Tag Archives: ardbeg

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Review

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.

The first is the Uigeadail, about which more here. The other is the Corryvreckan (so named for a certain Scottish whirlpool).

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

Buy Ardbeg whisky online at Mash + Grape

Ardbeg Kelpie Review

Distiller: Ardbeg. Region: Islay. ABV: 51.7%. No age statement. Price: $125-160.

I have a true weakness for very few things. The filmography of Gerard Butler is one. And while I’ll sing the praises of London Has Fallen every day, my Butler love pales in comparison to my feelings for Ardbeg.

Unlike Mr. Butler, Ardbeg has yet to disappoint me. I adored last year’s Dark Cove Committee release, but I think this year’s might be even better. Named after the fabled Scottish water spirit, the Ardbeg Kelpie is a wholly different experience than any I’ve had with the Islay distillery before, possibly due to the use of Russian virgin oak (from the republic of Adygea) in the maturation process–along with Ardbeg’s usual ex-bourbon barrels.

Take the nose, to start. It’s got a hint of a slowly burning Cuban cigar. Muted espresso tones, faint brine, and a whisper of citrus. The palate has a base of slow drip coffee, but atop it roasted lemons, dark chocolate, and an oily BBQ residue dance along the tongue. It’s an ambitious combination of elements and while any one would be too much, the interplay here is utterly exquisite.

And my whisky gods, the finish. It’s gentle and undulating and the citrus starts it off, but the familiar Ardbeg peat fire takes over and guides you home.

Friends, this one is a masterpiece and I’m damn glad to have tried it. Watch this space for an interview with distillery manager, Mickey Heads, coming soon. In the meantime, if you have an Ardbeg Kelpie review of your own to share, please do.

Here’s to art, real art, in our whisky. Cheers! – TM

Buy Ardbeg Kelpie online at Mash + Grape

Ardbeg graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Ardbeg Blasda Review

Distiller: Ardbeg. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Region: Islay.

We’ve seen Ardbeg turn up the peat in their series of Supernova releases, but they did just the opposite with the Blasda–a minimally peated (8ppm) release of 18,000 bottles.

Some Ardbeg disciples would call it sacrilege, but I embraced the opportunity to taste what those stills on the southern coast of Islay could distill without ultra-peated barley.

There’s still light smoke on the nose, mixed with interesting sweet notes. The palate shows some youth, and has a citrus base with light sweet candied flavors and slight sea salt. Subtle smoke is on the finish.

It’s definitely not your typical Arbeg, but I support distillers breaking their own mold sometimes. Cheers! – JTR

Buy Ardbeg whisky online at Mash + Grape

Ardbeg Uigeadail Review

Distiller: Ardbeg. ABV: 54.2%. No age statement. Price: $65-85.

“Uigeadail” is said to mean “dark and mysterious”– though I think it should mean “no-brainer.”

This core release from Ardbeg (pron. OO-ga-dal) is an unbeatable one-bottle argument that no-age-statement whiskies can be not just as good as their age-statement cousins, but flat-out brilliant. (If you wanted a two-bottle argument, I’d add the Aberlour A’Bunadh.)

Like the beloved Lagavulin 16, the Oogie wraps peat, sherry, and bourbon influences into a rich, velvety whole. But unlike the Lag, it’s cask strength. Perfectly drinkable without a drop of water. Bright and dense, intense and rounded, with citrus and baked goods and cocoa and more.

It’s also a great value at $65-85. There’ve been some fine annual special releases from Ardbeg, but I’m hard pressed to think of many I’ve liked more than the Oogie.

Hope all your drams are as good as this one, friends! Slàinte! – BO

Buy Ardbeg whisky online at Mash + Grape

Ardbeg Dark Cove Review

Distiller: Ardbeg. Region: Islay. ABV: 55%. Age: no age statement. Price: $110-125.

Some St. Patrick’s Days are better than others. This past one was more like Christmas. I was invited to lunch with Brendan McCarron, Head of Maturing Whisky Stocks at Ardbeg and Glenmorangie, to sample Ardbeg’s 2016 Committee Release, the Dark Cove. The 55% ABV release I sampled is available only to Committee members, though this whisky will be released more widely at a lower ABV in conjunction with Ardbeg Night on May 28th. The distillery bills the Dark Cove as the “darkest” Ardbeg ever, and advises to “take it and hide it well,” invoking the Islay region’s smuggling past.

The darkness comes from finishing in fairly rare black sherry casks, which adds notes on the nose and palate I’ve never before found in an Ardbeg. The Committee Release comes on strong at 55% ABV, but has complexity and subtlety in equal measure. On the nose, you immediately get a hint of fruit, a fair amount of oak and dark chocolate, along with a lovely whisper of grilled meats. Surprisingly for an Ardbeg, there’s not a ton of smoke in the nose. The smoke comes in on the palate, in the form of a dying barbecue, something akin to slowly roasted pork. The palate also has raisins, spice, and a slight brininess. The finish is quite sustained.

When you add water, bringing the Committee Release closer to the lower-ABV May 2016 release, the Dark Cove gets even more interesting. With only a few drops, there’s far more smoke on the nose, along with leather and tobacco. The palate now has much more sherry and spice, but also delightful notes of baked pears and apricots. And the finish remains superb.

I told Brendan that this is quite possibly my favorite Ardbeg yet. If you can find a bottle–either now or in May–don’t hesitate. After all, as the drink teaches us, boldness is rewarded.

Look for our interview with Brendan soon! – TM

Buy Ardbeg whisky online at Mash + Grape

Ardbeg Supernova 2010 Review

Distiller: Ardbeg. 60.1% ABV. NAS. Region: Islay.

Sweet sweet Supernova 2010. We hardly knew ye. Endearing to think this was the peatiest thing on Earth in those innocent pre-Octomore days.

Hadn’t tasted this in at least a year — really trying to make what’s left of the bottle last — but boy, does it hold up. That familiar phenolic blast up front, brine, but honeyed, and almost a delicacy to the flood of sweet smoke that follows, like a hookah with a pine-log campfire inside.

The follow-up 2014 edition was a letdown for many, but I’ll miss this one when it’s gone. – BO

Buy Ardbeg whisky online at Mash + Grape