Thanks to /u/buddy_dosser for the sample via /r/ScotchSwap on reddit
So every year around the time of the Feis Ile, Ardbeg release a limited edition whisky, usually with some kind of interesting finish. There are actually two versions each year, a batch strength committee (Ardbeg’s fanclub) release which is usually for sale at the distillery and to committee members which has a cream coloured label, and a regular edition usually at a lower ABV and a black label which is more widely available. Lucky me as this sample is the committe release.
I’ve tried quite a few of these special releases, most of them (four or five) at a really awesome tasting put on a few years back by Gal of Whisky Israel and a few others here and there, my favourite being the Ardbog, but I noticed a bit of a downward spiral culminating in 2015’s perpetuum where they were being eclipsed by the 10 year old standard expression (though that is a fantastic whisky in its own right).
This is the release from last year, titled Dark Cove becuase it was finished in “dark sherry” casks. I’m not exactly sure what’s meant by “dark sherry” as it could mean several kinds, usually the sweeter ones though. Dark was kind of the theme with this and it was described in all the marketing stuff as the “darkest Ardbeg yet”. It’s actually lighter in colour than some of the Uigeadails I’ve tried, so must mean the flavour, let’s try.
Aged 3 years*. 55% ABV. Aged in refill bourbon casks and finished in dark sherry casks. No colourant added, non-chill filtered and bottled at batch strength.
* for lack of age statement.
Nose: Sweet peat. Braised meat in sweet sauce. Wood smoke. Nutty sherry wood. Dunnage. Dark chocolate. Floral coffee. Some drark fruits. Dark maple syrup. Currant raisins.
Palate: Very sweet and meaty at first with some wood smoke and salty peat. Leads into some sea salt, maybe salted chocolate, and wet stones and then into some sweet dark fruits, musty sherry and earthy peat.
Finish: Long. Quite dry on the palate. A little medicinal flair which mellows into menthol, wine gums, sherry wood and chemical smoke.
Would I buy this: No.
Would I order this in a bar: Yes
Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes
A big improvement over some of the last few releases, but Ardbeg itself is quite a sweet malt and the sherry here adds even more sweetness which might be what some are looking for but just not to my tastes, still a nice piece of work and worthy of the fanfare.