Sunday 15 October 2017

Ardbeg An Oa (Tasted #373)

The new Ardbeg An Oa (pronounced "an oh") was released last month and formed part of the Ardbeg core range which includes the classic 10yo, Corryvreckan and Uigedail. We have seen quite a few Ardbeg releases over the last couple of years though those were merely limited edition releases including this year's committee 'Kelpie' release which saw the interesting use of Black Sea virgin oak casks.

Ardbeg An Oa takes its name from the Mull Of Oa, an area at the end of the Oa peninsula on Islay - the most southern point on Islay. The release pays homage to the untamed provenance, where the towering cliffs often battle the raging Atlantic storms, providing shelter for Islay's south coast. The story behind each Ardbeg release always continue to fascinate me and I hear there might be a rather groovy story behind one of the upcoming releases.

The An Oa release is exciting for a couple of reasons; firstly, it has been a while since Ardbeg last released a bottling into its core range and the permanent addition of An Oa to the Ardbeg family means that this particular release can truly be enjoyed throughout the year, just like its 10yo brethren. Secondly, An Oa is a remarkably balanced, approachable, 'smooth' Ardbeg - which in our view, complements the other core range bottlings rather well given their more prominent hearthy 'Ardbeg' profile. The uniqueness of the An Oa profile as compared to the other three core bottles might eventually see new Ardbeggians that prefer the more approachable style joining the Ardbeg club.

An Oa takes a slightly different profile in that it is derived from the vatting of whiskies from several different cask types including ex-bourbon, PX and virgin oak. The marrying of these whiskies within the 'Gathering Vat'; a vat that had been built from French oak, has resulted in a rather balanced yet complex Ardbeg profile.

Ardbeg An Oa (46.6% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, A$119.99 / $780HKD)
A 'smooth and smoky' Ardbeg release that will appeal to both existing Ardbeg fans as well as those newer on the smoky Ardbeg block. The An Oa is one approachable Ardbeg that can be had on many occasions, either neat or mixed in a cocktail.

Colour: Champagne gold

Nose: The nose is an interesting one. It has a balanced maritime nose with a soft Ardbeg smoke, creamy vanilla and there are also grassy, maple coated bacon, caramel and sea salt peanut brittle (does such thing exist?!) notes. The nose of An Oa does not hit you with a bucket load of peat bog or bonfire smoke.

Palate: The palate is creamy, smooth and there's more of that salted peanut brittle. The sweeter notes are more subtle and quite fragrant; a good mix of vanilla slice with some burnt orange followed by a subtle Ardbeg bonfire smoke that lingers with sweet, sweet nutmeg spice.

Finish: The finish is long and lingers for a while leaving a trail of peanut butter sweetness and subtle nutmeg spices.

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 92/100.


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