Review: Ardbeg Corryvreckan single malt scotch whisky
Ardbeg Distillery – Moet-Hennessy
£62.99 from Master of Malt
What they say:
Official Tasting Notes
The new ongoing expression from Ardbeg, joining 10 Years Old and Uigeadail as an unlimited product. Replacing Araigh Nam Beist. A deep and mysterious Ardbeg, combining French oak cask aged liquid with classic Ardbeg matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks. Predominantly consists of liquid matured in French oak. Inspired by Corryvreckan, Europe’s largest, and the world’s second largest whirlpool. It lies off Islay and Jura. Celebrated in Celtic mystery and legend, its raw, magnetic power exactly mirrors the BIG & UNTAMED spirit of Ardbeg. Technically a different bottling to the 2009 release, although it doesn’t say this on the label.
Heady, intense, powerful. With the first sniff, encounter the deep and turbulent force of Corryvreckan as it pulls you inwards. Swirl the glass and dip your nose into the torrents of tarry ropes, creosote and linseed oil rising from deep within the vortex. As you succumb to its power, a collision of waxy dark chocolate, warm blackcurrants and muscovado sugar pulls you under its spell with a burst of plump cherries and earthy pine needles leaping from its depths.
Swirl water into the glass, and observe the magical collision of whisky and water. As the liquid warms up, the seething cauldron bubbles and bursts, as you edge closer to sniff a pot full of gutsy cayenne-peppered steak and oysters smothered in hot Tabasco sauce surfacing from a mix of tomatoey beef stock and shrimp jambalaya. Salty seasoning brings a briny character with tangy crisp seaweed and smoky bacon swirling on the surface with hints of sweet vanilla, spicy cloves and blueberries.
As the whirlpool narrows and quickens moving ever deeper, surrender to its dangerous depths with the heady force of menthol, treacle and chilli sauce.
Plunge into the whirlpool and taste the mysterious depths of Corryvreckan. Torrents of taste well up on the palate; deep, peppery and chewy, bombarding the tongue with its intense tastes and textures. The first plunge brings forth chewy peppered steak soaked in pepper sauce with the tang of crispy seaweed. As you descend deeper, encounter a mouthful of black tarry espresso coffee that coats the palate with rich melted dark fruits (blackcurrants, blueberries and cherries) and bitter almonds. As the taste soaks in deeper, star anise and hickory dry out the palate before a surprise of chalky effervescent violets fizz to the surface.
Long, deep and remaining powerful into the finish with black tarry coffee, chocolate coated cherries and hot pepper sauce, the lingering memories of your mysterious and daring journey into Corryvreckan.
What I say:
Dram #3 from Royal Mile Whiskies hosted Ardbeg evening with Dr Bill Lumsden celebrating 200 years of Ardbeg! So what did Bill have to reveal about the Corryvreckan?
Similar to the Uigeadail, the Corryvreckan is another NAS/flavour (or more concept) led product from Ardbeg using French oak barriques (wine casks) for whisky maturation, giving much more subtle, spicy and tannic influences. The major debate about these ‘barriques’ was if they were virgin oak or previously held French wine? The answer from Dr Bill was well- neither but both!? Actually the initial casks used in the maturation of Corryvreckan were French oak ex-burgundy wine barrels that had been pressure cleaned and re-toasted before use, in a unique process developed by Eric Blondeau at his Thalès cooperage in Bordeaux. Sadly the cooperage was sold to a larger industrial group in 2002 after Blondeau had exported the concept of pressure-cleaning wine barrels for re-use worldwide. Meaning that these specific casks were no longer available to Ardbeg for whisky maturation anymore, it is now likely that true virgin French oak casks are used for all the ‘newer’ Corryvreckan batches of ~4,000 x 9 litre cases each year since 2009.
Again I originally reviewed Corryvreckan in 2013 from a bottle I’d had for a while.
Rich golden amber (10/20), medium sized droplet tears, slow and oily
Spiced gingerbread, mildly sweet and spicy, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, earthy peat smoke, marzipan,
Peaty, smoky and earthy, again that gingerbread, rye bread and madeira cake, mildly sweet but with lots of savoury and herbal spice, tobacco leaf and cigars, cigar boxes, sandalwood, tannic and drying
Long, peaty and drying new oak/pencil shavings
Similar flavour profile but I actually scored this expression higher by a few points. I initially found the Corryvreckan quite drying/tannic and challenging in my first review. Here it was sampled after both the Ardbeg 10 Years Old and Uigeadail expressions which may have nullified or equated my palate to the peat levels and allowed me to enjoy the more subtle flavour nuances in this expression – plus there are always aesthetics of sampling this in the company of its creator and understanding more of its construction.