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Ardbeg Dark Cove

A Keeper

1 3694

@VictorReview by @Victor

30th Mar 2016

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    94

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

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

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36 comments

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas commented

I just gotta say that love your use of the plural "Supernovae."

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@OlJas, I was hoping that someone would notice that.

3 years ago 0

maltmate302 commented

@Victor thanks for another excellent review.It sounds like this particular Ardbeg would be one that's perfect for me.Unfortunately I haven't joined the Ardbeg committee yet and that's the only way to get one in the UK at a price of 86 pounds.That price point is normally a little more than I'm prepared to pay but I probably would get 1 bottle of this sherried beauty.There are tentative online rumours that Dark Cove is going to become one of their regular releases, a bit like they done with the Corryvreckan a few years back!

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@maltmate302, maybe you should join the Ardbeg Committee. I haven't, but my county gets some Committee releases and offers them for sale. So I see them sometimes, but it is very competitive locally to get any of them. I was very lucky to get my hands on one bottle of the 2015 Supernova Committee Release. I see on wine-searcher.com that Dark Cove is already selling for well above $ 200 on the low end.

That is very interesting what you say about the possibility of Dark Cove becoming a regular release. This may explain the 'no more Supernovae' statement from Ardbeg. Maybe they want to use their most intensely peated barrels to produce a whisky which also contains sherry. Indeed, I see this 55% ABV Dark Cove to be like an Uber-Uigeadail, or a sherried Supernova. In any case, this is a whisky which works. Having it around for repeated releases can only be a good thing...if not for the price.

I can't imagine wanting to water this lovely juice down to 46% ABV. I have to think that much would be lost.

3 years ago 0

@Alexsweden
Alexsweden commented

Sounds like a winner! I'm seriously considering getting this, the Uigeadail is one of the best peated whiskies I've had so you really peaked my interest with this fine review.

3 years ago 0

@thecyclingyogi
thecyclingyogi commented

@Nozinan should be making an appearance any moment now....

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Nemesis101
Nemesis101 commented

@Victor - thanks for yet another great review. Interesting that this is at its best neat at Cask Strength. Generally, (and it is a generalisation) I find most malts bottled above 50% need at least a small drop of water to bring out their range of flavours.

Anyway, I've been tempted by this bottling since I got the Ardbeg Committee email about it. You've pretty much convinced me it's worth parting with my cash, although by the looks of the website we're not getting it over here until the end of May.

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Alexsweden, disregard the mountain of printed nonsense on the Ardbeg bottle label and leaflet. Ardbeg seems to be mightily trying to mythologise this whisky...which is a pile of marketing BS. But...the quality of the whisky speaks for itself, and it speaks mightily.

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Nemesis101, I was busy responding to @alexsweden when you and thecyclingyogi posted. As you know, I like the whiskies strong, but there are some high strength whiskies which I prefer with water. Most of those are much stronger than 55% ABV.

In the case of Dark Cove, I find that the whisky becomes less interesting with water, pretty much across the board. The flavours merge with water and the nuance and complexity are mostly lost.

3 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@thecyclingyogi - my pedantic interest in piqued interest peaked a while back is now on the decline...

3 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@Victor I hope a small amount of this will magically make its way North in May...

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Nozinan, yes, I expect that you will get a taste of Ardbeg Dark Cove.

One more plug I will make for Ardbeg Dark Cove is that this whisky gives me a strong positive feedback response, viz. when I have one dram of Dark Cove, I want a second, third, and fourth dram of Dark Cove. Maybe one whisky in 20 makes me feel that way.

3 years ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@Victor. I was glad to see that your reference to urine was confined to the colour. Sounds like a must have. Cheers.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

KWM in Calgary is ordering this one in, unclear if it will be the 55% version if there is another one, and with tax it should come to $140 Canadian, so fairly consistent with what @Victor paid. They are making no guarantees that they will have enough for everyone who preorders, and it should be in in June.

3 years ago 0

@Alexsweden
Alexsweden commented

@Victor, it was the marketing fluff that made me not wanting to buy this but after your review I changed my mind.

3 years ago 0

@Alexsweden
Alexsweden commented

@Victor, it was the marketing fluff that made me not wanting to buy this but after your review I changed my mind.

3 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

KWM has confirmed they will be getting the 46% version in.

3 years ago 0

@NAV26
NAV26 commented

@Victor, you compare this to Uigeadil. How does it compare to the L10 151? Four years after tasting that I still remember its intensity and balance.

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@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.

3 years ago 0

@NAV26
NAV26 commented

@ Victor, thank you very much for the detailed comparison. I am very pleased to have stocked a couple of these.

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Nav26, delighted to oblige...and I still have 3 unopened bottles of L10 151 in stock, 2 from the original purchase and 1 1/2 from @RobertH.

3 years ago 0

@NAV26
NAV26 commented

@Victor, L10 151 is one of the - if not the best whisky I have ever had. I believe I have one extra bottle from approximately the same time, but need to check when I have access to this cabinet in June. Given my somewhat compartmentalized life, I actually have three cabinets in three locations. I would trade many bottles in my collection for another bottle of L10 151.

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@NAV26, re: L10 151 Uigeadail,...you and me both, brother. You and me both.

3 years ago 0

@NAV26
NAV26 commented

@Victor, one interesting taste I remember getting with L10 150 was s'mores. I found it really noticiable, did/do you get that?

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@NAV26, s'mores? I can't say that I noticed those flavours, but I will look for them...

3 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

My current batch of Uigeadail I have open is L60972 08/01/2015. Purchased for $83 including tax in Calgary when it's about $170 here.

Way back, likely in 2011, I bought a bottle of the Uiggy at the LCBO before I even understood about batch variation and Ardbeg in general. I'm sure it was not at anywhere near the current LCBO price. It's been in the back of my "to drink" shelf for pretty much the whole time I've owned it. So when I got the one I have open now on sale I just opened it instead of digging back.

This thread has "peaked" (that's right, @thecyclingyogi...) my interest. Lo and behold, upon checking, my archived bottle happens to be batch L10 151. What are the chances?

3 years ago 0

@NAV26
NAV26 commented

@Nozinan, you are incredibly lucky, enjoy!

3 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas commented

One of my local retailers has tons of the 55% Dark Cove sitting on the shelf for $120 a pop. Anyone care to weigh in on whether I should be scooping them up?

Rich, peaty, high-ABV whiskies are indeed my favorites.

3 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas commented

Oh, and @Nemesis101 , I don't think anyone has claimed that this is cask strength. And at an even 55%, it almost surely isn't.

3 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

I got to try dark cove at 55% at the Ontario Summit 2016. It was a small sample after 38 other expressions. Nevertheless, I found it quite impressive.

I suspect the resale value would demand that you pick some up. As for the important criterion, taste, it is worth trying, and I would possiblyy pay $120 Canadian for a bottle, but not $120 US.

3 years ago 0

maltmate302 commented

OIJas for the resale value alone you should get as many of these 55% bottles as possible. Over here only the 46.5% stuff is available at 99 pounds and that is selling out rapidly. The 55% version does sound like an absolutely wonderful whisky and $120 seems a real steal to me.

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

I tried some of the 46.5% ABV version when @Nock was up here visiting. It is OK, but I wouldn't buy it myself for $ 100+. It was very licorice-y, especially on the finish. @Nock liked it better than I did, I think. I would have rated the 46.5% ABV version about 89 points on critics' criteria, but since I am not crazy about dominant black licorice for drinking pleasure the Ardbeg Dark Cove 46.5% expression would only be worth about 82 "enjoyment" points to me. Not only does the 55% version have more 'oomph', it also has much more complexity.

3 years ago 0

@NAV26
NAV26 commented

@Victor, I juste arrived home. and to my central cabinet yesterday. One on thé bottles of Uigeadail I have on hand is L10 148. This is quitte interresting as it is not listed as a batch from 2010 on thé Ardbeg project codes page. I am hoping that it Will be very close to thé batch that was bottes just 3 days latter.

My next task is figurine out what 6 bottles to travel back and which to open while I am here...

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@NAV26, you never know how it will taste until you try some.

3 years ago 0

@Nock
Nock commented

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.

3 years ago 0

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