I'm almost embarrassed to write this review. You see, Ardbeg Corryvreckan is probably my favorite, readily accessible, reasonably-priced, peated Single Malt Scotches. But, about two weeks ago, when I was at an Ardbeg Day Event celebration, I discovered I've never reviewed this whisky! I have no idea how that happened, but it is time to fix that oversight right now.
If you're unfamiliar with Ardbeg, that's one of the nine working distilleries on Islay (and if you've ever wondered how that's pronounced, say Eye-Lah). Founded in 1815 by John Macdougall, it was also the first Scottish distillery run by women (Margaret and Flora Macdougall). Sold in 1977 to Hiram Walker, Ardbeg was shuttered in 1981 and remained so until 1987 when it was purchased by Allied Lyons. Ardbeg was used as a source for blends instead of bottling its own. That didn't last long, as in 1991 it was shuttered again. Finally, in 1997, Glenmorangie purchased the distillery and resurrected it to its former glory.
So now you know about Ardbeg. What's a Corryvreckan? It is one of the largest permanent whirlpools (as in the ocean, not a tub) in the world and the largest in Europe. It located between the islands of Jura and Scarba in Scotland.
Ardbeg chose to name its peatiest core Scotch after the storied maelstrom. There have been others with stronger peated flavor, but they're all limited edition offerings.
Corryvreckan begins with a mash of 100% malted barley, with between 50 and 55 PPM of peatiness. It is then aged in former Bourbon barrels, some first-fill, and others more vintage, plus French oak barrels, rumored to be a mix of virgin wood and former wine casks. It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and bottled at 57.1% ABV (that's 114.2° for us Americans). It carries no age statement, and I'll explain later why that's important. You can expect to pay between $79.99 and $99.99 for a 750ml package.
What makes Corryvreckan special? I'll let my tasting notes explain that.
Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch is the color of golden honey. It presented a medium rim that formed long, wavy tears that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.
Nose: I smelled the smoky peat as it left the bottle and poured into the glass. As it sat for several minutes, it stuck around. Once I got the glass under my nose, aromas of toasted seaweed, brine, apple, pear, citrus, and French oak were evident. As I took the vapor into my mouth, pear was easy to pick out.
Palate: The mouthfeel was slick and silky. The peat on the front was sweeter than you'd guess from the nose. That was offset by the darkest of chocolate, and the two were bridged by cherry and plum. Mid-palate flavors included coffee, almond, and hickory-smoked meat. Yeah, that's an actual flavor. The back tasted of old leather, sweet tobacco, and clove.
Finish: The big finish was constructed of coffee, white pepper, leather, French oak, and that hickory-smoked meat that left my mouth and mind longing for more.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: As I stated at the beginning, this is probably my favorite, readily accessible Islay Scotch. That equals an obvious Bottle rating. But, why? It is amazingly complex from the nose to the finish. It has immense, bold flavors and drinks way under its stated proof. More importantly, it is one of the best explanations as to why an age statement is less important than many folks believe. This NAS whisky competes easily against its age-stated brethren, both within and outside of the Ardbeg family. If peated whisky is your jam, grab a bottle of Corryvreckan. You won't regret it. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.