As a lead up to the Ardbeg Day release this year, we were able to try a lineup of past whiskies that have been released in the past few years. Included in these was Ardbeg An Oa, the last addition to the lineup from Ardbeg in quite awhile.
But why add something? A lot of whisky nerds agree they love Ardbeg 10, Uigeadail, and Corryvreckan. So much so that some wonder why not just stick to those, and therein we have the downside to having good releases.
However a few years ago Ardbeg Dark Cove came out. As many people know, the special Ardbeg Day releases are meant to be interesting, creative whiskies. Not all of them are home runs, though some are very much beloved. Dark Cove ended up one such beloved release and the question of what can Ardbeg do to keep up the hype.
Enter Ardbeg An Oa. Where Dark Cove was a mixture of ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and ex-Bourbon casks, An Oa differs in fewer sherry casks were used and they were married in ex-French oak vatting casks. From what I remember. I may have been drinking that day.
I enjoyed Dark Cove a lot. Will I enjoy Ardbeg An Oa? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: $127.95 CAD at the LCBO
Colour: 7.5Y 9/3
Nose: Caramel, smoke, brine, sugar cereal, peanut/almond/cherry
In a different moment for Ardbeg, more caramel than smoke. Well, different than the other standard offerings, not different than Dark Cove. However, I felt that Dark Cove had more of a molasses and toffee note, whereas An Oa is closer to caramel and a sugar cereal element. And more nuttiness.
They are very similar. Some would say almost the same nose, yet having them side by side, there are minor differences. The smoke here is rawer, there’s more cereal than herbal, and the nut aspect sticks out, like dating cis men versus cis women.
Taste: Smoke, raisin, sage, dry apple, pepperettes, anise
We have some smoke, raisin, and dry herbal aspects. It keeps opening up with a little bit of fruit, some heat, and some butter.
Very similar to Dark Cove. Less hot too. I can see why some prefer it over the older one. I find it a little tamer than I’d like, so Dark Cove wins there for me. By a hair. Or a tamed hare, if you will.
Finish: Butter, cereal, peat, smoked apple, sage
Finish is quite buttery, with more cereal taking stage than I’d like. There’s a school of thought in plays that all plays should include dance and song in them, and then there’s my view. I feel like the cereal here is song and dance.
That said, it has this taste of smoked apple, which is similar to a cider place we go to nearby, and holy damn does that taste great.
In comparing it to Dark Cove, I ended up with similar herbal notes, more butter, and less developed notes here. And the aforementioned unwanted cereal.
Conclusion: By jove, they’ve made something that should be added to the lineup! Colour me surprised and then apologize for colouring me because that’s both probably offensive and most likely going to take too long for me to wash off.
This is as close to a standard release of Dark Cove that I think they could make. It improves in some areas, rounding out some rough notes. That said, it is missing some of the development that I assume came from older whiskies. I did prefer Dark Cove a bit more over this. But if this is what’s needed to have a regular release, then those are minor. This is a good solid buy.
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