Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Distillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 57.1%

When it was announced that the 1990 release of Airigh Nam Beist would be the last in the series, a collective sigh went through the Ardbeg fanbase. But of course every end leaves room for new beginnings, and fortunately Ardbeg chose to release Corryvreckan as a replacement. It’s safe to say the new bottling has been a great success, enjoying huge popularity and squarely earning its place in Ardbeg’s Ultimate Range.

Corryvreckan displays all of Ardbeg’s usual peaty, coastal characteristics, but with an amped up alcohol content. Aged primarily in bourbon barrels, there’s also some virgin French oak thrown into the mix (and even Burgundy casks it is rumoured), lending a spicy freshness to Corryvreckan. The result is an intense, eye-watering dram that’s a real feast for the senses.

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Ardbeg An Oa

Ardbeg An Oa whisky review 01Distillery: Ardbeg
Region
: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.6%

With LVMH’s PR machine grinding at full gear, much has already been written about Ardbeg An Oa since its unveiling in August 2017. This new whisky is named after the Mull of Oa, a rocky peninsula in the southwest of Islay that shelters Ardbeg distillery from the Atlantic Ocean’s often stormy conditions. An Oa is meant to reflect these calmer waters by offering a mellower version of Ardbeg, in what amounts to a nice bit of meteorological marketing. The whisky comes in some stylish packaging, and is a vatting of several different casks, including new charred oak, PX sherry casks and first-fill bourbon barrels. I have been eagerly awaiting this release, but have also taken care to manage my expectations. The other members of the Ultimate Range are an extremely hard act to follow, so let’s hope Ardbeg An Oa doesn’t disappoint.

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Ardbeg Uigeadail

Ardbeg Uigeadail ReviewDistillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 54.2%

Named after the loch that forms the distillery’s water source, Ardbeg Uigeadail is a vatting that marries younger, traditional Ardbeg spirit with older whiskies from casks that previously held sherry. Launched in 2003 at a time when no age statement bottlings were still a relative rarity, Uigeadail has certainly set a shining example for all NAS whiskies that have followed since. Although so far nothing comes close to the otherworldly Ardbeg Galileo, Uigeadail is definitely my favourite of the core range. And the 120.000+ members of the Ardbeg Committee agree: they have chosen Uigeadail as their most beloved Ardbeg. For me, Uigeadail has long been the go-to dram for finishing off a flight of smoky whiskies (be they Ardbegs or not). Having said that, it’s of course also great on its own, and I consider it to be the ultimate nightcap. However you drink it, Ardbeg Uigeadail is a phenomenal whisky and it’s well worth keeping a bottle in your collection.

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Age Your Own Whisky – Glen Elgin Islay Finish

Age Your Own Whisky - Glen Elgin Islay Finish 01

After the Ardbeg Port Finish it was time for something new. Clearly, Ardbeg is a heavily peated whisky with a distinctive smoky character, and I’m counting on the fact that my cask will have retained some of these flavours for the next batch. The idea is to take an unpeated whisky, and impart it with some smokiness purely through the maturation process. This isn’t necessarily a new concept, as whiskies such as Glenfiddich Caoran, Scapa Glansa or Balvenie Islay Cask have all been finished in casks that previously held peated whiskies.

For this batch I have chosen Glen Elgin 12 year old. It’s a soft Speyside which I happen to like very much – partially because it’s the first malt whisky I ever drank – but also because it has quite a distinctive flavour profile. I selected a Speyside for this batch, since I think a whisky like this will be easier to ‘tame’. I reckon the peat influence from my cask will be quite subtle, which is why I need a soft whisky that easily takes on new flavours.

As I described previously, the small size of my cask means that the maturation process is incredibly quick. After continuously taking samples (not a chore at all 🙂 ), I decided that after just two weeks, my Glen Elgin Islay Finish was ready.

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Islay Tasting

islay-tasting-01

For a long time now I had been intending to organise a tasting that includes each of Islay’s eight distilleries, and tonight the time had finally come. Known for its distinctively peaty, smoky whiskies, the island of Islay is often considered a whisky region in its own right. This is no wonder, as the island lives and breathes whisky, providing the lifeblood for a population of just over 3000 people. Peat bogs are ubiquitous, the salty sea breeze can be felt anywhere and the sight of a distillery’s chimney is never far away.

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Ardbeg 10 year old

Ardbeg 10 year old reviewDistillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: 10 years old
abv: 46%

Ardbeg celebrated its 200th birthday in 2015, but it hasn’t always looked like the distillery would make it that far. Although Ardbeg produced 1 million litres of spirit as early as the 1880s, output dwindled to next to nothing a century later. A change in ownership was meant to turn Ardbeg’s fortunes around, but the distillery ended up closing its doors for a second time in 1991. It remained mothballed until as recently as 1997, when it was acquired by The Glenmorangie Company. Since then, Ardbeg has seen a true revival that has propelled it into its current standing as one of Islay’s favourite malts. Ardbeg enjoys a loyal fan base (not least through the Ardbeg Committee members), allowing it to experiment with limited editions, some of which have been excellent. Nevertheless, as one distillery employee told me: “Ardbeg 10 year old is so good that we will always struggle to make a better whisky than our standard expression”.

Peated to 54 ppm, Ardbeg offers the smokiest spirit on Islay (not taking into account exceptions such as Octomore). Despite this, its whisky is deliciously smooth. This is largely due to a copper purifier attached to the still, a rarity in whisky making. Without it, Ardbeg is said to be undrinkable; this is certainly not the case today. Enjoy this peatiest of Islay malts!

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