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Ardbeg Dark Cove

Average score from 5 reviews and 6 ratings 88

Ardbeg Dark Cove

Product details

  • Brand: Ardbeg
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 46.5%
  • Bottled: 2016

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Ardbeg Dark Cove

I know this has been reviewed a lot on here but thought I'd add my 2p worth. This is only the 46.5% version - would have preferred the CS version.

Nose hits immediately with treacle, plums, black fruit and a bit of liquorice. Initially it's easy to miss the smokiness but that soon comes through the sweet fruit. As we go on we start to get the classic Ardbeg dry, briney, peatiness. But the sherry influence is never far away and evolves to sharper red berry notes. It even triggers thoughts of Christmas Cake and marzipan.

Palate is a nice marriage of plum pudding and smoke. Toffee-liquorice, treacle and black fruit notes all come together under a flambéed umbrella. Still salty and dry underneath it all.

Dryness is most apparent on the finish but the sweetness from the sherry lasts with it.

I really like this but the question is - is it better than Uigeadail? It is not far off twice the cost but it's definitely not twice as good. Think I need to try the two back-to-back to decide where this sits. I do rate it as far better value than my just-reviewed Auriverdes however.

@Nozinan - you're probably right. I think I just assumed that at 55% it was a CS version. I was actually at Ardbeg distillery last week while on my Islay holiday. They were very generous with their free samples but I still did not see Dark Cove above the 46.5% ABV version even there.

I don't think a CS version was ever released. @Victor was kind enough to share a taste of the 55% committee release, but I don't know that it was the barrel strength.


This is just a quick review after one glass this evening. Note that this is the general release, not the much higher ABV committee release.

I found this to be milder than the Uigeadail, but similar in trajectory. That is, opening with sweet (this time a pronounced and pleasing ex-bourbon sweetness) passing through a lovely middle of subdued sherry and peat, and eventually fading away with complex drying and spice. Lots of complexity, nuance and balance to keep a whisky lover happy. I don't find it matching the marketing at all. There is nothing "dark" here. Just a beautiful, complex and well balanced dram in the popular Ardbeg style, but this time much easier than we're used to because of the lower ABV. I much prefer it over the new makey and one dimensional Perpetuum. It is sweeter and more complex and satisfying than the Auriverdes, which I am otherwise pretty fond of. With a higher ABV I would have scored it higher. Otherwise, a winner. Sweet, complex and delicious.


Yes, I know. A million bloggers have already written about this one and I'm super late to the party. I have an excuse, though. I've been sick for a while and, frankly, quite busy with putting together my documentary Every Dram Drunk.

I'm calling it a documentary but, as my friend rather sarcastically pointed out, it's actually just a pathetic attempt on my part to validate yet another boys trip. I can't help but fear she's right but, hey, you know what they say. Opinions are like butt cracks. Everyone has one.

Anyway, the whisky at hand.

Now Ardbeg have started doing this thing where they create two versions of the same whisky to release during the Feis. A Committee bottle and a Festival bottle. They did it last year for the first time with the Perpetuum and now this year with the Dark Cove. Usually the Committee bottle has a stronger ABV compared to the Festival release. While the Perpetuum had a 2% difference in ABV this years' release has a whopping 8.5% difference!

The Committee release is bottled at a punchy 55% and the Festival release at a mere 46.5%

I wish I could understand the logic of it. I mean if the whisky is meant to be tasted at 55% let it be. Don't go about watering it down to create more stock. Look, the Festival release is pretty darn decent by any stretch of the imagination but the Committee at 55% is a completely different animal.

And that's what was sitting in front of me my first day on Islay.

After warming up our palates with the tasty Lagavulin 8 we ordered this one while sat at the Old Port Bar at the quaint Port Askaig Hotel.

There's not a lot of literature on this one and even at the distillery everyone was quite vague. All they kept saying was this one has a lot of dark sherry in it. Apparently it's a rare kind of sherry from Spain. But that's all I know. Anyway.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at, as I mentioned earlier, 55%

Bam! Big big nose. Reminded me why I was in love with Ardbeg for the longest time. Touch mossy at first but then relaxes into a smoky haze. Wet barn. Wheat biscuits. Bung cloth. Cracking peat. Black fruits. Lots of toffee. Red peppers. Cinnamon. All-spice. Rather sweet on the nose. Love this bold approach. The peat and the dark sherry, whatever the hell that is, works beautifully together.

The true test of a whisky is on the palate and this is where this one comes through in spades. The 55% is the right strength for this spirit. Massive flavours. Solid oak. Cinnamon. Quite oily. Salty. Dark chocolate. Wait, bitter chocolate. Almonds. Toasted wood. Sticky toffee pudding. Liquorice. Dark fruits. This is unapologetic. Love it.

My hastily written notes say So I'm going to have to go with that. Mad spice. Caramel. Smoke.

Beautiful whisky this. While the Festival is nice in it's own right the Committee is the one to beat. Reaffirms my faith in this distillery to produce knockout flavours. This one also marked the start of a memorable boys trip to the Festival and, thus, has a special place in my heart.

I am also grateful for your review. I think I saw a bottle of the standard Dark Cove release in your preview video. Did you get a chance to taste it? It would be wonderful to hear your thoughts on the differences.

@Victor Yes, I read your review and was excited about tasting it. I think after the Alligator this is probably the most exciting of the Ardbeg special releases. With the new Supernova also kicking ass do you think it's a turn around for the distillery? Especially after lacklustre efforts like the Auri & Galileo and the steady decline in quality of the Oogy & the Corry?

I certainly hope so.


The Dark Cove is the long awaited and seriously hyped new Ardbeg Day 2016 release. We are talking the general release here, not the Committee Release at 55% with the pale label. It was sold through the Ardbeg Embassies on Saturday 28th May and – as is always the case with these types of releases – was sold out in a matter of hours. The label boldly states ‘dark sherry casks’ and ‘darkest Ardbeg ever’. I am not sure that that means. Oloroso? PX? Darkest ever? I have seen Ardbeg twice this dark. I hope the contents of the bottle is better than the PR bullshit.

Well, the nose is very pleasant. Vanilla and tar, soy sprouts (that’s a first!), walnuts and some seaweeds. Something that reminds me of band aids. Not overly medicinal, just a touch. Bicyle tire? I get some liquorice, ginger and nutmeg. If there is any fruit, it is lemon. The smoke development is rather limited, but quite nice. After some five minutes, I get something really sweet. Caramelized peel of blood oranges. Could that be the sherry?

It starts rather salty with loads of ashes and oak (ginger!), before it allows the sweetness to reveal itself. But the sweetness is not offered much room, for it turns very salty again immediately. Some smoked ham with a drop of lime juice and Seville oranges. The peat is unmistakable, but far from playing first fiddle. Loads of tannins, though.

In the long finish, it is mostly the spices that speak, but at the death I get a sudden eruption of plasticine and rubber.

All-in all, this Dark Cove is a good Ardbeg, but – like its predecessors of the last years – it does not match the classics like Uigeadail, Corryvreckan or the Beist. I would rather spend my money on them. I bought this for 99 EUR, but now easily reaches 150 to 200 EUR on secondary markets. Thanks to Anthony and Imanuel for helping me obtain this bottle.

I set out to buy the committee release for about 80€ but didn't get one. Now this one is available for about 100€. Doesn't seem like that good a buy.. Plus the marketing BS makes me reluctant to spend my money on it. ''a heart of dark sherry casks blah blah blah''

I really liked Perpetuum, which I liken to Ardbeg Ten v2.0, but have to agree that Corryvrecken is better and cheaper. I've only missed out on "Day" of the annual releases, and though I enjoyed them, I still think Corry is better. I might pick up some bottles of "Dark Cove" when they show up, but won't be upset to miss out. I am disturbed to find the last two bottles of Ten I bought were fairly bland. As a result I've been buying bottles of the excellent Laphroaig 15 (2015) and Cairdeas 2015.


Sometimes my friend @Nock asks me to help him pick up some new releases of Ardbeg and Laphroaig, because they are usually easier to get where I live than where he lives. I've been a little luke-warm on the special releases of Ardbeg recently, so my enthusiasm was not too high to hustle after the few bottles of Ardbeg Dark Cove which my county is offering for sale. At "one bottle per customer" my wife and I were able to pick up two bottles. I told @Nock he could have one, and I would try the second bottle and decide whether I wanted it or not. I want it. Dark Cove 55% ABV is a keeper. Apparently there is also a 46% ABV version for sale. Which would I prefer to own? Duh!!! I am so happy that our local liquor supply systems are not forced to go that low ABV route

The reviewed bottle was opened yesterday

Colour: urine while dehydrated; Ardbeg makes a big deal of the colour of this whisky on the bottle labels, but really, while this is darker than is most non-coloured Scotch, the whisky is not really very dark. There is really only the faintest hint of red in the colouration. This colour looks about like the colour of the average 4 year old bourbon

Nose: big strong flavours; intense tart dry sherry, and very big peat and smoke flavours. Excellent Ardbeg nose. Is this like a turbo-charged Uigeadail? Yes, it is...which is a very good thing. It is also like a Supernova with sharp sherry. Water added tones the nose down and emphasises the milder elements of the peat. Much more interesting without water. Score: 24.5/25

Taste: Very ashy, which is not an adjective I use for many whiskies; intense flavours; sharp, high-pitched dry sherry; plenty of petrol, salt, seaweed, iodine, and black licorice. Moderate smoke. Lots of rather pleasant bitterness here, with noticeable sourness, and just enough sweetness to keep the total package in very good balance. Water added bundles the flavours and emphasises the peat. Forget the water. Score: 23.5/25

Finish: intense, long, ending on brine, bitter-sour peat, and lots of licorice. Water added mutes the very interesting flavours. Score: 23/25

Balance: excellent in the nose; very good thereafter. A touch less sourness and this would have been 96 point whisky for me. Score: 23/25

Total Sequential Score: 94 points

Strength: very big flavours. Score: 24/25

Quality: all very nice, with a multi-dimensional peat and a tart high-pitched sherry. Score: 23.5

Variety: really a lot of complex flavours are present to choose from. Score: 23.5/25

Harmony: great harmony in the nose; very good harmony thereafter. All I would have preferred would have been a touch less of the sour component. Score: 23/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 94 points

Comment: yes, I like Ardbeg Dark Cove 55% ABV. If I didn't already own so many bottles of Ardbeg I'd want to own more than one bottle of this one. Dark Cove is much more to my liking than are Auriverdes or Perpetuum. Is Dark Cove 55% ABV like a turbo-charged Uigeadail? Yes. Or a sherried Supernova? Yes. The price of $ 100 here and no doubt much more than that in many other places is getting steep. Still, at $ 100 the quality is really here in spades, and this is a lot less pricey than were the Supernovae. I highly recommend the 55% ABV release of Ardbeg Dark Cove

@Nav26, the 55% ABV Ardbeg Dark Cove is actually quite similar to the first two bottles of L10 151 Uigeadail which I consumed, and the Bottle # 1 reviewed in A Tale of Two Uigeadails. The L10 151 Uigeadail which I have open now (and the only one which @Nock has tasted) was conveyed to me by @RobertH, and came from a far-away distribution point. The current bottle has less obvious sherry influence, and I have been assuming that it came through at a different point of the bottling run, probably at the end.

In both Dark Cove 55% and my reviewed L10 151 the sherry influence is very high-pitched and noticeable. It is a very dry sherry influence in the Dark Cove, which I like. The L10 151 Uigeadail was also dry with the sherry, but probably a little less so. The peaty and petrol-y elements of Dark Cove are especially strong, in the manner of Supernova, which I like. They are similar in the reviewed L10 151, but perhaps a hair less strong than in the Dark Cove. Overall balance was near perfect in that reviewed L10 151, more so than in Dark Cove. There is too much sourness in the Dark Cove to make it to 98 points. Even my later sourced bottles of L10 151 were not the same as the four bottles I bought at first locally. They were and are still very fine Uigeadails, but still not the same as the first group. The sherry in the second group was less pronounced, and the peat and petrol elements were more emphasised.

I could go on and on talking about this, but the bottom line is that I find the Dark Cove 55% to be very similar to the L10 151 Uigeadail in intensity, but not quite equal to it in balance, especially on the finish.

If the L10 151 Uigeadail made that strong an impression on you, I bet that Ardbeg Dark Cove 55% ABV will also be a hit for you.

As always I am extremely grateful for the review. It is also nice to know that my "prodding" has helped us both to acquire this amazing bottle of liquid. I can't thank you enough for this particular whisky acquisition.

I do want to point out that the Dark Cove Committee Release 55% was bottled on November 20th of 2015 while the standard release bottle at 46.5% was bottled on February 9th of 2016. I strong believe that we have two very different batches and not simply a watering down of the exact same recipe.

And yes, I do really, really like the low ABV version. It is a totally different animal than the Committee. It just arrived in Virginia and so I picked up another bottle. Yes, it is expensive. However, I like as much (if not more than) Airigh Nam Beist (I know that is close to blasphemy to some Ardbeg fans). For me the Beist had a fantastic nose, but much in the way of finish. I find the 46.5% has far more body, thickness, lusciousness, and luxuriousness in both the palate and finish than any Ardbeg I have had at 46%.

@NAV26 as you noted your bottle of Uigeadail was bottled a mere 3 days before @Victor's beloved L10 151. My strong belief is that you have the exact same batch. I think the only difference might be in how it was shipped and stored prior to you picking it up.

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