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ARDBEG ‘DARK COVE’ (2016, OB, 46,5%)

So finally here we are. We beat around the bush, we faced a Caol Ila and an Arran just for fun. It has been the necessary warm-up before the main explosion. Gentlemen, welcome to the annual present by Ardbeg, the poshest distillery on Islay: a (supposedly) limited edition, with a black-as-tar label and story to be told. Don’t look at us: after last year’s space release, we’re frankly sick of markenting stuff. We will focus on whisky as usual, which is the main point of our blog, isn’t it? Dark Cove: no age statement, maturation in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.

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N: well, if Ardbeg’s purpose was to impress, mission accomplished. Firstly you’re stunned by a surprising herbal side, rather unique for the distilery. To be precise, aromatic and balsamic herbs, like rosemary and sage, pine needles (conifers resin and even myrtle, as someone cleverly pointed out during the presentation). It really recalls an herbal gin, like Gin Mare for instance. Under this first layer, something more expected: sea foam and the classic Ardbeg peat. Which is acrid but – spoiler – quite “delicate” too. We mean it’s not brutal as usual. In the background there’s a vague sweetness: a hint of talcum powder, vanilla and that’s it.

P: nice body, wonderfully fat… It’s solid and well connected: a concert of pronounced marine saltiness, balsamic and herbaceous spiciness (resin, rosemary, a super dry Gin & Tonic), and a heavy, acrid peat, with notes of diesel engine and ink. The crucial oak influence is more evident, here: licorice, lots of dark chocolate. A vanilla veil, orange marmalade. Towards the end a hint of smoke…

F: …continuing in the finish and reminding of those BBQ with burning wood. Salt and sweet licorice. Bacon?

Let’s start from the rate: 87/100. We really enjoyed its asperities, its balsamic and herbal hints, so unusual for Ardbeg. That being said, we notice the oaky sweetness is a bit bold on the palate. And we regret the relatively low abv: with a higher one, the rate would have been higher, too. But we applaud the turnaround in the limited releases series.

Recommended soundtrack: The Black KeysTighten Up.

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