Distiller: Ardbeg. Region: Islay. ABV: 57.1%. No age statement. Price: $75-80.
There have been plenty of reasons to complain about the no-age-statement trend in Scotch whisky (and all whisk(e)y) in recent years. But there are undisputed NAS gems out there. Ardbeg, ever the overachiever, has two of them.
I’ll admit it: I’m so partial to the Uigeadail that I’d underestimated the Corryvreckan for some time. But making my way through a Christmas bottle over the last few months has changed my mind for good.
What sets the Corry apart for me is the pronounced but wonderfully integrated wine cask influence–the original 2009 release, at least, was matured partially in Burgundy casks. (I’ve been particularly attuned to this because of the variety of excellent wine-cask-finished single malts I’ve been sampling recently, from Springbank, Bruichladdich, and others.)
The wine cask is there on the nose as a sort of fermented currant note–dark, dense, winey fruit. Sweet and savory notes mingle: buttered popcorn, candied lemon, plenty of nuances in between.
The palate has sweet barbecued pork. Smoked bacon. Strong peat but not brash or challenging–more restrained and mature than the Ardbeg 10 in that regard.
The finish has key lime pie with a buttery, toasty graham cracker crust. In short, the dram start to finish has the range, variety, and dramatic arc of a great meal.
It’s interesting how Ardbeg has actually put itself in a bit of a bind with the quality of the Corry and the Oogie. Their annual limited releases are often excellent–this year’s Kelpie, last year’s Dark Cove, and the 2009 and 2010 Supernova are great examples–but they’re also NASes, and always pricier than the Oogie and Corry, while not always being clearly better.
Luxury problems, as they say. I’m happy with a glass of any of them.
Cheers, friends! – BO