Ardbeg Uigeadail Islay ScotchThe first time I tasted Islay’s “ultimate single malt,” Ardbeg Uigeadail, was at a party in Salt Lake sometime in the winter or fall, maybe Halloween. A friend brought me into the kitchen and furtively revealed a dark green bottle hidden under his jacket.

You need to try this, he said.

OK, I said.

I poured about an ounce. I recall being shocked by the power of it, an almost overwhelmingly smoky, briny, tar-covered spicy-hot experience. And I remember thinking, if this is typical of cask-strength Islay Scotch, well…I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

What I have learned over the years is that cask-strength whiskies (or whiskeys; your call) seem to shock me at first, then grow on me. Case in point: when I began getting into Scotch and put in my first order with a certain West Coast mail-order distributor, a bottle of Ardbeg made it into the case.

Now, the “Yoog” is something I bring out to celebrate the change of seasons, when the leaves are turning and the nights are dropping below freezing.

Tasting notes

I’ve never done reviews because I have no aptitude for classic tasting notes; I find them contrived and can’t bring myself to conjure same. But Uigeadail demands the drama of absurdly specific aromas. To me, it smells of cinnamon, vanilla, dried fruit, and herbs, mixed with creosote, smoke, and log pilings saturated in ocean spray—a bag of Christmas potpourri spilled on the dock of the Hyannis Steamship Authority. There’s a box of rubber bands and some sort of marine fuel, too. It tastes like pepper-crusted leather, ginger, and burnt cork dipped in caramel… crazy. Next to Uigeadail, I find Laphroaig 10 somewhat one-dimensional: all smoke and iodine without the dessert. You may disagree. It’s a free nation.

Price variation

$80. That’s what they want to charge you in Utah for a bottle, and near that in neighboring states. Crazy talk five years ago, but no-age-statement Scotch wasn’t really a thing then. Not so crazy now, with age statements going the way of the dodo, and honestly if someone told me I’d never find another bottle, I’d pay it, no question.

Luckily, you don’t have to, at least not today. You can score a bottle of Uigeadail from that same store in San Francisco for $55, although they don’t ship out of state anymore. For that price, though, it’s a criminally good deal. If you don’t like smoky, medicinal, spicy, powerful Scotch…who cares? Try it anyway; it might grow on you. And if it doesn’t there’s someone in your social circle who’ll be happy to drink it all, I promise you that.


Ardbeg Uigeadail (which the label says to pronounce OOG-ah-dal) is the loch from which the distillery draws its water. The Ardbeg distillery itself is in Port Ellen on Islay, the source of peaty Scotches, and you can look it up if you want more history. Islay is pronounced EYE-lah, by the way. I think pronouncing Islay correctly is important if you like Islay Scotch, but probably not very important otherwise.