Whisky Review – Ardbeg An Oa / @Ardbeg_com @QuercusComs

Ardbeg An Oa

46.6% ABV

Non chill filtered

No added colouring (Assumption based on light colour)

£48.95 from Master of Malt

The few new release from Ardbeg into its core range in a very long time. No gossip on if it’s a take over for the 10 year old but it’s safe to assume it isn’t. The 10 year old is such an amazing dram there would be riots if it was going (probably). I’m a great fan of the 10 year old and the Uigeadail, can’t quite remember Corryvreckan, I think I need an excuse to open all three and do a parallel at some point.

Oa is a fictional planet that lies at the center of the DC Comics universe. Since its inception, Oa has been the planetary citadel of the Guardians of the Universe and the headquarters of the Green Lantern Corps. Unfortunately it has zero to do with this whisky’s name, but Ardbeg An Oa name comes from the Mull of Oa.

From the press release

At the heart of Ardbeg’s Distillery, in its intriguing new Gathering Room*, a smoky, sweet and rounded single malt is taking shape. Ardbeg An Oa (pronounced “an oh”) is inspired by the most untamed part of The Ultimate Islay Malt’s remote Scottish island home. Released in September 2017, it will be the first new permanent expression to emerge from Ardbeg for almost ten years.

Like the complex whisky which shares its name, Islay’s Mull of Oa is noticeably rounded. At the Island’s southernmost point, the headland’s towering cliffs stand defiantly against the raging Atlantic storms, providing welcome shelter for Islay’s south coast, to which the Ardbeg Distillery has clung for more than 200 years. Ardbeg An Oa pays homage to its untamed provenance, with contrasts of powerful intensity and sweet silkiness that celebrate the spot where storm meets calm.

Inside Ardbeg Distillery’s new and bespoke Gathering Room lies the vast Gathering Vat – specially created from French oak to bring Ardbeg An Oa into being. The different layers of whisky slowly mellow together within; the richness of spirit matured in Pedro Ximénes casks, the spice of whisky aged in virgin oak, and all the hallmark intensity of Ardbeg matured in ex-bourbon barrels. Culminating in an untamed single malt far more complex and rounded than the sum of its parts.

So, it sounds a bit like another recent release, lots of varied maturation. I don’t know what to make of that, proof of the pudding is in the sipping though so let’s crack on.


It’s Ardbeg. 😋 A lovely dry lemon soot on first sniff. Background of vanilla cream. Some maltiness. But mainly it’s the fresh crisp smokey lemon juice that I come to expect. A little time in the glass later. It’s a little juicier, with the lemons and now a touch of orange. The smoke is ashy and intense, like a coal burner in the rain. There is some maritime influences coming through, some wet rope, tar and salty shellfish. It’s good.


Intense sweet and sour arrival of lemons, ash, pepper and vanilla. Quite a smokey blast. It’s very chewable stuff, flavour intensive and a sensory experience. I can’t sense much in the way of the sherry cask maturation in this, so I can only assume there either isn’t a lot in the vatting, or the casks were many times used. There’s a fair bit of runny honey sweetness in the development, still smokey intense, a lovely oiliness demanding to be chewed and swallowed. This is a very moreish drop. A little more time and things get richer, this is an evolving whisky, needs time and patience. The sherry casks are starting to come through now, giving an enhanced level of richness and depths to the sweetness. This is very good.


There’s a touch of toffee in the finish (there’s the sherry?), sweet vanilla, a rich smokiness, some dry lemon peel with the fading pinch of pepper. It’s quite a long finish considering the perceived youth of this expression.

Adding water.

A small splash added. The nose is slightly dirtier now. More earth, and even a little farmy. The palate has lost some of the lovely oils but has some more complex lemon intensity, less spice and smoke though. The finish has some herbal spice amongst the ashy finish. I like this with and without water, for the more intense, richer experience though I prefer it undiluted. Just.


This is surprisingly great. I don’t mean to be completely surprised, but Ardbeg has a stonker of a core 10 year old whisky. Which is just brilliance. So any addition to the range is going to be met with some scepticism. This removes those doubts. This is a great whisky. Well constructed and bloody tasty with all the hallmarks of Ardbeg. For me the 10 year old is still gospel. But I wouldn’t have a moments hesitation in getting An Oa to have as an alternative, more youthful, but very richly flavoured Ardbeg experience.

Thanks to Ardbeg for the official review sample.

Whisky Review – Black Friday Whisky @WhiskyExchange exclusive.

Black Friday Whisky – 16 years old. Speyside Single Malt Whisky

54.6% ABV

Non chill filtered (assumption)

No added colouring (assumption)

£59.95 from The Whisky Exchange

Very little is known about this Black Friday dram from the Whisky Exchange at the time of writing, so I’m just going to get on with it.

Edit – Now we know it’s a 16 year old single sherry Butt from a ‘family owned’ distillery in Speyside.


First sniff is almost not whisky like, given blind I would have said brandy or Armagnac. Thick with toffee and spice rich. Rich mahogany. Polish. Rum and raisin. Pungent, but not in the alcohol, i would say its older if it didn’t have the age on the bottle. It’s getting more bourbon like with some time (probably a sherry cask then – lol). Thick spiced vanilla, gingerbread, some candied orange. Hints of menthol and lime. More time and funky oak, lots of treacle, honey, caramel and all things sweet, still smells more like a classy brandy then whisky, but I’m bloody loving it. Starting to think more sherry cask now, as there is some nuttiness coming through the sweetness, and the sweetness is going full fledged highland toffee style. Yummy.


Sweet intensity with a touch of bitter chocolate on arrival, turning rich with toffee. The same odd (but delicious) funky Armagnac oak thing comes through, but quickly turns nutty. There’s less spice on the palate to nose. But a touch of cinnamon and ginger. Mouthfeel is of a medium viscosity, not immensely thick, but pleasantly coating. A quality dark chocolate comes further into the development and the spices up a notch with a warming ginger blast. There’s some honeycomb and an all round pleasant feel good factor. Very compulsory sipper.


Medium in length. Drying spices and nuttiness, a touch of chocolate and coffee grounds.

Adding water.

A few drops added. A more aromatic toffee comes forward on the nose now, and almost some smoke (char from the cask more than likely), a touch of herbal also added. The palate is calmed of the bitter chocolate, and there is a richer, sweeter and more intense toffee. A little chocolate is still there, but milkier. It’s thoroughly chewable, bags of thick sweetness and a little additional honey. The finish reflects this sweetness, but turns a drier treacle and the herbal from the diluted nose comes back, a little liquorice root and chewed pencil.


I just want to know the distillery and how much! It’s a very singular whisky, I’ve not come across this combination of Armagnac, bourbon and sherry confusion in a while. Deftly complex and compelling stuff. Is it an Aberlour, is it a Glenrothes?! Well, we’ll all know by now, but I’m not going to change this text and be happy to look an idiot for being miles away from the mark. Regardless, it’s a delicious whisky, and one I would like to try again. Hoping it’s in my price window and I’ve done the necessary in buying a bottle! Well done TWE! 👍🏻

Thanks to The Whisky Exchange for the official review sample.

The Boutique-y Whisky Company Advent Calendar. @drinksbythedram

The Boutique-y Whisky Company Advent Calendar.

This is the Boutique-y whisky Advent Calendar featuring 24 different whiskies from the Boutique-y whisky company’s range. It’s gorgeous. With artwork from Emily Chappell, the celebrated artist of all of the boutique-y whisky labels. It gives tantalising tempting teasers of what lies inside showing some of the label artwork on the windows of the calendars. Crikey I can’t wait for December!

A spirits advent calendar is a spectacular gift for the one you love. I swear you will get all the favours you want through December and an awesome Christmas present(s) if you give one of those to your loved one. There is quite literally everything from Whisky (in regional variations and also including an extremely premium Rare and Old whisky Calendar), gin, rum, cognac, tequila, bourbon, absinth (!) and even chilli vodka (you may not get so many favours with that one, it’s an acquired taste). For those with particular brand tastes you can also find Boutique-y, Douglas Laing and a dedicated Glenfarclas calendar.

I can’t recommend these calendars enough for the whisky/spirits fans out there who like a wee dram to keep the cold out. These give a great opportunity to try something different, random, and have a bloody great December throughout the stressful time of present buying and festivity preparations. Get your partner one of these and I guarantee they will be doing much of the hard work through December! 🙂

Check them out here.


I will be posting pictures and reviews throughout the festive season from this calendar. But why wait until December to find out what’s inside. If your other half won’t take the hints. Just treat yourself. 😜

Massive thanks to Drinks by the Dram for the awesome advent calendar. I am going to be in a Boutique-y wonderland enjoying the December Advent-Adventures.

Whisky Review – The Balvenie 14 Year Old Peat Week @TheBalvenie

Balvenie 14 Year Old Peat Week

48.3% ABV

Non chill filtered

£56.95 from The Whisky Exchange

The Balvenie distill peated spirit only one week every year. This whisky is from that week in 2002, matured for 14 years in bourbon casks and released as a limited (but not that limited) extension to their core range. Bottled at a great 48.3% and non chill filtered, this is already looking great in writing, let’s try the liquid and see if it delivers.


First poured sniff gives a light, floral smoke driven aroma. Heather honey. Some lemon pip sweeties, slight vanilla and haystack. After a little time to settle in the glass the smoke gathers a small amount of intensity, a little earthier now, still floral, slightly green (imagine pine branch fires). Added citrus fruit juices and peel now, predominantly lemon, but also lime. The smoke is more reminiscent of twig built bonfires, with lots of foliage. Unlike the medicinal and maritime nature of an Islay peated whisky.


A sweet lemon juice arrival turning quickly more tarty, with some dry fennel and herbal notes coming through. This dram has a light oily mouthfeel. Runny honey accompanies a little liquorice root, and more lemon comes into the development in the form of lemon oils and a little pith. There’s a gentle smokiness coming through the whole of the palate, subtle, warming and gentle. Overall a beautiful balance.


The medium length finish has a spicy pepper bite, lemon oils continue with a smoky exhale. Warming and relaxing smokiness, reminding me of a relaxing cigarette (not that i smoke anymore, but a healthier reminder of such days!).

Adding water.

A few drops added. The nose is a little smokier, but different, more of an extinguished bonfire smoke. A little more floral, still quite citrus, more homemade lemonade and less of the natural fresh lemon juice. The palate reflects this also, the citrus is lighter and more akin to a homemade lemonade, the herbal notes more toned down, overall sweeter and more approachable. The finish is sweeter, less spice, and less of the dry herbal liquorice, more of a dilute herbal throat sweet. Maybe even a touch of lavender (Parma Violet). Very tasty with or without water, it’s one to experiment with, maybe a couple of glasses side by side, dilute one, compare and contrast.


It’s very good! This whisky is giving a great experience of fruit and smoke balance. It’s a very autumnal dram, perfect for these chillier nights. Really. Just perfect for this time of year. Highly recommended.

Thanks to The Balvenie for the official review sample.