This year’s committee release is called Ardbeg Grooves – a nod to the 60s, “Peat and Love”. It has little in common with the regular Ardbeg expressions, in my opinion, owing to the use of intensely charred red wine casks that give this whisky its very own flavour profile.
Nose: In addition to the expected smoke, there is a lot of sweet fruitiness, more so than in the regular Ardbeg expressions. Taking note of a slight hint of sourness, I associate it with freshly cut grapefruits. There is paprika powder and peppery wood on top of the initial sweetness, too. Overall, the nose disappoints a little though, as it comes across relatively weak for a >50% Islay whisky.
Taste: Caramelised sugar, peaty wood, and oranges now. It is certainly less peaty than, for example, the Corryvreckan, but that doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Let’s dig deeper: Maritime saltiness, a noticeable barrel influence (but no dominant red wine influence), peanuts and paprika crisps. With its round taste it’s easy to drink and not overly complex on the palate. Depending on what you expect from your bottle of single malt whisky, that can be a good thing or a bad thing, I guess. I like the palate better than the nose.
Finish: Not long. The good: Lemons, dry oak, salt and spices. The bad: More ashy than smoky.
Comments: Interesting yet smooth Ardbeg bottling. Weaker than I had expected given the 51.6% abv. On that level it doesn’t compare well to cask strength Islay whiskies. The wine cask only timidly reveals itself, making it appear less bold in comparison to other recent whiskies that had wine finishes. Very enjoyable to drink for sure, but nothing I’d want to buy a second bottle of.
Rating: I rated this whisky 85 out of 100.
(Nose 21, Taste 22, Finish 20, Balance 22)
I found the following tasting notes on other blogs: