...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release

I've received suggestions to stop reviewing LVMH's special releases because even the most negative review only keeps Lummy's latest bauble bouncing around the atmosphere. And yes, you've read the same line from me every time: Ardbeg ______ Special Release is not as good as any of the core releases. But some people are very nice to me and share pours from their bottles. And, like it or not, these unimaginative annual releases really are something that a good portion of the monied English-speaking single malt world knows of, and may like to read an independent review about before buying a bottle. If I push off this responsibility to someone else, I could be fairly accused of a feckless punt.

how do i know when the Ardblotter kicks in?
Let's dust off and update the old list:
Ardbeg Alligator - Rowrr!
Ardbeg Day - Almost as good as Oogy!
Ardbeg Galileo - Someone screwed up, right?
Ardbeg Ardbog - Not bad, but $110?
Ardbeg Auriverdes - Unmemorable
Ardbeg Perpetuum - No.
Ardbeg Dark Cove - Smells good, but it still loses to Oogy
Ardbeg Kelpie - Sour, bitter and hot. Oppressively poor.
Ardbeg Artein Alligator Grooves - ...

Distillery: Ardbeg
Ownership: Glenmorangie Plc (owned by LVMH)
Region: Islay
Product: Grooves
Age: NAS
Maturation: a mix of heavily-charred ex-wine casks and ex-bourbon casks
Limited bottling: yes?
Bottling year: 2018
Alcohol by Volume: 51.6%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(thank you to Jonathan M for the sample!)

Its groovy color is dark gold. The nose starts off with rubber, chlorine, fresh basil, orange oil and grape candy. Lots of rubber. Tennis ball can. Minor notes of smoked meats. With time, there's some cranberry juice and berry compote. The palate is much sootier and smokier. Small red berry notes scattered about. Dark chocolate, almond cookies, black peppercorns and a hint of tangy citrus candy. It gets sweeter and sweeter with time in the glass. Smoke, lime and sugar in the finish, sort of a smoky mojito? Slight cayenne pepper zip. Moderate length.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 3/4 tsp water per 30mL whisky
A peach, apricot and pear juice cocktail on the nose. Also cinnamon and cardamom. Less rubber and smoke. Salty air, dirty hay. Cat piss (for you oenophiles out there). Aside from some tart berry notes, the palate is reminiscent of the current Ardbeg Ten. A little bitter and oaky, with lots of soot. Grassy and sweet. Much different than the nose. It finishes with the grass and sugar. Bitter smoke and tart fruit. Much shorter.

One thing I noticed in the official descriptions of the product is that only some of whisky is from heavily charred red wine casks. The rest is from ex-bourbon casks. Tempering the big oak+wine with standard Ardbeg was a very good idea. This leads it away from getting too fugly, like the Galileo, and brings it closer to the regular Ardbeg style. Still, one can just get multiple bottles of the (better) Ten for the price of Grooves. And thus the annual release problem continues.

But, it isn't a bad product. The nose and palate seem to be from two different whiskies and they're both decent, though it's a bit too sugary for my palate. I prefer it diluted because water pushes the rubbery stuff away and awakens some better fruit notes. BUT I have no idea if the regular 46%abv Grooves will have the same characteristics.

On Wednesday, I'll review Grooves's sparring partner, a thing that's almost current...

Availability - Still around on the primary market? I don't know. Plenty to be found on the secondary market already.
Pricing - $120-$320 (I'm not kidding)
Rating - 84