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Ardbeg An Oa

Average score from 7 reviews and 17 ratings 87

Ardbeg An Oa

Product details

  • Brand: Ardbeg
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 46.6%

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Ardbeg An Oa

My wonderful wife picked us up a bottle of this on NYE (too much of it was consumed that evening), and now a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon seems like a nice time to properly sit down and do a review. An Oa is a combination of spirit aged in Pedro-Ximenez sherry casks and bourbon barrels. Married in a French-oak marrying vat. Neat in a Glencairn.

Nose: The ex-bourbon casks shine through more than the sherry casks. Vanilla and honey at first whiff, followed by that lovely peat and dried grass on a hot dry day. Yes it is smokey, but subtlety so compared to the 10. It is also much sweeter than the 10 on the nose with the vanilla and honey really coming through.

Palate: Very tame for an Islay. Medicinal, vegetal and peaty, yes. But it is definitely aimed at people not used to Islay whisky as this is very tamed. Again, honey and vanilla from the bourbon casks are evident but the sherry notes are there; you just have to look for them, which makes things interesting. Between the peat, the honey, and the sherry notes, there is a decent amount of complexity and it does harmonize well. Again, this is sweeter than the 10.

Finish: Ah, now the sherry casks are here, front and center. Rose oil, young plums, and dates. Even sweeter now than before. Some smoke kindles after the sweetness subsides to round things off.

Overall: As far as intensity, this is turned down to appeal to people unfamiliar with Islay whisky I think. This is much sweeter than other Ardbegs I've had. It is good, but the intensity needs to get cranked up. There is a lot of great stuff here and a lot of good complexity and good flavor. The flavor is good, the transitions are great, and the flavors work together well. It is just too tame in my opinion. I want Islay whiskies to hit me, not caress and soothe me.

@casualtorture thank you for your review. Since I drink Ardbeg for intensity, this review further confirms that I need not consider buying a bottle. Sounds like it would be fine for an offered drink, though.


“_ a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon _”?

I’ve shovelled 4 times today!


The Ardbeg An Oa is the newest release in the core range of Ardbeg, launched in September 2017. It is named after the Mull of Oa, where you can find the American Monument (if you’ve been to Islay, you know what I mean, if not: Google is your friend). The difference with the classic Ten is significant and I do not just mean the lack of age. This one matured on a combination of 7 cask types, including virgin oak, PX sherry and 1st fill bourbon casks. Oh, the ABV is odd: 46.6%. I tried it for the first time in the Old Kiln Café at the Ardbeg distillery, but saw that no actual notes were made then. Time to rectify. The nose is surprisingly fresh and playful for an Ardbeg, with lots of vanilla and lime, ginger and cinnamon. Fanta Lemon with some mint, fresh seaweeds and some polished leather. Some smoked mussels and diesel oil. And smoke, obviously. I think it’s quite light (for an Ardbeg, mind you), but just fine all the same. The spices come first, on the palate (ginger, pepper, cardamom) – that must be the virgin oak. It is followed by black tea, sweet lemons and pink grapefruit with a hint of brown sugar. Peat, of course, but also lots of brackish water. In the finish – quite long – everything has to get out of the way for lemons and peppers. Spicier, but less round than the Ten, but still Ardbeg all the way. Probably young, but it doesn’t bother. Just under 60 EUR.


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.

Thanks for the review. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews about this one. Jim Murray loves it, but Serge seems to find it quite “meh”. I’ve yet to meet an Ardbeg I didn’t like...Do you think this one is worth the Ontario price tag? How does it compare to the Ten?

@Nozinan Be interested to hear your thoughts after the HtoH. Corry generally wins in my experience.


This expression is the first to be added to Ardbeg's regular line-up in many years. A vatting of different cask types (ex-bourbon, virgin oak, px), all finished in Ardbeg's new European oak marrying tun.

It's received a fair bit of flack, let's see what the fuss is all about.

Nose: A hint of Ardbeg's coal and diesel smoke, then sweeter, cookie dough?Jordan almonds, vanilla, candied fennel seeds, menthol a bit of ginger. It's nice if a bit subdued.

Palate: Ashy right out of the gate,vanilla. prune sauce some cinnamon. It has some bite, soot, sweet dough, a tin of smoked herring being opened in a bakery. It's got many of the hallmarks of what makes Ardbeg good but pushed down by the oak.

Finish: Green branches, the astringent lemons show up late to the party. lots of oak, char, vanilla, loads of ginger, a tiny bit or earth.

It's not neutered like Laphroaig select but it is a more rounded version of the kildalton crusher. They've tamed the feisty young Ardbeg spirit, making it sweeter and smoothing over the mineral and maritime edge.

I don't hate this, it's well made and enjoyable but at a time when so much Scotch is being homogenized. I would prefer they embrace the challenging nature of their whisky rather blunt it.

That last sentence...so much truth. And one that could be applied to many distilleries. Thanks for the review. Glad I didn’t drop $120 on a bottle of this.

@Robert99 I feel like this might be the modus operandi of many of the distilleries. Why vat away older stocks into everyday expressions when you can release them at auction style prices.

Indeed the availability and stable quality of Corry and Oogie are a saving grace.

Longmorn can be pretty good, it's no Ardbeg though


It's easy to feel a little sad for An Oa... with an elder and oh, so accomplished sibling like Uigeadail it seems inevitable that it'll be destined to comparison, rather than considered on its own merit. And yes, had I only £50 to spend, I'd certainly go for the Uigeadail. Now, that said... this is the whisky where I truly realised what can happen when water is added to the equation - a lesson in itself worth the £43 I spent on the An Oa.

Neat the initial nose is quite faint. There are the expected Ardbeg elements in there, and some additional sweetness (I believe PX has been involved somewhere). The attack has quite some bite (I'd venture to say more than the stronger Oogie, but I haven't done a h-t-h). It's all there, the smoke and slight iodine-ish notes. The finish is medium and has a wee bitter element to it. Do I like it? Yes... I guess... it's ok... Curiosity satisfied, and I understand why people say "get the Uigeadail instead" (but, please humour me and keep reading).

On a whim, I decided to add a few drops of water (which I do not typically do unless very high ABV a la e.g. A'bunadh) and to my surprise..! I shall not get tempted by hyperbole, but the previously uptight and crampingly tensed dram seems to have relaxed and opened up its embrace... All of a sudden a fruitier and much more warm and pronounced sweetness (but not the sickly sugary version) whiffs out of the glass. On the palate, I swear that the viscosity has noticeably changed for a thicker mouth-coating and even a little oily dram, with a still medium finish that leaves nothing of the slight astringent bitterness that I am sensitive about. THIS, I'll happily drink on its own merit without a thought wasted on 'how it compares to Uigeadail".

Without water... it's a decent 83. With, I'll give it a generous but I think fair 89. Is it all in my head...? Could, be but who cares - I learned something today about the profound impact some chemistry can have, and I now have another bottle I will enjoy a lot.

Thank you for your time awarded my meandering thoughts!

"Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

It's always great to have a decent whisky bloom into a superb on. This can come from the help of water, air, time or simply your palate's development, the reward is always sweeter for it.

It's always great to have a decent whisky bloom into a superb on. This can come from the help of water, air, time or simply your palate's development, the reward is always sweeter for it.

Your meanderings/musings are welcome, this is the place for it.


Nose: The nose starts with a bit of fresh black peppercorns, some aniseed, and a dollop of vanilla, and toffee, it certainly feels a bit rounder and sweeter (and creamier) than the regular 10. I guess the virgin oak and the PX casks are at work here… It’s also an Islay malt , with the peat , seaweed and some pine notes, as well as mint, tar and lemon peel.

Palate: Creamy vanilla , and sugary sweetness, followed bu more peat and wood smoke than the nose hinted upon, salted toffee, ripe orange, cinnamon and a gingery touch. there’s quite some smoke, rather dry, hints of ash, and cream biscuits. Feels lighter and creamier than the 10, but the peat is there no doubt.

Finish: lingering smoke, ash, and peat embers along vanilla pastries, drying.

Gal, you have risen from the Connosr dead! In soap operas there are three categories of death for the characters, "dead", "dead, dead", and "dead, dead, dead". Most of the time you assume that the characters are merely "dead", and they will be back soon. Sometimes they are "dead, dead" and look like they are actually gone, but come back much much later. Only when they are "dead, dead, dead" are the characters finally disposed of. This is a much less common occurrence. You, apparently were only "dead, dead" to Connosr. How many years has it been, 6? Welcome back!

@Nozinan, yeah, but...The Princess Bride is not a soap opera.


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.

@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!

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

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