Named after the Mull of Oa, which lies between the Ardbeg Distillery and the Atlantic Ocean, An Oa is a new addition to their core range. It is a non-age-statement combination of virgin oak, Pedro Ximinez and bourbon matured Ardbeg, all of which were married in French oak prior to bottling. It is non-chill-filtered.
The colour is straw, with light greenish highlights. On the nose you get a subtle infusion of peat, soot, vanilla extract and simple syrup. Freshly squeezed lime. Aniseed. Genmaicha. Band-Aids. Green banana skins. Lots of mint. Green chartreuse. Arugula. Lots of herbal notes which keep the ashen peat at bay. A drop of water brings out wood smoke and sea salt spray. Definitely one of the most subtle Ardbegs I've had, and extremely complex.
The palate thrusts the lime front and centre, with lots of pepper, serious peat and an entire bag of assorted herbs (rosemary, mint, dill and fennel). Hint of vanilla, with a bit of nutmeg as well. Pine needles. Oily mouthfeel, but not as oily as a lot of Ardbegs. Water brings out of chili heat, malt and lemon peel. Mouthwateringly delicious.
The finish is ashen and mouth-drying with lime and grapefruit pith, white pepper and sea salt. If you love Ardbeg but your minor quibble is that it can be a bit too much sometimes, than you'll find this a welcome addition to their core range. It retains those classic Ardbeg notes while smoothing things out and emphasizing complexity over raw power. Very well regarded, with Jim Murray scoring it a 95.5, Whisky Advocate scoring 93 (and calling it the #6 whisky of 2017) and Rob Allanson of Whisky Magazine scoring it a 91. And I concur - this is endlessly fascinating.