This Ardbeg was the limited release for Ardbeg Day 2018. I have to admit that I was a bit Ardbeg-tired as I felt the special releases did not live up to the standard range. So my expectations for this Grooves were not that high. By the way: Grooves refers to the… err… grooves that appear when charring the red wine casks that were used for this release.
The nose starts sweet and citrusy, with blood oranges, leather, rum raisins and freshly ground coffee beans. A bitter note from black grapes, furniture polish and tannins. Then some sweet pastry, rhubarb and paprika, followed by smoked ham and woodsmoke. The peat is present, surly – you notice this is an Ileach from the first moment – but the typical maritime character of Ardbeg is not immediately recognizable. Having said that, this one smells rather interesting.
It starts sooty and salt on the palate, the smoke develops immediately and the sweet notes – that are present and actually increase – are no match for the distillery character now. But wait! While salt and sweet go to battle, it is citrus fruit that cries victory in the end. This makes for a playful malt that searches the extremes a bit and is quite surprising. Very spicy, by the way. Paprika, black pepper and barbecue sauce. Eclatant!
The finish is somewhat short, mildly drying on espresso, pepper and smoke. Soot and more soot at the death. If there was something like caramelized charcoal, this is it!
Congratulations, Ardbeg! What a fun expression. A conversation piece malt. Pleasant surprise.