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Ardbeg An Oa

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7 5987

@MaltActivistReview by @MaltActivist

4th Oct 2017

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Overall
    87

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

I’m going to use this whisky to signal a mini comeback of sorts. Of the two people that read my reviews I’m sure one of them noticed my lethargy of late. I have no explanation for that other than I felt I was doing more whisky writing than whisky drinking. And that really started to weigh in.

Also I think I need to work on a review format that I can sustain even when the riggers of life demand my time and energy. Let’s see how that works out.

But enough about me.

Let’s talk about this silly sounding whisky. Hey, I’m not the one poking fun at it; Ardbeg are. Just watch the video they’ve made about this one. It’s quite cute.

Named after the Mull of Oa, considered one of the wildest parts of Islay, this rather decently priced young ‘un (I mean, it has to be) is an addition to the core range joining the 10, the Oogy and the Corry.

It’s a combination of PX and bourbon matured spirit finished off in French Oak and let me tell you, I like it!

Flavour profile wise it sits right in between the 10 and the Oogy. Retains the signature Ardbeg twang of sweet and citrus in a somewhat curtailed manner. Not entirely a bad thing since it’s quite flavourful.

Nose: Sharp citrus. Soot. Liquorice. Eucalyptus. Wisp of nice smoke. Milk chocolate. Becomes drier as you let it rest. Dry leaves. Lemon rind. Lime. Almost like a young Kilchoman if you ask me. Which is saying a lot. Good solid barley. Good stuff.

Palate: Off the bat, love the texture. Lately I’ve been drinking far too many weak whiskies; texture wise. So this is a welcome departure from that annoying trend. Lots of ash. White pepper. Super dry. Woody spices. Like cinnamon. Mid-palate becomes a lot more herbal. I know I’m drinking an Ardbeg and that’s wonderfully comforting.

Finish: Takes a while but comes back from the depths and stays with you. Again extremely drying. Woody. Hints of citrus.

Overall Comments: I think the French Oak is really coming into play here with the dry spices. I’m a fan of that flavour profile so call me biased. I like this spirit for what it represents. An affordable whisky that is well made. Maybe I’d hate it if this was an overpriced Festival bottle. But it’s not. It feels like it’s genuinely making the effort to be approachable and attainable. And for that I give it a tip of my hat.

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59 comments

@Victor
Victor commented

@MaltActivist, I am happy to see you back on Connosr!

Thanks for reviewing An Oa. I've been wondering about that one. Sounds good. Also sounds like the French Oak finish makes up for probable shortcomings in age. I am looking forward to getting a taste of it. I've got so many damned bottles of Ardbeg already lying around I don't see the need for a another bottle. And, as you say, as an addition to the standard line, An Oa should be around for awhile. Cheers, @MaltActivist!

14 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

By all accounts I've seen, this is a fine whisky.

But I really fail to see the point of it.

It's virtually the same ABV as the Ten, but with no age statement and a big price bump. It has a wood recipe that sounds vaguely similar to the Oogie and the Corry, but it's watered way down and priced higher than the Oogie (depending on your market, I'm sure). Its branding is uninspired, especially by Ardbeg standards.

So what, it's basically like an "Ardbeg Select" that doesn't suck? Why do we need this? What reason does anyone have to buy this over the three regular Ardbegs? Especially, after novelty-seekers buy it once to satisfy their curiosity, what reason do they have to rebuy it over the three regular Ardbegs?

I suspect it's either going to fail in the marketplace after a year or so, or else it will replace one of the three regular Ardbegs.


To illustrate the apathy from this peat-head: I'm planning a "Night of So Many Ardbegs!" session with my club, and this An Oa thing isn't on the docket.

14 days ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@MaltActivist Was that a Freudian slip? "the riggers of life" or did you mean "the rigours of life"? Either version could apply.

Good review, but I have to agree with @MadSingleMalt: how many Ardbegs that really don't bring anything new or different to the table do we need. Young NAS Ardbegs are now being flogged to the flock as if there is never going to be anything like them ever again. And if this is now part of the core range I wonder when we will be lamenting the loss of the Ten. And perhaps you could define affordable, a wholly relative concept depending on where you live.

Otherwise, nice to see you back.

14 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@Victor I am very sorry for your troubles. Please let me help you by relieving you of your "excess" supernovas, Dark Coves, and anything else you have too "damn" much of...

I REALLY want to help!

14 days ago 2Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

I agree with @BlueNote. It'd be easy to interpret this An Oa thing as step 1 in a diabolical scheme to eliminate the Ten.

Bean counter #1: Tell me again, why are we waiting ten years to sell this stuff?

Bean counter #2: I dunno! Let's try an NAS 46%er instead, and see how that flies.

Bean counter #1: Can we charge more for it, while we're at it?

Bean counter #2: Yeah, sure. Why not.

14 days ago 2Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@MadSingleMalt Don’t even hint at that !!! I’m already panicking about running out of Dissertation, Last Barrels, Legacy and Lot 40 CS (which hasn’t even been released yet!) Don’t make me panic about losing Ardbeg 10!

13 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@OdysseusUnbound what an interesting concept, running out - maybe time for a new thread

13 days ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@OdysseusUnbound I know what you mean. I'm down to 2 Nadurra 16s and no more in sight.

13 days ago 2Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Nozinan The fear factor. I've got one Laphroaig 18 that I can't bring myself to open.

13 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@Nozinan, @BlueNote, that's what some would call FORO = Fear of Running Out.

13 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@Victor Would FORO then imply a FOMOIF - fear of missing out in future?

13 days ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

It would seem that FORO implies FOMOIF. FORO is shorter.

13 days ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Nozinan That's certainly a related syndrome. Untreatable except by a guarantee of ongoing supply.

13 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

It would seem to me that the only winners in FOMO, FORO, FOMOIF and ATOA (all the other acronyms) are the producers...

13 days ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@OdysseusUnbound If I could get together with all you regular stalwarts here I would gladly share it.

13 days ago 2Who liked this?

@Frost
Frost commented

@MaltActivist thank you for an informative review. It's one a lot of people have been waiting on. I saw a bottle here in Sydney recently, and it's retailing for $32 higher than the 10 yo. I couldn't in sound mind pay for this, even though it looks like it will be enjoyable. I'd rather buy another bottle of the 10 yo.

13 days ago 4Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@Frost , thanks for bringing us back to the point I tried to get into above.

What's the point of this thing?

Ardbeg's not the same as early-2000s Bruichladdich, where they just release a constant stream of new random crap and that's part of the fun. They have a clearly delineated "core range" that, I would say, did not need a third NAS bottle that sounds vaguely like a watered-down Oogie and costs more than the Ten. So what's the point?

Try it this way: Why should @Frost and I ever buy this? :)

13 days ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@MadSingleMalt I got suckered on a few of those goofy offerings from the "Progressive Hebridean Distillers" too.

In answer to your last question: Because Ardbeg wants you to.

13 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@BlueNote , "suckered," huh? I never had many of them myself, but by all accounts the quality sure did vary.

Regardless, it was fun that Bruichladdich just released tons and tons of different weird stuff. It would be nigh-on-impossible to buy them all—let alone stock up to never-running-out levels—so why try? The most anyone could do was take a spin on the ones that sounded good and see where the ride took you. Good for the soul, I think. And yes, I'm deliberately connecting some ideas here to the current "Running Out" discussion.


Anywho, I'm interested in whether anyone has a legit answer to my question. Other than preparing to replace one of the other members of Ardbeg's core range, what's the point of this An Oa? In marketing jargon, what's its USP (unique selling proposition)?

13 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

I don't see one, either.

13 days ago 1Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@MadSingleMalt

I would say, did not need a third NAS bottle that sounds vaguely like a watered-down Oogie and costs more than the Ten So what's the point?

Cheaper to produce? check. Sells for more money? Check. That's the point.

13 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

Well, not really. If that was the whole point, then the only whisky available would be $500 bottles of NAS grain. A product that's supposed to succeed in the market needs a perceived (or created) need to meet, a niche to fill, an itch to scratch.

12 days ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@MadSingleMalt Hence the "charming" and cheeky videos from Ardbeg. Or the product placement in Bond movies, or Kingsmen movies etc...Quality is not as important as the perception of quality (see also: Macallan or Dalmore). Now there is obviously a point of diminishing returns. The best marketing in the world couldn't make people pay $500 per bottle for Johnnie Walker Red. But lots of charismatic (or boorish) people talking about "moving beyond age statements" gives producers wiggle room to sell young, immature stocks in order to cash in on the whisky craze NOW. I know age statements aren't everything. I know NAS isn't all bad. But a hell of a lot of NAS is garbage. Overpriced garbage. There is nothing inherently wrong with maximizing profit, but when quality starts to suffer, I'm checking out. I'm not judging An Oa. I've never had it. But I really like Ardbeg 10. If anything de-throned Lagavulin 16 as my favourite, Ardbeg Ten might be the whisky to do it. If they discontinue it, I will NOT be a happy camper. But I'm sure, in the grand old world of whisky, that doesn't make one bit of difference.

12 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@OdysseusUnbound , you're saying a lot of true things, but I don't see what point you're making. Help me out?

12 days ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@MadSingleMalt The point is that IF Ardbeg wants to discontinue the 10, it is not unreasonable to assume the launch of An Oa is related to that plan.

12 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@OdysseusUnbound , now I smell what you're stepping in. Thanks.

I agree: This An Oa thing, to me, seems either (a) pointless or (b) preparation to retire something in the core range.

But its branding is so weak, I guess I can't see it replacing the Ten. Ardbeg's main whisky would be an NAS bottle called "An Oa"? Seems so unlikely.

This whole thing just puzzles me.

12 days ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

I think that the case is stronger that Uigeadail would be the whisky replaced by An Oa, because of the sherry influence in common. It would be a reduced ABV play, rather than an age statement play. Ardbeg can then just remove the age statement from the Ten at a later date and give it another name, like, simply, ARDBEG.

12 days ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

I had that thought, too, @Victor. The main point against that theory is Oogie's universal popularity. So, so, many whisky nuts hold it up as their top dram. Because the Oogie's not cask strength to begin with, I think the strategy for doing an "ABV swapparoo" would be to just start putting out new batches at lower and lower ABVs. They could even start explicitly labeling the batches, which we know is always a surefire way to get us whisky nuts in a tizzy.

So yeah, I'm still puzzled.

12 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

Edit: Deleting a double post.

I love peat! relaxed

12 days ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@MadSingleMalt, just a reminder, the popularity of Ardbeg Uigeadail among whisky connoisseurs is a minor consideration for the whisky vendors compared to the overall popularity of Ardbeg Uigeadail among the general public. Marketers could very well be convinced that a lower ABV An Oa would still sell to the hard core sherried Ardbeg lovers, but would gain a much larger share among the general public. Just speculation, of course.

12 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@Victor , hmmmm... I'm not no sure about that.

In most conversations about the whisky market, it's absolutely necessary to distinguish the buying habits of nuts like us from the general population. But with Ardbeg Uigeadail? Do a lot of casual sippers buy ~$100 bottles of high-proof, heavily peated single malt? I think its market squarely is the whisky nut.

But your point could still stand: Maybe they think a lower-ABV replacement could retain most of the current Oogie buyers while also bringing in some of the more casual folks? I suppose that's plausible.

12 days ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

And, @MadSingleMalt, while there may seem to be no point to the move by Ardbeg to us, with our various judgments and assumptions, it is hard to imagine that Ardbeg would announce a new entry to their standard line without them having a very definite reason for doing so. Put another way, we may not be able to see their reasons for introducing An Oa now, but they are likely to be revealed to us over time. I think that your prediction of Ardbeg withdrawing An Oa from the line in a couple of years or less is a "best case", and wishful, scenario for those of us who want Uigeadail and Ten to remain unchanged in their specs.

12 days ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@Victor , exactly. Their reason is what I'm trying to discern here.

12 days ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@MadSingleMalt, do you think that Ardbeg would tell you if you asked them? :-)

12 days ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Victor Do you think the great unwashed would even know the difference? I don't think they are Ardbeg's target market for that level of whisky. Those people are more impressed by whatever Beckham is flogging at any given time.

12 days ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Victor What I mean to say is that if Ardbeg wants to sell esoteric, high priced, specialty whisky, we are the ones they need to be paying attention to. There may not be that many of us as there are cheap blend buyers, but we spend a hell of a lot of money.

12 days ago 2Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@BlueNote, maybe. I really do hope that you are right, but at this point I am not at all convinced that whisky connoisseurs carry any considerable influence on the decisions made by the commercial whisky interests.

12 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@Victor , if whisky connoisseurs aren't the people they're trying to sell things like Ardbeg Oogie to, then whom are they trying to sell to?

Sure, I can see your average buyer of Bell's (or whatever) splurging for the occasional Macallan 12 (or whatever) when a big day rolls around, but isn't stuff like Ardbeg Oogie on the other side of a line that most people never cross?

I'm with @BlueNote: I think nuts like us are responsible for at least 85% of all sales on this side of the line. (And I bet a good portion of those other 15% of sales are deeply regretted by people didn't want all that yucky peat!)

12 days ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Yes, I hope so, but then once again, what is Ardbeg doing with An Oa?

12 days ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Victor I'd say they are simply trying to slip one by us with fancy names, creative marketing and the assumption that us fools will buy whatever they put in front of us, particularly if they can convince us that we might miss out if we hesitate to fork over the cash right now.

They need us. We are not the insignificant consumer sector that we are told we are. If for every 9 bottles of $15 blend they sell to the masses they also sell 1 bottle of $135 high end single malt, I'd say their bottom line would take a pretty good hit if we all switched our allegiance to cheaper alternatives. And lest the greedy bastards forget, their is a limit to what we will pay for mediocre faux luxury.

12 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

I know from experience that people who want to look cultured will try to buy the best, most trendy thing. A friend once stepped into a pub in oxford after some accomplishment and ended up with a JW Blue. He could have probably had 10-15 better whiskies, but that one was the most expensive.

I've been gifted the "best" whisky, CRNHR, which I wouldn't drink if you paid me. But the intent was to give something special.

I remember when "double Black" came out and my BIL's neighbour was raving about how it was as good as his usual, the blue....

So this one is marketed as a special whisky and they hope people who don't know any better but what to look like they do will gobble it up. And they do...

12 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@Nozinan , I get your general point, but I don't see how it applies to An Oa. I don't see that it's being presented as anything that "special"—just "new."

It's a 46% NAS mystery-meat bottle priced (in most markets, I think) between the Ten and the Oogie. That's not a position of prominence, by any measure.

12 days ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Somewhere between 4.7 and 9.8. I'm guessing 9.8.

11 days ago 1Who liked this?

@MaltActivist
MaltActivist commented

What are they doing with the An Oa ? Here's what I think. Punters like us are the steady consumers of the Oogy (which is about 1% of the total whisky drinking population).

How do you get Ardbeg into the hands of the average whisky drinker : make it sweeter, less peatier/smokier than the 10 -- make it more palatable than the Oogy (46.6%). And I guess you have something that meets everyone halfway (a compromise of sorts, if you ask me).

I think it keeps a seasoned drinker like myself more or less satisfied and entices newer drinkers to give this one a go. I guess.

Will it work? Are there other nefarious plans underway? I guess only time will tell.

I'm just reviewing this on it's merits without trying to figure out the why.

8 days ago 4Who liked this?

@Frost
Frost commented

@MaltActivist sounds like the type of marketing strategy that would be applied.

That is, soften what makes Ardbeg a hit: the peat

8 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

@MaltActivist , I'm imaging a Venn diagram defining the hypothetical customer base you're describing. They have to simultaneously be:

Familiar enough to peated malts to know what the heck they are and to know which ones they dislike (i.e., Ardbeg Oogie).

Still interested enough to still want to drink some if they can find one that's easier.

Tuned in enough to peated malt, despite their dislike, to know that this An Oa thing exists and offers an easier version of what they dislike.

That sounds like a very small target customer population to me. Are there really a lot of customers like this—Laphroaig Select devotees that Ardbeg plans to steal away?

8 days ago 1Who liked this?

@MaltActivist
MaltActivist commented

@MadSingleMalt That's way too much for me to think about. I honestly don't care how they plan to sell it or what their motives are. I just hope they don't discontinue the 10. I hope they make the Oogy better.

They can add another twenty expressions to the core range if they want.

8 days ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@MadSingleMalt It's hard to imagine who Laphroaig thought might like Select. That and backed-off Ardbegs are unlikely to be what converts Glenlivet Founder's Reserve drinkers to peat.

Start them on HP 12, move them up to a nice sweet peated Speysider, graduate them to Caol Ila 12 and then smack 'em in the head with the Islay "big three." This conversion process could, of course, take years.

8 days ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@MaltActivist I agree. They can do what they want as long as they don't mess with the Ten, the Oogy and the Corry.

8 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@MaltActivist Uigeadail better? I guess as one who has only tasted from one bottle I can't appreciate that as much. Next time I open a L16 I'll need to pour some off and save it for when I open my older 2010-11 bottling.

8 days ago 0

@nooch
nooch commented

I am also of the mind that oogie is just ok. I prefer L16 by a long shot. I also agree with HP 12 as a way to introduce peated Malts. HP18 is one of my favourites

8 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt
MadSingleMalt commented

I don't think the way to introduce people to peat is to make a more approachable version of your standard product and hope the peat-newbies will figure out which one that is and try a bottle.

Nor is it to hope those peat-newbies will navigate their way through HP (or Benromach or Springbank or whatever) and ultimately land on your smoky shores.

The way to introduce people to peat is to give them a low-risk taste. Both Ardbeg and Glenmorangie already sell gift-box versions of their standard whiskies that include minis of their higher-end stuff as a bonus. What they need to do is cross-pollinate between the two—especially, they need Glenmorangie 10 bottles that come in a gift box with a mini of Ardbeg. Based on this review and others, the An Oa would be perfect for this role. That's how you bring in new customers. That's what this An Oa should be for. If they do that, I'll rest easy knowing that An Oa has a purpose. Until they do, I'm watching for one of the existing Ardbegs to say sayonara.

8 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@nooch I meant Uigeadail L16 series of batches... not Lagavulin 16

8 days ago 0

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