Ardbeg Dark Cove Review

“Not So Dark a Cove” 

Whisky Review # 669

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Ardbeg Dark Cove 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46.5%
Maturation: A Mix of Bourbon and Sherry casks. 
Chill Filtration: No     
Price Range: On average: US$ 175 (December 2017). 
Buying Advice: 😒 Negative. Better stay with the core range!

Colour: Golden Amber (Natural Colour)

Nose: Quite different from your average Ardbeg. It's quite Introvert and Soft and the Smoke is a background Aroma. On the Nose, the Dark Cove is Sweet with a few Mineral- and Meaty notes. I find Toasted Grain, Buttered Toast, Sweet Peat, Vanilla, Treacle, Honey, Caramel, Citrus, Leather, Meat or Bacon on the BBQ, Wet Sand, Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate, Pepper, Ginger, Clove, Salt, Cinnamon and Soy Sauce. The Sherry casks are represented by Dried Fruit like Dates and Sultanas and some Nuts. And finally I find traces of Plastic, Rubber, Iodine, Tar, Band-Aid, Leather Polish and Green Apple. It's a Young Whisky and the Alcohol is quite noticeable. At this price-level I would have expected a more outspoken Aroma profile. It's very Laid-Back, almost Lazy! 

Palate: Quite tame delivery despite the seemingly adequate ABV. I can see that the Committee Release at 55% would be more adequate. I find Toasted Cereals, Salted Caramel, Burnt Toast, Honey, Charred Oak, Dried Fruit, Apple, Smoked Meat, Citrus, Dark Chocolate, Espresso, Pepper, Licorice, Menthol, Ginger, Hay, Sweet Peat, Soy Sauce, Tar, Ashes and hints of Leather and Tobacco.  

Finish: Quite Long, Bitter-Sweet and Medium-Dry. I find Toasted Grain, Toffee, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Charred Oak, Espresso, Strong Black Tea, Licorice, Honey, Pepper, Nutmeg, Clove, Ginger, Dark Chocolate, Menthol, Earthy Peat, Ashes, Soy Sauce, Bacon on the BBQ, light Tar and Burnt Rubber, Dark Red Fruit and Dried Herbs. The Sweetness is slightly Artificial and a bit unpleasant after a few sips.        

Drinking Advice:

Added Water does not improve the Dark Cove. 

Rating: 85.5    

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

Image result for ardbeg dark cove

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

The current Distillery was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall close to the little town of Port Ellen on the island of Islay. In 1997 the distillery was bought by The Glenmorangie Company (part of French based Moet Hennessy) from the previous owners Allied Distillers. This company closed Ardbeg between 1981 and 1989 and only produced yearly during 2 months between 1989 and 1997. As a result, Ardbeg is lacking older stocks and is almost forced to launch Limited Editions while maintaining a very limited core range that consists of the 10 Years, the Corryvreckan and the Uigeadail. Like Glenmorangie, Ardbeg likes to experiment with Wood, Toasting and NAS expressions.

The Dark Cove refers to the illegal distilling and smuggling that was so common  in the old days on the isle of Islay and often happened in hidden coves and on remote beaches. It was launched as a limited edition to celebrate Ardbeg Day 2016 that was held on May 28 of that year. A special Ardbeg Committee release of the Dark Cove bottled at 55% was released as well.

🍷  The Spirit 

Ardbeg possesses only one pair of Stills with tall necks and rising Lyne arms that create lots of Reflux. A Purifier is connected to the Spirit Still that takes out the heavy Vapours and guarantees a Lighter and Fruity Spirit. The Water for the Spirit is sourced from Loch Uigeadail.

🌲  The Wood:

There is no official available information on the casks except for the fact that it's a mix of Bourbon casks and Dark Sherry casks. Based on Nosing and Tasting I would say that the Dark Cove matured in refill Bourbon casks (Jack Daniels) and perhaps as much as 15% of heavily seasoned Oloroso/PX Sherry casks.

Drinking Experience: Good but I expected more based on Marketing and Price Level.

ConclusionI am a Big fan of Ardbeg's core range and the Uigeadail is still my favourite Whisky. I'm not extremely excited by their special editions though. I applaud the fact that they are doing their best to create something "new" each time but I always come to basically the same conclusion. The core range is better and less expensive. I realize that many collectors and speculators love these special Ardbeg editions and they are usually sold out in no time. And, to be frank, the Dark Cove is not at all a bad Single Malt although it has its flaws. But in my opinion you are way better of with the core range if you like Ardbeg!

Jan van den Ende                                                              December 18, 2017

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