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