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The primary reviewed bottle, bottle code L11 012, meaning that it was bottled on January 12, 2011, has been open for a little less than 2 1/2 years, and is currently 60% full. Protective gas was used for the last 11 months. This review traces changes in this particlular bottle throughout its history, and, more importantly for me, the gradual change in my own whisky tastes which also occurred during this period. This review will be in non-sequential format: SQVH.
Ardbeg is probably my favourite Scottish distillery, and I have liked almost everything I have tasted under that name. Ardbeg Corryvreckan has been a whisky which has received near-unanimous praise from those who like strongly flavoured peaty/smoky Scottish malts. Until recently, though, for me, Ardbeg Corryvreckan was clearly my least favourite among the other Ardbegs of which I currently own bottles: Supernova 2010, Uigeadail, Airigh Nam Beist, Ten, Ardbog, and Galileo. It is not that I don't like the big, bold, vivid flavours--I would drink almost all whisky at 80% ABV if I could. No, it was because I didn't like the particular flavours of Corryvreckan, and even more so, for the first 8 months it was open, my particular bottle of Corryvreckan. All of my impressions of Corryvreckan changed about 2 months ago, when, while sampling some again with a visiting friend, @Nock, I liked samples from my own, or any other, bottle of Corryvreckan a great deal for the very first time. The whisky hadn't changed much in the last 18 months. I realised that some elements of my taste had changed, however.
Strength: the flavours of Corryvreckan are big, bold, strong, powerful, and vivid, on nose, palate, and finish. They were when I opened the bottle, they are now, and they have been from every sample I have had of Corryvreckan from my reviewed bottle and from every one of the several other bottles from which I have sampled. Score: 24/25 pts
Quality: when first opened, my bottle of Corryvreckan had overwhelming flavours of sour lemon citrus, so great, in fact, that they even greatly masked the intense gravelly petrol-like mush of earthy peaty/smokey flavours also present. This overbearing tart lemon citrus lasted about 8 months after the bottle was opened, and I didn't like it. After it finally faded away, my bottle of Corryvreckan tasted very close in flavour to that of other bottles of Corryveckan from which I have sampled. Corryvreckan is reported as a 5,000 bottle release. Within that 5,000 bottles are stamped different bottling dates. So, how to describe typical Corryvreckan flavours? First, I note that the nose flavours translate well to the palate. The barley flavours highlight lemon citrus, and a rather high-pitched set of flavours from the malt. The smoke is substantial, though it has over time largely dissipated in the nose. Even 30 months of the bottle open, smoke is still very prominently tastable on the palate. There is substantial noticeable brine, i.e. salt, iodine, seaweed, all of that Kildalton Islay Undertow. The peat flavours of Corryvreckan are quite complex and layered. Some of those flavours are vivid, and petrol like, expressing generally very low bass type notes. Baso Profundo, you could say. Some of the low peaty flavours are rather indistinct and sort of blend in to a mush of low gravelly, earthy, dirty flavours. Those gravelly bass flavours were never great favourites of mine, because much was indistinct mishmash, and I didn't especially like the petrol flavours, per se. Much of that class of flavour comes across to me as what I describe as anise/black licorice, and I didn't used to like a lot of anise/black licorice flavours in my whisky.
Well, something happened to me 2 or 3 months ago, and I now can more enjoy strong anise flavours in my whisky, whereas previously they just tasted out of balance to me and rather unpleasant. So, how I would thus describe the flavours: tart lemon citrus, high pitched malt, moderate brine, and a collection of bass petrol/earthy/smokey/anise-y flavours. In sum, I always liked the vividness of the flavours. Now I also like the nature of the individual flavours a lot better. Score: 23/25 pts (until recently I would have scored the quality of the flavours at 19/25 pts)
Variety: the number of flavours and contrast have always been more than adequate. Score: 23/25 pts
Harmony: I still don't think that these flavours have much natural harmony combined together. It is the individual quality and beautiful intensity of the flavours that make this work. Score: 21/25 pts
Concluding comment: accepting of, and enjoying of, a lot more lemon citrus flavours and a lot more anise flavours in my whiskies have been the two main changes I have seen in the multi-year evolution of my whisky tastes. I consider it to be a very good thing that those changes have been in the direction of learning to enjoy a wider variety of flavours, thus increasing the number of whiskies which I can wholeheartedly enjoy drinking. I advise the reader: you might very well find yourself liking some additional whisky flavours down the road, in additon to only those which you like today. Slainte!