Whereas the other three in this article make up the Ultimate Range, the Kelpie is a limited edition bottling created for Ardbeg Day 2017. It is named for the mythical Scottish shape-shifting water spirit which is said to take the form of a bull or horse to come onto land and terrorise those passing by. Legend has it that a farmer was almost dragged asunder by the bull, but overcame the creature and locked it in his barn. His daughter was later chased by a Kelpie 'horse' which was seeking to avenge its fellow creature. Flinging the barn doors open, she released the 'bull' which promptly departed back to the sea. Kelpie is, as you might have guessed, non-chill filtered and bottled at 46% ABV.
Appearance: Yellow gold
Nose: Without water: Very different from the others - salty seaweed is still there but drier. Dense plumes of peat smoke betray a note of black liquorice. There is, as the tasting notes say, a herbal note but I was unable to pin it down further than that.
With water: All the flavours of before but now with a vibrant and remarkable caramel sweetness coming through.
Taste: Without water: This just reminded me of Highland Toffee Bars - Specifically baking with my Aunty using them when I was young (I do love when a smell brings you back to a moment). Just before the peat smoke rushes in there is a chocolate/candy note towards the back of the palate. Slight peppery spice.
With water: Even more toffee with a cocoa sensation. The smoke is very much still there and very intense.
Finish: I got burnt toast as an immediate follow up which slowly and pleasingly transitioned into burnt toffee sweetness. As with all the others, the finish is very long.
Every one of these expressions is exceptional in its own right. Each is notably Ardbeg, encapsulating the core nose and palate of the 10, but each has its own distinct character. Peat smoke is dominant, which is not surprising given the Ardbeg is famed for being the peatiest Ardbeg whisky but the delicate sweetness plays beautifully as a tempering force. Even the salty seaweed notes in each are expressed differently.
On appearance I am blown away by the Uigedail - the sherry cask influence is stunning. As far as the nose and taste go, I am firmly in camp Corryvreckan. This was the first whisky that I nosed and got an immediate moment of 'oh yeah, that's popcorn.' For the finish it gets a bit more difficult, because each gives something so different. The Kelpie's burnt toast is like nothing else I've tasted and for that I love it. The Uigedail's long dance of smoky sweetness is distinctive and for me probably the most pleasing.
There isn't a bad dram here. When you are presented with only good choices it is difficult to pick a favourite. For an everyday whisky, nothing beats the 10 - the value of what you get in a bottle of 10 for the price is astounding and can stand up to many bottles 2 and 3 times its price. It is the Corryvreckan I find myself going back to and, indeed, is the one that I had to replace first. That probably tells you all you need to know about my opinion. The eagle-eyed among you may also have noticed the Kelpie is not on the bottles I want list on The Whisk(e)y Shelf.
As a side note, I have found myself looking at the Kintyre Express - a small ferry that goes from Northern Ireland to Port Ellen and offers a day trip to Ardbeg. Now just to clear a day.