Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Ardbeg Dark Cove, Committee Release

As I enjoy drinking whisky, I was excited to hear news of Ardbeg Dark Cove and very happy to buy a bottle to split with my friends and drink! 

However, I thought I’d put it up against something challenging.

Ardbeg 1974, Cask 2751, 51.8% A⊕⊕

Bottled 20.09.2005, 141 bottles, 31 years old. Thanks - a LOT - to Andy Purslow for this monster!

abgob.1974v4Nose - Alien, sweet, sweet Islay. Beautifully elegant with green apple, birthday candles and buttercream icing. Refreshers and Branston pickle. Charred wood, varnished, pencil cases and the library in a stately home. This is the oldest Ardbeg I've ever nosed…. old Islay is so intense, weird but perfectly balanced.

Body - Light, dreamily sweet and dusty, with perfect Sauternes and soft fruit. Leather and cut black cherries. Hot dust and spice and blackcurrants as you hold it in the mouth, but the most epic development through that Islay funk after swallowing. Like smoking a cigar in the afterlife.

Finish - Incredibly long, delicate and beautifully poised. Minutes long. Wonderful oils right to the end.

At first I thought this was "just" old Islay but it's so perfectly balanced, complex, with an enormous finish and exceedingly nice to drink that it transcends that. Awesome (literally!).

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist, 1990, 46% A⊕+

Bottled 02/2007 for USA. I think this was from Andy too… not sure but thanks anyway!

abgob.1990v1Nose - More sweet refreshers, I would have called this for a stately Caol Ila. More refreshing than the 74 and less "weird", certainly more coastal, great funk to this one. With time, bandages, but very sweetshop. Rather awesome.

Body - Soft, creamy vanilla and more sweetshop. There's an element of funk here too, and some tannins. Stewed tea and fence panel. Structurally sound.

Finish - Zesty and dusty, tannins and fruit. Delicious.

Hard to argue with something this good. Like early 90s thrash metal, they don't make them like this anymore… or do they?

Ardbeg Dark Cove, Committee release, 55% A+

20160322_140520Nose - Unmistakably younger. Lots of sweet wine cask, fruit, coastal peat and cakey vanilla. Ozone and sherry, buttercream icing, a touch of sherbet dibdabs about it. Sweet, young and fruity. White wine and more sherbet with water, with (and this is a new one for me) pea pods.

Body - Sweet lollypops, nutty sherry and massive retronasal peat. Fresh green apple and gunpowder, popcorn and neat mango squash. Maybe comparing it to a 31 year old was slightly unfair, this is obviously a different beast, a lot younger… while it's not quite so orgasmic as that it is delicious to drink. Older, now you come to mention it, with water. More cereal though.

Finish - Very long, tobacco and mango funk. Oil based varnish, almost greasy. Cashew nuts at the end. And then polos with water - WTAF?

So - not particularly dark, but rather good I think. Very good even. Good drinking, lots of complexity and confidence with its youth, I perhaps have done it a slight disservice tonight but I will try it again to compare it to the lower strength Ardbeg day release (assuming that's what's going to happen again) when this will also have had a bit of air.

I’m yet to try a bad OB Ardbeg.


  1. Ben, you are not helping me giving almost everything you taste an A of some kind. I had to look a long way back to find a B. I need more differentiation in your scoring or I will not be able to pick one to buy. My money is more important to me than that.

    1. There are 7 grades within "A", try to think of them as A=75%, A+=80%, etc and maybe that will help you. Or you could read all the text I write! Whisky preferences are a matter of taste, and you need to read the content rather than look at the score to see if you want to buy it

    2. Thanks for the reply Ben. Of course you are correct. :) My real problem is my palate. I find I don't like most whiskies that are less than 85 on the 100 scale and it seems rare that a $50-$65 bottle is real good for me which would probably be scored 89+. If I'm going to spend much more I feel like I have to know I will like it first. Last year my favorite for the money was Benromach 10. My absolute favorite (2 year journey so far) is Talisker 18, though of course that costs much more. I want to try Highland Park 18 but am afraid to spend the money lest I find it lacking. Seems like for my palate at least I need to go for Islay drams which can be younger (implys cheaper) and still have depth of flavor as well as a great mouthfeel and a nice long finish. So far really like Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Kilchoman. Promise to read. Thanks again.

    3. Sorry your comment was waiting moderation, and I wasn't notified. Living with a whole 70cl bottle of whisky is tough if you don't like it, which is why I quite like 50cl bottles and why drinks by the dram (at master of malt) is so brilliant.

      Laph quarter cask, Ardbeg core bottlings, Kilchoman 100% Islay batches are all dependable, Springbank 15, 12CS too for that slightly peated hit. Use that for your main drinking and season it with samples, and then pick what works for you!

    4. No worries on the timing Ben. Thanks for the reply. The Springbank 10 is one I have tried and liked, so I have my eye on the 12 CS maybe next as far as Campeltown goes. Just opened the Compass Box Flaming Heart. An awesome dram! Right up there with the Talisker 18 for me. I live in the US and have not tried mail order as yet. Each state has different rules as far as having whisky shipped to residential addresses. Have not tried drinks by the dram yet but it sounds good. I'll look into it. Cheers!