Released in 2016, this Committee Release of Dark Cove was matured in ex-bourbon and “dark Sherry casks” for “The Darkest Ardbeg Ever”. Whilst the colour isn’t actually that dark at all, those dark casks provide plenty of oaky depth.
Nose: At first meaty, earthy and spicy. Bold notes of dark chocolate emerge against orange, rich treacle toffee, coffee and oak. Wafts of a distant, smoky bonfire in the background, along with a mysterious floral note, like flowering blackcurrant bushes. And lashings of linseed oil.
Palate: The mouthfeel is almost tat, or zesty lime. Rainsins, dates, ginger and pepper spice surge forward, then retreat. Waves of smouldering charcoal, wood polish and hige, tarry creosote notes follow. Finally a more savoury note escapes; cured smoked ham and squid ink noodles.
Finish: Long, spicy and rich with lingering notes of toffee, coffee and tar.
Ardbeg Dark Cove has an air of glamour – a cigar smoked by a perfumed actress in the back room of a theatre, a glass of red on the side. Both versions of her are good, but in its raw form the standard release has the edge. And if indeed this is precisely the same recipe, then all you can say is that the flavours open up at the lower strength, which given the way whisky aromas work, we all could pretty much have predicted that anyway, and I’ve wasted a little chunk of your day. You’re welcome! Either way, and for either variant, I think Ardbeg Dark Cove a good whisky and, for me, a return to form for the distillery after the disappointment of Ardbeg Perpetuum.
And when the whisky is this tasty, I didn’t mention its lack of age statement at all. My only quibble is the price, which is £95.99 – that feels a little steep to me, perhaps by about £20. However, I’d wager that’s probably to prevent clowns from buying up bottles to immediately flip at auction. Ardbeg can’t really win either way on that. If you’re feeling flush, just get one.