whisky

Review: Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release Single Malt Whisky

Ardbeg’s Grooves is the company’s limited edition release for 2018.  Though the 60’s flower power is in full effect in name and label, Grooves is named after the grooves left in the barrels staves after heavy charring.  Those barrels, ex-wine casks, only make up a portion of this expression.  The rest, I’m assuming, is made up of ex-bourbon casks.

We’re looking at the Committee Release, which is a higher proof version available in much smaller numbers compared to the general release.  In this case, Grooves comes in at 51.6% ABV and is available in very limited numbers for about $120.

On the nose, familiar Ardbeg characteristics are here in full force: smoked meat, earthiness, and some iodine.  Notes from the wine casks join in the melody, providing a sweet and fruity counterbalance.  The palate follows the nose, with sun-baked tobacco leaf and campfire smoke hitting your tongue first, followed by a wave of sweet berries, stewed apricots, spice and a slightly savory character.  Every now and then I can pick out a tinge of vanilla.  A bit more spice and toasted oak appear on the back palate and into the long, warming finish.  Hints of coal, candied ginger, fruity sweetness and burnt orange peel linger.

Fruit and smoke is one of my favorite flavor combinations in whisky, and Ardbeg Grooves fits right in. Though I really enjoy it, my wife didn’t, and prefers the more straightforward profile of Ardbeg 10-year-old. The standard release of Grooves should be hitting shelves soon. While I’d suggest scooping up that expression, if you happen to see the Committee Release, don’t hesitate. You’ll certainly be taken on a groovy journey. 9/10

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Review: Ardbeg Corryvreckan Single Malt Whisky

At the top of Ardbeg’s core range sits the high proof Corryvreckan, named after the large whirlpool north of Islay. There’s not a lot of info available on this expression, but it is rumored that Corryvreckan is a blend of first fill and refill ex-bourbon and French oak casks. The whisky is a big one, bottled at a hearty 57.1% ABV.

On the nose, hints of sweet smoke hit first, followed closely by freshly ground black pepper, baking spice, and some tropical fruit (grilled pineapple). Taste-wise, Corryvreckan is very rich. Honey kicks things off, followed by cocoa and smoked meat. A smoked, black peppercorn-rubbed brisket, to be exact! Grilled pineapple adds a little sweetness and crispness. Cloves and a little leather show up on the back-palate. The finish is long, sweet and smoky.

Corryvreckan is damn satisfying! It’s an intense drinking experience. The only comparison I can make is its similarity to Booker’s bourbon in terms of intensity of delivery. Rich, complex, and about as balanced as an Ardbeg can be. Recommended! 9/10

Ardbeg.com

Thanks to Ardbeg for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Ardbeg An Oa Single Malt Whiskey

Ardbeg extended their core range of single malts with An Oa, named after the Mull of Oa. This NAS expression sits in front of Ardbeg 10-year-old in said range. Why add another expression at all? Let me answer my question with another – what’s wrong with more Ardbeg?

An Oa is a vatting of different cask types, including PX sherry casks, new charred oak, and first-fill bourbon casks. The whiskies marry for a while in a French oak vat. Looking good so far. Making things better is the fact that An Oa is non chill-filtered and bottled at 46.6% ABV.

The sherry casks add a rich fruitiness to the nose, with both tropical and dried fruit. Make no mistake, however… this is Ardbeg through and through. The BBQ smoke and earthy peat notes are there in a slightly less in-your-face manner than the 10-year-old expression. A bit of oak and vanilla round out the nose. On the palate, rich salted toffee and smoked meat dominate, complemented by the light fruitiness found in the nose… again, courtesy of those sherry casks. There’s some spice and oak on the back palate. The body is rather rich thanks to the higher ABV. The finish isn’t as long as I’d like, but it’s nice nonetheless, leaving lingering behind hints of smoke, black pepper and semi-sweet pineapple juice.

An Oa is a pleasant drink. Calling it “Ardbeg Light” doesn’t do the whisky justice, but the description isn’t entirely untrue. Those looking for a medium peated whisky might find what they’re looking for in An Oa. I appreciate what the different cask types bring here, with, dare I say, more character than the 10-year-old expression. That’s my two cents. 8/10

Ardbeg.com

Thanks to Ardbeg for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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