Review: Ardbeg Supernova 2014 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

let’s begin

Following wildly well received editions in 2009 and 2010, Ardbeg’s peatiest whisky to date returns for Ardbeg Supernova 2014.

Ardbeg never fails to get the excitement bubbling, and none moreso than when I read the title to their latest press release whilst on leave; Ground Control to Major Dram.

The press release reads:

“Supernova will commemorate the return of Ardbeg’s pioneering research experiment in space, the launch coinciding with the date a vial of Ardbeg spirit will re-enter the earth’s atmosphere after nearly three years orbiting the globe aboard the International Space Station.   Having blasted off from earth in 2011, the spirit, from the island of Islay in Scotland, has been on a galactic journey – one destined to change the whisky industry forever!  Specially designed for the mission, a vial of Ardbeg has been orbiting the earth’s atmosphere at 17,227 miles per hour, 15 times a day for 1,045 days.

At the same time an identical vial has had a slightly easier journey, having been housed at Warehouse 3 at the Ardbeg Distillery on Islay to act as a control sample.

Now the two samples will be reunited in a laboratory in Houston, Texas to allow scientists to decipher the impact gravity has on the whisky maturation process. Scientists will compare the two samples, examining the interaction of the Ardbeg-crafted molecules with charred oak to document what differences occur between earth whisky and space whisky.”

I was fortunate enough to be sent a review sample to see if the latest edition was as out of this world as its illustrious predecessors.

The nose is simply fantastic and very powerful, I know this as I accidentally spilt about 5 drops on the sofa as I hurriedly opened the packet the sample was contained in. The scent of the whisky was still evident in the air about three hours later when my wife came home, we both love it!

1Finally getting past the inevitable sadness of spillage, I started nosing.

The nose was intriguing, it had elements of saltiness, maybe maritime at a push, smoked cheese and a sweet smokiness once you spend time with it.

The visual itself is lovely, like a burning star (or maybe the sun on reflection) shooting across the sky as you enjoy cured meats and strong cheese on a terrace in Tuscany.

On first sip, the 55% ABV gives a gentle slap in the face and reminds you that you are here and drinking the Ardbeg Supernova 2014 and it is here to transport you to a place barely imaginable, let alone experienced.

Lots of pepper, spice, maybe chilli chocolate that grows as you swirl it around, finishing with length to give an all round enjoyable whisky experience that delivers on the hype of its predecessors but adds a level of sophistication where previous editions may have had a bit more energy and a rough and readiness about them

What did the creator of this whisky odyssey have to say?

Considered one of the leading innovators in the whisky industry, and a chemist by trade, Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation commented:

“Ardbeg is known for taking risks in its development of some of the most coveted whiskies in the world, so it is fitting that it is the first whisky ever in space. We are now close to the end, close to finding answers to something previously unknown which is truly exciting.

“This is one small step for man, but one giant leap for whisky and the team hope to uncover how flavours develop in different gravitational conditions – findings which could revolutionise the whisky-making process.”

Bottled at 55% ABV, Supernova 2014 is available globally from 12 September. It will be available to purchase at



Colour: Bright, bright gold  

Nose: The first sniff instantly transports you into orbit, with the intense zestiness of smoked lemons and pears, lemongrass and pine needles, embedded in a deep, resinous, sticky waxy base. This initial, tangy vapour trails off, bringing in the tranquil whiff of salty, briny, seaweed-covered shores.

More solid scents are then discovered, with the mineral-like tone of flint and granite, sooty smoke and a fresh, metholic stab of peppermint. Water droplets triggers a metaphorical smoke bomb, with dense layers of billowing, aromatic smoke, peaty earth, and the vegetal sharpness of heather root. Finally, a curious, sharp-sweet burst of delicious applewood smoked cheese is encountered.  

Taste: With the first sip, a gentle warmth ignites and builds until the sensation becomes distinctively peppery, spicy and electric. The onslaught of flavour comes in at warp speed as powerful peppermint, antiseptic lozenges and other familiar, medicinal tones orbit around Supernova’s immense, peaty core.

Dark, dark birch tar intermingles with spicy-sweet chilli flavoured chocolate, while the entire mouth and palate are coated in luscious linseed oil.  

Finish: The velocity increases, until it is almost off the scale, with rich flavours of tar, creosote, briar wood, spicy tobacco and liquorice root. The aftertaste simply disappears into infinity, such is its length…

Tags: ArdbegArdbeg Supernova 2014Limited EditionsReviews
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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