Ardbeg An Oa (pronounced “an oh”) is inspired by the most untamed part of The Ultimate Islay Malt’s remote Scottish island home. Released this September 2017, it is the first new permanent expression to emerge from Ardbeg for almost ten years. As untamed as the mull of OA is (The Mull of Oa is Islay’s most untamed spot. Situated at the end of the Oa peninsula, its dramatic cliffs form the most southerly point of Islay. On one side, this rounded headland – 202m at its height – bears the brunt of storms that rage in from the Atlantic. On the other, it provides shelter from the wild weather to the southern coast of Islay, including Ardbeg Cove, where the Ardbeg Distillery is nestled), this ardbeg is not intended to be fiercer than the Ardbeg 10, but rather a toned down Ardbeg, as Ardbeg puts it :
Like the complex whisky which shares its name, Islay’s Mull of Oa is noticeably rounded. At the Island’s southernmost point, the headland’s towering cliffs stand defiantly against the raging Atlantic storms, providing welcome shelter for Islay’s south coast, to which the Ardbeg Distillery has clung for more than 200 years. Ardbeg An Oa pays homage to its untamed provenance, with contrasts of powerful intensity and sweet silkiness that celebrate the spot where storm meets calm.
As for wood strategy, Ardbeg has decided to go with a combination of Pedro Ximénes casks, virgin oak, and ex-bourbon barrels which are all vatted and married in what Ardbeg refers to as “The Gathering Room” -c reated from a former grain store at Ardbeg, has been custom designed to hold Ardbeg’s Gathering Vat. Crafted from French oak, the vast Gathering Vat allows the different cask types to marry. Let’s try this one H2H with the 10, and see how it fares:
Nose: The nose starts with a bit of fresh black peppercorns, some aniseed, and a dollop of vanilla, and toffee, it certainly feels a bit rounder and sweeter (and creamier) than the regular 10. I guess the virgin oak and the PX casks are at work here… It’s also an Islay malt , with the peat , seaweed and some pine notes, as well as mint, tar and lemon peel.
Palate: Creamy vanilla , and sugary sweetness, followed bu more peat and wood smoke than the nose hinted upon, salted toffee, ripe orange, cinnamon and a gingery touch. there’s quite some smoke, rather dry, hints of ash, and cream biscuits. Feels lighter and creamier than the 10, but the peat is there no doubt.
Finish: lingering smoke, ash, and peat embers along vanilla pastries, drying.
Well well, this is an Ardbeg alright, It’s not fierce as the 10, but it’s not a watered down Ardbeg IMHO. there’s more vanilla, and sweetness , and the nose is quite elegant, while the palate stronger than the nose would suggest. A worthy addition to the core range, it’s not as sweet as the Uigedail, and certainly not as strong ABV wise. A very nice introdcutiom to Ardbegian peat. Ejoyable!