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.
I don't like the sound of that weather back there in Upper Canada, nor do I much like the sound of An Oa. Out here on the wet coast we've got endless rain and high winds and I can't even have a compensatory dram until the end of January.