Ardbeg Dark Cove Review

Ardbeg Dark Cove20160528_122452

46.5% abv

Score:  89/100


Not a lot of bad press floating around for this one.  Unless, of course, you take into account those wanting to criticize the marketing team behind Ardbeg.  Personally, I think they’re a bunch of mad geniuses and aesthetically gifted wizards.  Of course we dislike the NAS factor, but it’s difficult not to appreciate the clever spins, yarns and angles they come up with.

Case in point, Dark Cove, which pays homage to the early days of illicit distillation at Ardbeg and the measures taken to avoid the excise man.  The imagery (literal and implied) of moonlit rocky shorelines, hidden caverns, dark waves and complicit locals makes for a heck of a tale.  But a story in and of itself is nothing when we’re referring to the quality of the whisky in the glass.  Proof’s in the pudding, as the say.  We’ll come to that in a minute though.

Dark Cove was 2016’s Ardbeg Day release, and when it landed, it arrived with all the expected fanfare.  Cool, stylish events…badass animated Ardbeggian videos…glorious graphics…and untold thousands of drams being poured at Ardbeg embassies around the world.  LVMH has deep pockets.  There is nothing half-assed in an Ardbeg launch.  If you’ve not attended one, I’d highly recommend penciling in the date next year.

Now the drink itself…

I would argue that Ardbeg’s contemporary reputation was built largely on the back of Uigeadail, that sherried phenolic heavyweight that even the most jaded seem to adore (or at least admire).  From there, an empire was built.  The limited releases that have followed have been a mixed bag of hits and misses for some, but those that have a perpetual spot on the shelf for a bottle of Oogie should find themselves tickled ruddy pick for this one.  It bears all the familiar hallmarks of sweet waves of sherry smashing headlong into a sharp and jagged coast of heavy peat.  The marriage is exceptional.  Better than Uigeadail?  Not sure.  I’ll sample side by side when the opportunity presents.  Watch the comments section below for updates.

And finally, while I have tried both the general and committee releases of Dark Cove I can’t say which I prefer, as the settings and companion drams were of vastly disparate measures.  At some point I’ll do a head to head.

Nose:  Windy, wet seaside and beach fire.  Smoke and rubber.  Lime, and dark fruit compote.  Earthy peat.  A few drops of coffee.  Fennel.  Iodine (and slightly ammonic too).  BBQ sauced and seared pork.  Damp linens and dry spice.  More lime, dark chocolate and spice.  Minerally.  Kelp.

Palate:  Infinitely Ardbeg.  Nice ‘peat meets sweet’ marriage.  Dry and sooty.  Grapey sherry notes.  Citrus juice.  Tastes of leather.  Salty.  And rich in that Ardbeg rubberiness.  Very oceanic palate.  And ashy.  Unfortunately, while entirely pleasant, seems slightly muted by the comparatively low (by Ardbeg standards) bottling strength.  Nice looooooong finish.

Thoughts:  Tastes like more, to be honest.  A good outing from Kildalton’s finest.


 – Images & Words:  Curt

13 thoughts on “Ardbeg Dark Cove Review

  1. Ricardo

    While Uigeadail is great I would take it back one more step to Airigh Nam Beist, one of my favorites.

      1. ATW Post author

        I have a few more bottles of the beast, but have paid dearly for them over the years. They get saves for special occasions or tasting events now.

        1. Ol' Jas

          Since you mention paying dearly, do you mind if I ask how much?

          I ask because:
          •I missed the Beast when it was current and I wonder how highly it’s valued by those who know.
          •And yes, because on that other Springbank 21 post, we’ve been discussing the idea of whisky selling for current market prices versus original retail.

          1. ATW Post author

            Between $300 and $400 each. In some cases a wad of cash and a bottle in trade for one ANB.

  2. david

    I tried the 55% committee release and found it quite tasty. not sure I’d want to downgrade. I had a chance to buy this at KWM earlier this year and turned them down.

  3. Chris 1

    Mixed reviews on this one from the credible reviewers. Both Uigeadail and Coryvrekkan generally rate higher and both, I believe, are cheaper, certainly Oogie, anyway. Both also have the advantage of higher ABV.

    Nicely balanced review, Curt. You kept it just under the magic 90 mark, even though we all know you are a screaming teenage girl when it comes to Ardbeg. Haha, just kidding , Mate.

    1. ATW Post author

      No kidding about it. I am a wee fanboy with Ardbeg. Or ‘girl’ if you prefer. Either way…yep. 🙂

  4. Ol' Jas

    Did you ever do the head-to-head with the high-ABV version? With Oogie?

    I plan to try my high-ABV version head-to-head with the Oogie (and the Corry, and the Ten, and maybe with the Kelpie if I get one), but that won’t be until I open it in (probably) December. I never saw the 46% version.


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