enjoy a very hearty malt.

Ardbeg’s still produces unique and exquisite spirit
The purifier on the spirit still gives a fruity floral sweetness and complexity to this spirit

Ardbeg is non chill-filtered to maximize texture
This method of bottling ensures that all of the natural texture and flavor is intact

Ardbeg has a unique water source in Loch Uigeadail
The water of the Loch filters naturally through peat bogs, contributing to the complexity of aroma in Ardbeg

Ardbeg is the ultimate Islay malt
Ardbeg inspires a fanatical devotion, winning die-hard fans as well as accolades from a wide variety of press.”

Interestingly I learned that

“75% of the production of Ardbeg is sold as single malt, and the remaining 25% is used in a variety of blends. The distillery maintains 24,000 casks on site, and there are another 110,000 at Broxburn.”

I did not know the part about Ardbeg maturing at Broxburn. That explains why LVMH had to build new warehouses on Islay when the sold the Broxburn complex.

Just mixed the bits around a bit.

Gordon says:

Jon , i couldn’t give two hoots whether people believe me or not , what i do give a hoot about is people going around saying things that (a) have no grounds other than one persons presumptions and (b)make it look like one distillery is worried about what another is doing or has done . Our Friend Kallaskander is now saying
“It sheds light on the question why Octomore does not seem to find favour with LVMH. Octomore pierced the very heart of the brand “Ardbeg”. Brand standing is the one thing that counts for LVMH and was the reason to acquire it in the first place.”
I’ve never seen a statement as such from LVMH , never heard it mentioned by any of the Distillery staff who i frequently talk to .
Instead of just getting on with drinking whisky why is it that people have to sit and effectively concoct stories and theories ? Too much time on their hands ?

“75% of the production of Ardbeg is sold as single malt, and the remaining 25% is used in a variety of blends. The distillery maintains 24,000 casks on site, and there are another 110,000 at Broxburn.”
Now if you’d done a tour of Ardbeg Distillery you would know this as it’s all info given out on the tour . Quite often you’ll see large tankers standing and being filled to be took away as part of contracts that go on . You also get told that there is indeed only space for 24,000 casks on site at the moment due to the fact that the owners prior to Glenmorangie (Allied) took bulldozers to the rest !
The number of warehouse at the moment are 5 . 3 are Dunnage and 2 are racked . Usually a cask is stored on Islay for 10 years (thought there a few older ones there) before being moved to Broxburn to be either Bottled for the 10yo or matured further .
The new warehousing at Ardbeg hasn’t started yet , don’t know when and i gather it will be a little while before they move out of Broxburn , they need to get new facilities / offices closer to Edinburgh sorted out .
Tell you what Kallaskander , Mickey Heads (the Ardbeg Distillery Manager in case you didn’t know) is due to come back on the weekly chat we have in my site’s Chatroom shortly , i’ll drop you a PM on the Whisky Mag Forum to let you know then you can come in and ask him questions about this . OK ?

kallaskander says:

Hi there,

Gordon I appreciate your dedication and passion for Ardbeg. As I said you have insights that I will never have. I do not begrudge you that.

But I can read and browse and search the internet. I read the newspapers when it became clear that LVMH will buy Glenmorangie plc with all assets. I did not find all the mentionings of the motives of LVMH but analysts unaimously voiced the opinion that the acquisition was all about the brand names. As expressed here.

“Under its new ownership, the single malt will rub shoulders with some of the world’s most prestigious drinks brands: from champagnes such as Moët & Chandon, Dom Perignon and Krug to cognacs such as Hennessy and wine makers such as Cloudy Bay.
Christophe Navarre, who runs LVMH’s drinks subsidiary, called Glenmorangie a “fitting companion” for the group’s “prestige brands”. “


Wines and Spirits
Group Mission and Values

you will find this

“Bolster the image of our brands with passionate determination

Group brands enjoy exceptional reputation. This would not amount to much, and could not be sustained, if was not backed by the creative superiority and extreme quality of their products. However, without this aura, this extra dimension that somewhat defies logic, this force of expression that transcends reality, the sublime that is the stuff of our dreams, Dior would not be Dior, Louis Vuitton would not be Louis Vuitton, Moët would not be Moët… The power of the companies’ brands is part of LVMH’s heritage. It took years and even decades to build their image. They are an asset that is both priceless and irreplaceable.
Therefore, Group companies exercise stringent control over every minute detail of their brands’ image. In each of the elements of their communications with the public (announcements, speeches, messages, etc.), it is the brand that speaks. Each message must do right by the brand. In this area as well, there is absolutely no room for compromise.”

I believe that the people at Ardbeg Distillery do not speak thus.

And as for data. I have not counted them but if I had known I might need it some day I would have counted how many reviews for example the Blasda were in favour and how many spoke against Blasda for the reasons we already discussed. From memory I would say it was about one in four reviews that speaks for Blasda and three speak against it. If I remember it right such a discussion was lead in your on blog.


Gordon says:

Kallaskander , you’ve lost me somewhere ! Why the 5yo Article ? Motives for Buying Glenmorangie PLC ? They wanted the Best Two Single Malts in the world that just happened to be up for sale ? LOL!
The 3 words that stands out the most are “voiced the opinion” . There are lots of Voicing of opinions going on all over the web , doesn’t make it fact .
“Christophe Navarre, who runs LVMH’s drinks subsidiary, called Glenmorangie a “fitting companion” for the group’s “prestige brands” ”
Any of the then potential Purchasers at the time would have said this and it would have been right , Glenmo and Ardbeg are Prestige Brands .
At the time of the purchase from the Macdonalds , the doom and gloom merchants were predicting all sorts of things for Ardbeg , we wouldn’t be able to afford the whisky etc etc . Since the sale apart from the rise in the 1970’s single cask prices (more due to rarity and the stupid prices on e-bay than anything else IMO….) , there’s only really been two “Premium Releases” , the 1965 at £2000 and the Gun case at £10,000 . The other releases have been reasonable , even the much maligned Blasda , same price as a bottle of New Make from another Producer !
I think you’ve got it set in your mind that Blasda is a failure no matter what , perhaps the only way this will be changed is if they ever make it a standard release or if they ever do a Second batch of it . Or perhaps not……

“I believe that the people at Ardbeg Distillery do not speak thus”
Perhaps it’s just an Islay thing but i’ve found the distilleries on the Isle that are members of a larger group are always willing to talk about things that you wouldn’t necessarily get to know on the mainland .

“If I remember it right such a discussion was lead in your on blog.”
Now one thing that does upset me is people calling a Blog ! it’s nothing as common as a Blog (No offence Meant Tim !LOL ) . It’s a Website with a forum and Chatroom , been around since before anyone knew what a blog was , i do hate that word !!!
The offers still open for you to come on the chat with Mickey .

kallaskander says:

Hi there,

hello Gordon, hello Tim,

I suggest we let it rest here and see what time will tell.

And sorry for calling your Spirit of Islay a “blog”. No offense meant.

kallaskander says:

Hi Tim,

seems somebody read this blog lately.

What do you make of that?

I am a bit confused after reading the above. Most of all because I can not identify the acting persons.

Tim F says:

I’m a bit surprised about it, Kallaskander. I’d be pretty surprised if he was talking about the TWE Blog as I’ve tried to be even-handed in my posts. I don’t think we’ve been ‘drooling’ over these issues, that certainly wasn’t my intention, and the last thing I would do is spoil for a fight with anyone.

The other reason I don’t think it can possibly be us is that while I’ve poked fun at both Glenmorangie AND Bruichladdich, reading through my posts again I think I’ve probably criticised Glenmorangie/Ardbeg more than I have Bruichladdich. And having said all that, I would hope that it’s also clear from my posts and comments how much I enjoy most (not all, but most) of both distillery’s products.

kallaskander says:

Hi Tim,

I am with you here. When I read the Laddie blog I was reminded of our little discussion here but could not follow in their conclusion that we were spoiling for a fight either.

Roaming the net I have not found any other blog or forum which did on this issue.

We have been very civil here I would say and we have stated opinions but did not attack.

So, being innocent and pleading “not guilty” whom were they referring to I wonder.

Tim F says:

Amen, Kallaskander – let’s leave it at that 🙂

drJarv says:

“I have to admit that I never knew anything about the Supernova. In all the time I was working at Ardbeg neither Mickey or Stuart ever mentioned anything about such a heavily peated run.”

Tends to support the notion that this product is a cynical spoiler, rather than a carefully thought-through release?

Tim F says:

drJarv, just because Angus didn’t know anything about it doesn’t make Supernova a ‘cynical spoiler’. (No offence, Angus, you know more about Ardbeg than most people have forgotten). After all, it’s been mentioned in a few places that some of the Supernova stock was distilled in 2000 before Bruichladdich re-opened. Can anyone confirm this?

NB: For those of you who don’t know, drJarv works for Bruichladdich as part of their design team and Angus, whom he is quoting in the above comment, has worked several summers as a tour guide at Ardbeg under Stuart Thomson and Mickey Heads.

Gordon says:

Aah ! the return of dr jarv !!!!!
Supernova a ‘cynical spoiler’ hahahaha (oh my sides ache….) .
It’s actually mostly 2001 distillation (now what does that mean….. 😉 ) .
Angus , Alright Mate ? Don’t worry , no one told me about it properly until recently !
N.B. for those that don’t know , dr jarv designs the labels / bottles etc for Bruichladdich but (as he is always at pains to point out) doesn’t actually work for them but he is good mates with the main man . He also pops up from time to time on Blogs and forums to have a go at the larger companies who own distilleries on Islay .

Peatmaniac says:

I have tasted both whisky’s. The Octomore was very peaty but you only taste the peat(I have no problem with that)I like him very much. With the Ardbeg Supernova you taste more thanj the peat he is more complex than the Octomore.Octomore gets 90-95/100, and Supernova 95-100/100

Slainthe Mhath

kallaskander says:

Hi there,

I know it has been a while.

And I know that there was a posting once on the Laddie blog which was titled “Spoiling for a fight” concerning the preferences of Octomore vs. Supernova fans. And was probaly about our discussion here.


What do we make of this?

“To the consternation of fanatical followers of another iconic Islay distillery, we have dialed up the peating level of the second bottling of Octomore. ‘The iron fist in a velvet glove’ has increased to 140 ppm, the strength of total phenols in the malted barley prior to distillation, expressed in parts per million.

A year older, the American oak cask matured spirit is beguilingly refined and well integrated as reasoned tasters confirm. Massive peat + Bruichladdich elegance = awesome spirit

Some industry critics and others have bleated about the methodology of analysis employed to measure such things as peating levels. All our figures are, and have always been, HPLC – the industry norm.

“Scientific analysis by HPLC of the latest bottling of Octomore at bottling shows a peating level of 77.5 ppm – at least 5 times more peaty than any other standard whisky bottling. This astonishing figure, having been reduced after distillation and over time, corresponds to an initial peating level in the malted barley, the usual peating comparison figure, of at least 140 ppm.

As the T & T laboratory analyst said: “this is the highest peating level we have seen – by miles.”

Another slice of Octomore anyone?”

Is somebody pouring oil somewhere here?

[…] מעניין גם לערוך טעימה ראש בראש כמו שעשו בבלוג הזה, מי מרים את […]

Romain Bossut says:

I had Ardbeg Supernova twice this year, once on a trip to Islay and another time in a pub (The Bow bar in Edinburgh, I warmly recommend you this place).
I understand why they did not fill the tank of the small fast car with it, if they did, the car would have just blown up in a supernova of peat and smoke.

But Supernova, unlike the Octomore, it is not only a fancy market-engineered “look-at-me-i-am-a-peaty-beast-in-a-shampoo-bottle !!!”. this is plain and genuine Ardbeg reaching all its potential.
It is strongly backed up with rich and complex flavours. While drinking it, you wonder how just malt, water, time, and skills could combine in such an inspiring and balanced drink.

But beware, this is not your everyday whisky, drink with care, or your brain will turn into a big pile of peat…

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