Ardbeg “Dark Cove”

Taking a page from the illicit beginnings of whisky production in a long ago Scotland, the 2016 Committee Release by Ardbeg is called the Dark Cove. This hearkens back to before the official founding of the distillery in 1815, specifically to a time when excise men from the government found and raided the secret cove from whence the smugglers had long been using as a base of operations. With that illegal arm of whisky distribution disbanded, the site was soon occupied by the McDougall family, who were the founders of Ardbeg. Legend has it John McDougall’s own sons, Alexander and Alan, were arrested for smuggling years before the distillery was born. Ardbeg held many events under the cover of night upon this release, along with aging the spirit in dark sherry casks.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: NAS
Strength: 46.5%
Price: $109.99
Location: Ardbeg
Maturation: Dark sherry casks
Nose: Spice, pie filling, sherry, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon, apple
Palate: Brine, smoke, seaweed, ash
Finish: Peat, smoke, marshmallow

Comments: Let this one sit on your glass a bit to see how the oxidation evolves it. Several minutes can really open it up.

“A kind of harshness I like on the outside, but mostly this sweet dessert.”

Adam –  I never thought I’d say I’d tire of Ardbeg, but I might beginning to find that place in regards to these committee releases. It’s not that this is a bad dram – it’s delicious – but with the increasing cost of NAS whiskies, and I’m not sure how many more I will buy sight unseen/untasted. It’d feel a lot better if this were, say, $70 or $80. That being said, this is still a fascinating scotch. It definitely benefits from sitting in your glass a while. Brine and smoke and peat give way to a subtle sweetness and broad richness that evokes campfire marshmallows by the time you reach the end of your glass. The nose is not extroverted, as is the palate, but rewards closer examination. I don’t know if I necessarily buy into the hype around this dram but it rewards patience and introspection. 

Jenny – I’m getting apple pie filling with vanilla ice cream. It dies really fast compared to some Ardbeg. It’s not terrible, though.

Meghan – Like when you are roasting a hot dog or marshmallow and let your stick drop and the food touches the logs, there’s a little bit of that unfortunate ash riding the coattails of the smoke. It’s not a clean or tasty smoke. There is a burst of peat on the back palate as you swallow but it is not balanced by the rest of the flavors for me to enjoy it. Once it oxidizes though, it is a different story. The smoke billows nicely and the ashen aspect is gone. The peat is balanced from the nose through the finish. Although the finish is still short, especially in comparison to other Ardbegs, the oxidized dram is much more enjoyable.

Michael – I didn’t pick up much outside of the stringency one the nose. I wasn’t getting a lot of layers. I don’t think many will share this, but the overriding sensation for me is Lifesaver Wintergreen – the kind of tongue-numbing minty-ness. Bright and alcoholic. Then it slowly releases this flavor of smoke, a powdered sugar sensation. And then, after I swallowed, what was left over was that Lifesaver mint that lingered on my tongue for a while. 

Peter –  Mellow. Starts out very soft. A little spice at the end. It feels very soft, like a pillow. Not a huge amount of taste. 

Caitlin – It makes me think of red wine. It’s like the party guest who everyone notices and is attracted to but doesn’t take center stage of the party. They don’t hog the spotlight, they’re just there.

Ben – Apple, like a dessert. Like pie filling. a smell of the gas station that is horrible, that I like. A kind of harshness I like on the outside, but mostly this sweet dessert. Like a filling in a doughnut, maybe. It’s like it has to melt away to get to the sweetness. I think this one wants you to make a commitment. The more time you spend with it, the more you find what you like.