Showing posts with label Ardbeg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ardbeg. Show all posts

Monday, July 26, 2021

Ardbeg An Oa Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


As I peruse my whiskey library, deciding on what to sip on, I'm sometimes stunned with what I have that I've not yet reviewed, especially as it pertains to my Scotches. And, from that, especially when it comes to anything Ardbeg

Full disclosure:  I am an Ardbeg fanboy. It doesn't mean I love everything out of that distillery, but it does mean given the choice between an unknown Ardbeg and an unknown pretty much anything else, I'm choosing the Ardbeg. I've experienced a loser or two (think Auriverdes). 

Today I've chosen one of the core Ardbeg expressions:  An Oa.  Pronounced an oh, it is named for the southernmost point on Islay, the Mull of Oa. Made from a mash of 100% malted barley from Port Ellen, it offers the typical Ardbeg 50-55 PPM level of peat, carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. An Oa is aged in former first-fill Bourbon barrels, PX sherry casks, and virgin, charred oak.  The vatting (or where the whisky from these various barrel types) happens in French oak. An Oa requires little effort to find and you can expect to lay down about $59.99 for a 750ml package.

"The water we use to produce Ardbeg comes from Loch Uigeadail, 3 miles up the hill behind the Distillery. The water flows down the hill and runs into Loch Airigh Nam Beist – from there the burn takes it to Charlie’s Dam at the Distillery and from there it is piped into the Mash House." - Ardbeg

Now that you know the background, it is time to #DrinkCurious and learn if this expression is worth the investment. For the record, I purchased this bottle from a Wisconsin retailer.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, An Oa presented as dull gold in color. It formed a medium-thick rim that created heavy, wavy legs that crashed back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  If you think Ardbeg and you expect a blast of peaty smoke in your face, you're going to be disappointed with An Oa. Instead, I found aromas of sweeter peat, light tar, coconut, peach, and vanilla. When I took the vapor into my mouth, all I could sense was stewed peaches. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel of An Oa was creamy.  The front of my palate picked out milk chocolate, tobacco leaf, and peanuts. As the liquid moved its way across my tongue, I tasted peach, nutmeg, and cinnamon on the middle, then a punch of dry oak, joined by tar, plum, ginger, and brine on the back.

Finish:  Medium in length, this is one of the shortest finishes out of Ardbeg that I can recall. There was smoke, but it was akin to roasted ancho chile pepper than anything else. The tar and dry oak remained, as did the plum, chocolate, and nutmeg. But, I also experienced clove right before everything fell off.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you were new to peated Islay scotch and curious about a toe-dipping point, An Oa would be a good choice. While it is heavily-peated, it isn't peat-heavy. The peat is subdued, the stronger notes come from wood. I didn't identify anything except possibly the plum that hinted at PX sherry casks, which is a shame, but overall this is a well-balanced, easy-to-drink whisky. At the same time, an experienced Islay lover won't find anything to complain about. When the price is considered, this is one of those slam-dunk Bottle ratings. 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.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

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.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Ardbeg #MonstersOfSmoke Tour Recap


Last week I told you about the #MonstersOfSmoke Tour that Ardbeg is putting on to celebrate Ardbeg Day, and highlight Wee Beastie and An Oa Single Malts. Well, on Saturday, I had a chance to check things out at its Menomonee Falls at Otto's Wine & Spirits venue.

First things first, you want to take part in this tour. To find a stop near you, head on over to the tour's official page. Tour dates on the north side of the Mason-Dixon line feature the Wee Beastie mega-truck and the south side has its twin An Oa truck. Tours run through mid-November, so there's plenty of time to get out and visit.

The Wee Beastie truck is above. I did get a peek inside, they had an amazing display of some lovelies...

As I wandered inside the store, I was greeted by these two nice Ardbeg ladies. They poured samples and handled the bottle engraving.

They also gave out some pretty cool Ardbeg swag. All you had to do was ask!

Once you decided which bottle of Ardbeg you wanted to bring home, that's when the engraving comes into play. Due to an amazing sale that Otto's ran during the event, I picked up a bottle of Ardbeg 10 for the stupid-low price of $42.88!  These sales are very common at Ardbeg events, so if nothing else, you have an opportunity to grab some amazing whiskies at a great price.

The engraving was quick and easy. The bottle is placed in a RayJet engraver. You can see my bottle on the left, the rest of the chamber is empty. But, they can do multiple engravings at once.

And then, voila!  It is done. As you can readily imagine, I had Whiskeyfellow engraved in mine.

Basically, they can do whatever you want as far as engraving goes. The only limitation is the number of characters... just look at these bottles just waiting to go home with someone (oh, yeah, that's Uigeadail on the left!).

In all, I had a great time. Social distancing is no longer required in Wisconsin, but the team is prepared if your area hasn't lifted restrictions. I put together some Facebook Live videos while I was there that you can feel free to peruse:

Let me know if you've been to one near you. I'd love to hear if your experience was similar. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Ardbeg Monsters of Smoke Tour is Coming to Greater Milwaukee


Today is Ardbeg Day! It is a day to celebrate all things Ardbeg. But, more exciting is what's happening this coming week in the greater Milwaukee area... Ardbeg's Monsters of Smoke Tour!

If you've never been to an Ardberg Day event, you have no idea what you're missing. Ardbeg puts on one hell of a show and everything is first-class. In the past, when I lived in Florida and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow worked at one of its premier liquor stores, I worked a few Ardbeg Day celebrations. The last for me was the release of Auriverdes in 2014. Since relocating to Wisconsin, these events have been unavailable.

And then, Ardbeg told me they were coming to Wisconsin!

The Monsters of Smoke Tour highlights Wee Beastie and An Oa. I reviewed Wee Beastie back in April. I'm a fan of An Oa (and am shocked that I've not reviewed it, I'll have to fix that). These are both excellent, affordable expressions out of this storied distillery. There are plenty of swag giveaways, bottle engravings, tastings, games, and augmented reality photo opportunities for visitors. You'll know you're at the right place when you see the two oversized all-terrain tactical vehicles named after the two whiskies.

The events last three hours, and you have to be at least 21 to participate. Best of all, they're free!

I'm slated to attend the event at Otto's Wine & Spirits in Menomonie Falls on Saturday, June 12th from 11am to 2pm. The address is N88 W15413 Main Street. Hit me up, I'd love to see you there!

If you can't make that event, here's the entire Milwaukee-land tour schedule:

  • June 10th, 11am to 2pm, Olsen's Piggly Wiggly, 6111 W Mequon Rd, Mequon
  • June 10th, 4pm to 7pm, Discount Liquor, 919 N Barstow St, Waukesha
  • June 11th, 11am to 2pm, Otto's, W63 N157 Washington Ave, Cedarberg
  • June 11th, 4pm to 7pm, Discount Liquor, 5031 W Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee
  • June 12th, 11am to 2pm at Otto's in Menomonee Falls
  • June 12th, 4pm to 7pm, Aman's Beer & Wine, 262110 W Loomis Rd, Wind Lake
  • June 13th, 11am to 2pm, Total Wine, 8700 W Sura Ave, Greenfield
  • June 13th, 4pm to 7pm, Total Wine, 17330 W Bluemound Rd, Brookfield

If you live elsewhere and want to see the entire Monsters of Smoke Tour, you can visit the tour's website. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Ardbeg Wee Beastie Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

The minimum age a whisky must have in order to be called Scotch is three years. I've seen a lot of labels, and not too many will offer a three-year age statement. 

If I called something The Ultimate, my guess is you'd expect it to be a premium product. How many of you would consider five years a premium whisky?

Now, wait just a darned minute, Whiskeyfellow! Aren't you the one who has said time and time again that age is just a number and an age statement is not an indicator of quality? Why, yes, yes I have.

Ardbeg is a name that is well-known by fans of Islay Scotch. Heavily-peated between 50 and 55 phenol parts per million (ppm), Ardbeg doesn't fool around. While Ardbeg is known for having no-age-statement whiskies (including one of my personal favorites, Corryvrecken), they're not known for bottling young whisky. But, today, I'm writing about a five-year single malt called Wee Beastie

Wee Beastie is the youngest expression Ardbeg has ever released and is the newest addition to its permanent lineup. Bottled at 47.4% ABV (or 94.8°), it is also the most affordable from the distillery at only $39.99. Like everything else Ardbeg releases, it is non-chill filtered. Wee Beastie was aged in both Bourbon and Olorosso Sherry casks.

"Young and intensely smoky, this is a dram untamed by age. Matured in ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, Wee Beastie is perfect for enjoying neat or as the mouth-watering main ingredient in a powerfully smoky cocktail." - Ardbeg

I purchased my bottle of Wee Beastie based on my long experience with Ardbeg. Prior to purchase, I'd never tasted it. But, it is time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this youngster is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Wee Beastie looked like the color of straw. It formed a medium ring with incredibly slow legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  This is typical Ardbeg, meaning the peat can be smelled from across the room. It was sweeter than many of what Ardbeg offers, somewhat comparable to An Oa. But, beyond that was something I've rarely encountered - smoked meats, and of that, both brisket and pastrami. It made me salivate. I also smelled apple and pear. When I sucked the aroma in my mouth, I could swear I tasted freshly-cut pine trees.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily with a medium body. The more I sipped, the oilier it became. On the front of my palate, I found apple, pear, and oak. There was also a dusting of cocoa powder. As it moved to the middle, it became briny with a hint of raisin (likely from the sherry) and dark chocolate. The back had flavors of sweet tobacco, barbeque sauce, and barrel char.

Finish:  Dry and chewy, the finish consisted of charred oak, pastrami, black pepper, dark chocolate, and brine. Originally the finish was medium-short but expanded to medium-long with additional swallows. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  It is difficult to see a bottle of Ardbeg at this price and ignore it, youthful or not. There are some distillers that have that sort of magical power, and I'm not talking hype. Wee Beastie doesn't disappoint with its smoky punch, character, and distinct mouthfeel. Not only do I think this was a good purchase, but I believe it is a steal. Wee Beastie is a slam-dunk Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ardbeg Drum Limited Release Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

Once a year, on Ardbeg Day, the Ardbeg Distillery releases something new and special.  I've been lucky enough to take part in hosting Ardbeg Day in South Florida for a couple of years and those events are a ton of fun. This past July, my wife and I were down in that neck of the woods again visiting our friends at Fine Spirits Wine & Liquor in Cooper City. As it turned out, they were hosting a tasting of Drum, the newest Ardbeg Day release. 

There are two different releases of Drum.  One is a Committee Release at 52% ABV and other is the Limited Release, which is 46% ABV.  I was able to explore the general release. Regardless, Drum is a very special and unique release from this Islay distillery because while it isn't unusual for them to age their whisky in ex-Bourbon barrels, they've never then taken that and aged it again in ex-Rum casks. Drum carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, and retails for about $110.00.

For the most part, I enjoy Ardbeg. There have been just a few "meh" releases that I've been very unimpressed with, particularly Auriverdes.  On the other hand, one of my favorite peated Scotches is Corryvrecken. As such, I'm coming into this review hoping to enjoy it but prepared for the worst. And that, of course, is all part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle.  Let's get at it, shall we?

In my glass, Drum appeared as clear and pale, producing a thin rim and very fast legs that dropped back to the pool. 

Aromas of peat hit my nostrils before I got anywhere near the glass. That's something almost required from Ardbeg and in fact, I'd be curious and perhaps concerned if that quality was missing. Once I was able to get beyond the peat, there was a briny quality. Typical Islay whisky, right?  When I inhaled through my lips, there was a strong banana flavor that rolled across my tongue.

The mouthfeel was thick and coating despite the thin rim and speedy legs. On the front, Drum was a mix of flowers and sweet pineapple.  Mid-palate offered dark chocolate from the malted barley and a bit of vanilla. On the back, it was peat, brine, and citrus.  For the peat to show up on the back instead of the front is, at least in my opinion, uncommon. 

A long smoky, briny finish left my hard palate tingly. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Before I get started on the rating, I want to give some insight as to what I observed during this Ardbeg event. Drum was a very polarizing whisky. I heard folks saying they loved it and others who were very disappointed. I think that's something very fair when a distillery comes out with something other than a me-too whisky. Ardbeg took a risk with Drum. I think it is obvious I found this one unique and I am in the camp of "loved it." Personally, I give it a Bottle rating and I'd happily purchase Drum.  If you've been following me long and our palates are fairly synched, buy it. However, because it is such a polarizing Scotch with a $110 price tag, I believe most folks should try Drum first and because of that, it will officially take a Bar rating.