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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Single Malt Report: Ardbeg Taste Off (part 3 of 3) - Ardbeg Corryvreckan

The final chapter in the Ardbeg Taste Off!

From Left to Right:
Ardbeg Ten (Part 1)
Ardbeg Uigeadail (Part 2)
Ardbeg Corryvreckan (Part 3)

Each glass held approximately 30mL (about 1 fl oz).  Each whisky was sampled neat.  First, after a 15 minute wait.  Then a second time, another 45 minutes later.


Ownership: Glenmorangie Plc (Moet Hennessy)
Age: whiskys distilled in 1998 through 2000, along with some younger whisky
Maturation: French Oak casks (maybe some ex-bourbon too?)
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 57.1%

I attempted to report on this whisky back in early March.  The result was esoteric hyperbole.  While I still agree with every last word of that post, I'm going to try to describe this drink in more solid terms.

Churning on the West coast of Scotland, the Corryvreckan is the third-largest whirlpool in the world.  It has consumed ships, sailors, and a Norse king over the years.  It's a powerful natural phenomenon and a great Gaelic name (roughly "cauldron of the speckled seas) even though it sits far north of Islay, between Jura and Scarba.

Ardbeg first released Corryvreckan (the whisky) in 2008 for sale to their committee members.  Following that successful launch, they brought it out for the general public in late 2009.  It filled the gap in their range once held by the now-depleted Airigh Nam Beist bottling.

Bill Lumsden from Ardbeg has revealed distillation dates for some of the whisky within and much of the spirit had been aged in French Oak casks.  Other than that, they're keeping the recipe a mystery.

The vapors!  It's steaming up!
Like my Uigeadail dram, the Corryvreckan from this tasting came from a sample I purchased from Master of Malt.

(Tasting Tip: If you're doing a multi-whisky tasting and Corryvreckan is amongst the selection, try the Corry LAST.  It's a strong heavily-peated behemoth that does a number on the taste buds.)

Round 1 -- neat, 25+ minutes in the glass before tasting

The color is a light gold with a darker hue at its heart.  The nose begins with a strong aromatic peat.  Then tar, leather, and cognac-dipped cigars.  Underneath all that is an overripe fruit note along with vanilla ice cream and the inside of a toffee shop.  The palate?  It caramelizes the senses.  Smoldering peat meets burnt sugars.  Sweet cream & cinnamon & seaweed in a bonfire.  Dried fruit, mulled wine, hot rum.  A TCP Milk Dud cocktail.  It all barrels through the finish.  A big oceanic note meets rum.  Cinnamon candy mixes with honey-roasted band-aids.  The sweet and peat last equally long long long.

Notes:  Mmmmmmmm.

Round 2 -- neat, almost an hour after the first round

The nose holds a very nice oaky note (and I usually don't like generic oak notes).  There's also a nice brandy/cognac thing going on.  But mostly it's coffee grounds, fresh soil, molasses, the ocean, boat diesel (in a good way!), angel food cake on fire, and something deep & peppery that I can't quite name. The palate keeps its Big Peat push.  There's burnt wood, espresso with molasses, smoked caramel sauce, lemons with brown sugar, peat cookies with white pepper.  PEATNESS reigns supreme in the finish.  Underneath that runs the ocean, some citric sweets, and fruity sugary oak.  And it's as if it never ends...

Notes:  ... ... ...

I know I got a little obscure towards the end there, but things were getting really fine by the end of this Taste Off.  Can I recommend this?  Well, take a look at the nose notes.  If those sound good to you, then this whisky will treat you well.

To conclude:
Ardbeg Ten - A peated lemon cupcake.  Sweet & peat, nicely balanced.  Lowest price.
Ardbeg Uigeadail - A big bear of a smoky dessert malt.  A tremendous schnozzola.
Ardbeg Corryvreckan - The experience.  An industrial powerhouse.

Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - Excellent at $70, probably shouldn't go for more than $90; but to what do I compare this?
Rating - 96


  1. While shopping at Beltramo's the other day, I noticed a Chieftan's bottling of 17 year old Ardbeg for $160. Now even though the price was too high, I took a closer look at the bottle and read on the label that it was finished in barolo casks... Yep, good thing I didn't buy the bottle but boy was it tempting.

    If I had to guess Chieftan's probably got their hands on a failed Lumsden finishing experiment.

    1. Whew, close call! That would be fun to sample though. Could be crazy enough to work. It almost sounds like something that Murray McDavid would bottle.

  2. No Supernova review? I've heard that one blows the Big Peat of Corryvreckan out of the water.

    1. Definitely hope to do one! I tried it last year, but in a setting unsuited for a focused review. It was indeed enormous, like Ardbeg 10 cubed. If I could, I would line it up with other peat behemoths to see which would be the last whisky standing.

    2. Different animals, Supernova and Corry. The first (2009) bottling of Corry was a real stunner - powerful but smooth, peaty but balanced by major fruit. Later bottlings have lacked the original finesse. Yes, finesse. The most recent (2012) bottling is more on the finesse side and has lost some of the punch.

      Supernova is the big hoss in terms of peat, having a vegetal nature and big alcohol profile. Not fruity, unlike the Corry, and frankly less complex. I got to taste some white dog (new make) from a batch of Supernova. It tasted like smoked tomato/vegetable bisque. Yes, really.

    3. That's fantastic. Did you try the new make at the distillery?

      My first Corry was from the first US release, not the committee one. It was consciousness expanding for me at the time. I haven't been disappointed in my two other Corry experiences, though I haven't opened my bottle. It's a L11 (2011 batch?).

      I'm looking forward to doing a proper Supernova tasting. I do remember enjoying it more than the Sauternes-finished version of Octomore, at the time.