Ardbeg Corryvreckan Review

“Dirty Young Man”

Whisky Review # 693

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Ardbeg Corryvreckan (Bottled 2015-2017) 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 57.1%
Maturation: Mix of Refill Bourbon casks and French Virgin Oak 
Chill Filtration: No      
Price Range: US$ 65-90 (March 2018). 
Buying Advice: 😒 Negative for the recent batches.  

Colour: Golden Sunset-Amber 

Nose: The Alcohol is quite strong of course so you need to find your way around that. Please give the Corryvreckan sufficient air time before starting the Nosing procedures. There's a young feel to the Spirit and the Fresh Oak is noticeable. I  get the image of visiting a Saw-Mill located in the heart of a busy harbour. I find Diesel, Soot, Tar, Factory Smoke, Fishing boats, Shell-Fish, Varnished Wood and the Dirty Floor of a Gas Station. You get the picture! This is as far away from a client-friendly Speyside Malt as you can get. But while all these "Dirty" Aromas are there, they are not overwhelming. Like a Lion that can't really roar because he got the flew. Next to the above mentioned Aromas I also get Toasted Barley, Toast, Brown Sugar or Treacle, Burnt Grass, Vanilla, Iodine, Leather, Green Apple, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mandarin, Dark Berries, Dried Herbs, Tobacco, Pepper, Ginger, Mint and a hint of Dark Chocolate. A combination of Bitter, Sweet and Sour Aromas without too much balance. I had expected so much more as the early batches of the Corryvreckan received lots of praise. Those days are gone or so it seems to me at least. 

Palate: Bitter-Sweet, Spicy and a little Hot on account of the high ABV. I can't ignore the fact that the Corryvreckan shows some character despite its obvious youth. But it's not well-matured and again I miss Balance. Many of the "Dirty" notes I found on the Nose are here as well but they are stronger. This might scare the hell out of most beginning whisky drinkers! I also find Tarmac, Rubber Tyres, Fresh - and Charred Oak, Ashes, Cocoa Powder, Smoked Mackerel, Burnt Grass, Iodine, Leather, Nuts, Dark Berries, Mandarin, Lemon, Grapefruit, light Licorice, Pepper, Aniseed, Ginger, Cinnamon, Dried Herbs and Strong Black Tea or Espresso.

Finish: Medium-Long and Bitter-Sweet. A few Sour notes as well. The Alcohol remains strong. I find Ashes, Tarmac, Soot, Tar, Brine, Iodine, Factory Smoke, Dirty Earth, Fresh- and Charred Oak, Rubber Tyres, Smoked Mackerel, Toasted Cereals, Vanilla, Toffee, Apple-Vinegar, Grapefruit, Lemon, Cinnamon, Pepper, Cloves, Ginger, Menthol, Aniseed, Burnt Grass, Bitter Chocolate, Seville Orange, Dried Herbs and strong Espresso. It kicks and there's flavour but it's young and misses balance.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and the Alcohol naturally retreats on the Nose and leaves it more Mellow. But also Thin and without much character. On the Palate and in the Finish I got the image of licking a burnt tyre that was hit with Licorice. Not my idea of a good time. Better sip it neat!

Rating: 83     

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall:21

Image result for ardbeg corryvreckan

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 Corryvreckan was released in 2008 to replace the famous Airigh Nam Beist. It is named after a famous whirlpool located just to the North of the isle of Jura. It is said to be "A place where only the bravest souls dare to venture".

Image result for ardbeg stills
Picture Credit:

🍷  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 distillery has announced their plans to double the production that currently stands at around 1,4 million litres per year.

Ardbeg spirit maturing in oak casks
Picture Credit:

🌲  The Wood:

The Corryvreckan matures in a mix of Ex-Bourbon casks and French Virgin Oak. There are rumours that more French Virgin Oak casks have been used in the more recent batches as it becomes more and more difficult to obtain sufficient quantities of good Bourbon casks. The increase of the Bourbon production can't keep up with the increase of the Whisky production, particularly in Scotland. This is one of the reasons that the distilleries have launched so many NAS Malts in the last few years as they have the need to re-use their Bourbons casks as quickly as possible due to the scarcity. 

Drinking Experience: Disappointing. I was expecting so much more. I don't know exactly when the batch that I tasted today was bottled but it must have been between 2015 and 2017.

ConclusionI was looking forward to Nosing and Tasting the Corryvreckan. To be honest I thought it would rocket into my top 10 because of the great reviews it got when it was launched. Unfortunately I wasn't able to secure one of those early Corryvreckans and the sample I nosed and tasted today was bottled a few years ago. What can I say? It was not at all the Malt I was expecting. To me the Corryvreckan I tasted today was merely a young Ardbeg that was upgraded by a high ABV and lots of Fresh Oak. It certainly shows character and this is far away from your average today's mainstream Malts. But it lacks sufficient maturation in good quality casks. As a result, it totally misses balance. So if you're into Young, Wild and Exciting Ardbeg go for the 10 Years. If you want maturation and balance go for the Uigeadail. Unless you can find an early Corryvreckan. of course. Then by all means go for it!

Jan van den Ende                                                                    March 1, 2018

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