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Ardbeg Dark Cove

This Is Why I Loved Ardbeg

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@MaltActivistReview by @MaltActivist

21st Jun 2016


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

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.

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Victor commented

@MaltActivist, millions of bloggers may have reviewed Dark Cove Committee Release, but your review is only, I think, the second Connosr review of it.

I have been waiting eagerly for your review of the Dark Cove 55% version, and I am delighted that you loved this one as much as I did. You even gave it the same numerical score. This is an all time favourite Ardbeg for me too, and it has been years since I've had an Ardbeg I liked as much, outside of the Supernova series.

3 years ago 0

Nock commented

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.

3 years ago 0

MaltActivist commented

@Nock I probably drank the standard DC the most during my trip to Islay. It's a good whisky. I liked it. I didn't really get a chance to do a H2H with the Committee but essentially it's the same spirit, albeit slightly watered down which softens all the flavors and makes it immensely drinkable.

The Committee, on the other hand, thanks to the higher ABV is much more impactful and the flavors that much bigger.

3 years ago 0

MaltActivist commented

@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.

3 years ago 0

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