In a little over two months I’ll be wending my way through the rocky coastlines and esteemed distilleries of Islay. Like any traveler, I have preconceived notions in my head as to what I’ll see and what I’ll experience. Also, like any traveler, I know I shouldn’t let my mind do this. There is no better way to spoil a beautiful trip than with preconceived notions not met. One of the things I most want to do while on this tiny island is spend my evenings walking the oceanside…bottle in hand…and set down on the rocks or shore to sip whisky and meet the ocean head on.
I can’t imagine a better way to realize this than with a bottle of Ardbeg in hand. The sun sets over our lone gunslinger (or keyboard jockey) as he forlornly stares the sky down and greets the evening. Or…y’know…something like that.
I have actually spent a considerable amount of time debating which whisky would most capture the essence of Islay for me. That is the bottle I want to buy on night one. Something to nurse through the week. A big bottle of smoke and peat, briny and massive. Something as big and bold as the ocean itself. I think I’ve finally figured it out.
There is something about Ardbeg that resonates with me. Something deep and dark and mysterious. The packaging hints at it. The whisky delivers it.
Corryvreckan is named after the famous whirlpool in Scotland, and the legend that accompanies it. It is a tale of a brave Scandinavian prince named Breacan, who seeks the hand of a Princess of Jura, the daughter of the Lord of the Isles. The Lord consents but challenges him, saying that Breacan must show his courage and skill by anchoring his ship for three days and nights in the whirlpool of Corryvreckan. Breacan, after consulting with the locals, chooses his three ropes. One rope of wool, one rope of hemp and one rope made from hair of maidens of ‘spotless fame’. On the first night the woolen rope breaks. On the second night it is the rope of hemp that gives way. Finally on the third night the last rope breaks as well. The story goes that perhaps one of the maidens, whose hair was used to make the rope, was not quite as ‘spotless’ as made out to be. Alas poor Breacan paid the price for this maiden’s lack of chastity. I have heard two tales of Breacan’s final resting place. In one Breacan is said to now lie in the lair of the hag goddess of winter, Cailleach Bheur, beneath Corryvreckan. In the other Breacan was said to have been dragged ashore by his faithful hound and carried to a cave. This cave, known fittingly as Breacan’s cave, was excavated years ago, and interestingly…a stone coffin was found.
You pick the ending you like best.
Enough of the background. Hope I’ve painted enough of a picture for you. On to the whisky…
Corryvreckan, quite simply, is another Ardbeg masterpiece. Can this distillery do no wrong? Big notes of smoke and peat are complimented with citrus zest and salt. The briny edge is almost burn-your-nose sharp…but in a good way. I dare you to not be swept away with images of the windswept Scottish coast. There is a hint of smoked fish and oak. Black pepper and a burnt coffee and sugar edge. Spicy…you bet. You’ll get a bit of fruit too. Mostly in the finish that lingers with that dry tangy green bite that seems to follow most peated whiskies.
It is oily and thick. Beautifully so, and deliciously mouth-coating. The finish echoes on into infinity. Let this be the whisky that closes your night of dramming. No other whisky out there could possibly follow this. Well…maybe the Uigeadail.
Reviewed by: Curt