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Ardbeg An Oa

Average score from 7 reviews and 14 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.

@Nozinan that looks miserable. shovel for what? We close the roads for 2+ inches here laughing

But yes for the US South it is cold and rainy today. I might crack open the Laph 10CS to warm me up later.

5 times... and there will be more


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.

@OdysseusUnbound The 10 is a blast, the An Oa is a ride. That's all I can say.

Nice review, it's clear that it is a well crafted whisky, even if it doesn't float my boat as much as yours.

That's the beauty of whisky, something for everyone.


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.

@BlueNote, thanks for the kind words. I'm glad this hasn't bumped the 10's entry price point either. I'm just shocked after all these different yearly releases and experiments that this is what they add to their stable.

I also tried Grooves recently and while it was good, it failed to engage me.

That last sentence should be "connosr quote of the year." Nice review.


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!

@MadSingleMalt a truly solipsistic thought for a Friday morning!

@cricklewood Thank you - that deserves to be said again! :-)


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.

@galg, you do exist! I thought you were merely a legend in Connosr lore. Nice to read a "live" review from you! Where have you been having out?

I think you are right on the money here @galg. One can't help but notice that these NAS special editions from Ardbeg have dropped from being consistently rated at 90+ points to being consistently rated in the mid-80s.


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 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.

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

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