Ardbeg Corryvreckan: Exclusive Tasting Notes!!

28 Comments on Ardbeg Corryvreckan: Exclusive Tasting Notes!!

I’m delighted to have a preview bottle of the general release of Ardbeg Corryvreckan sitting on my desk, so I thought I’d dip in and share my thoughts in what has turned out to be the first blog post for a few weeks (due to me busting a gut on a separate project, about which more in the very near future).

Actually, I’ve had this bottle for over a week, but it’s been embargoed so I had to keep it under my hat.  It wasn’t easy, let me tell you – for one thing, hats don’t suit me.  Also, I have a very small head.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan - not ideal under headgear

Ardbeg Corryvreckan - not ideal under headgear

I hasten to add that the above bottle was half-full when I got it – I haven’t just necked all that while I’ve been writing this, honest.

Of course, it’s one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry that this Corryvreckan was imminent – stocks of the soon-to-be-departed 1990 Airigh Nam Beist were never going to last forever, and after the overwhelmingly positive response to the Committee release of Corryvreckan last year (and a general clamour amongst the nerderati on the message boards and forums), making more Corryvreckan and bumping it up into the standard range was a logical step.  Not having a vintage or age statement will no doubt be a help in maintaining this in the range –  it’s projected lifespan is three years.

By the way, you’ll get all the guff stuff about the whirlpool and the beautiful maidens and celtic warriors everywhere else so I won’t bother with it here.

Anyway, here goes:

Ardbeg Corryvreckan NAS 57.1%

Colour:  A very appealing gold, no doubt in part due to the French wine casks (good-quality Burgundy) in which some of the spirit was matured.  On the Colour Me Goodd scale, this is luteous or aurulent.

Nose:  Over-ripe oranges, strong bitter marmalade and hot-buttered toast initially, then hints of some more exotic fruit (perhaps fresh pineapple or passionfruit?  Wine cask-induced?).  Tinned peach syrup. Turfy phenolics are smouldering in the background.  Becomes more citrussy with a few minutes in the glass, running the gamut from the previously-mentioned oranges, through Cointreau, then lemon sherberts, grapefruit, and lemon cheescake. Continues to evolve over time, which is always a good sign.  Eventually more savoury notes creep in – Frazzles, some pepper, woodspice and an appealing breadiness.  In a word?  Appetising.

Palate:  Rich, luxuriant mouthfeel – definitely more weighty than most standard Ardbegs.  Good concentration of most of the flavours mentioned above but, after an initial burst of sweetness, becomes more savoury than a cursory nosing would suggest.  The exotic fruit comes through as peaches and passionfruit.  Peppery at full strength, with faint notes of damson jam.  Generous turfy peat, but also becomes quite coal-like mid-palate, with a suggestion of the wet cardboard character sometimes associated with youth.  In a word? Oof-aaahh.

Finish:  Good length.  The peat and pepper hang in there, balanced with a return to the orangey citrus notes from the initial nose.  Decent balance and a lovely briny note right at the death – the hand is already floating towards the bottle for a refill almost automatically.  In a word?  Moreish.

This is a very enjoyable dram at full strength and I’m not inclined to add any water at all.  However, in the interests of science, I will – just a drop, mind.

Nose:  A hint of the Caramac bar note that I get with young whiskies emerges.  The exuberant fruitiness that I enjoyed on the neat nose seems somewhat subdued.

Palate:  Yeah, definitely a bit sweeter – notes of fudge biscuits or home-made caramel slices.

Finish:  Perfectly pleasant, but lacking the charming grunt of the full-strength.

 

Verdict

The Ardbeg Corryvreckan as it's supposed to look

The Ardbeg Corryvreckan as it's supposed to look

Well, you can probably grasp my thoughts – this is a fine dram, and at its intended 57.1% strength, very satisfying.  If I’d tried it watered down without having already had it at full strength, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it that way too.  But there’s really no need to be meddling with what’s in the bottle with this one.  No water required.

To summarise, this is a very good Ardbeg and a fitting addition to the range.  The fact remains that, at an RRP of £70, it’s a full twenty quid more expensive than both the Committee bottling and the 18 year-old Beist it replaces – and no doubt there will be plenty of people queuing up to have a moan about that, so I won’t bother, except to say that it is the rampant hordes of Madbeggars (copyright Willie JJ)  that have driven prices up, so they shouldn’t complain at a situation of their own making.  Actually, it looks like I am going to bother after all:

Yep, I'm off on one

Yep, I'm off on one

The sad facts are that pricing a product below its market value is all very good and altruistic, but it’s also extremely bad business when demand is always outstripping supply, which is why nobody does it.  Glenmorangie plc are no different – they will charge what they think the market can stand.

In short, what I’m saying is:

  • It’s no use talking about the situation ten or twenty years ago – these are the times we live in.
  • The late ’80s and early-to-mid ’90s were, in retrospect, the Golden Age for clued-up thrifty malt whisky aficionados. OK, we get that.  Let’s move on.
  • Those days are now gone and we will not see their like again.  Get over it.
  • Malt whisky is more popular than at any time before.  This very popularity has created the market conditions for the incredible diversity of bottlings we see nowadays.
  • Without the onrushing hordes of eager new malt fans, these whiskies would never see the light of day and would probably end up in Bell’s or Famous Grouse.  Is that what you want? Really?
  • Ardbeg is probably the most popular malt whisky with the aficionados.  So it’s become more expensive and, in all likelihood, it’s going to get more expensive again.  Deal with it, and buy up the ones you like when you see ’em cheap, because in life the only things that don’t come down are your age and the price of stuff.
Preaching

Preaching...

At any rate, in my opinion it’s a good thing that the Committee have got a new release both earlier and cheaper than the great unwashed – it means that being in the Committee is actually worthwhile, and more meaningful than most of these email address-gathering marketing schemes.

Right, sermon over.

Getting back to the subject in hand, as a Committee member myself, I feel even more of a fool for letting last year’s Corryvreckan slip through my grasp.  I’ve only had that version a few times (all of them on social occasions rather than serious tastings), but my gut feeling is that I prefer this edition.  I’ll have to coax another dram of the Committee release out of Joel Caskstrength for a proper head-to-head sometime.

Cheers,

Tim

Postscript:  I’ve just looked at the official tasting notes for Corryvreckan and have decided to reproduce them below in the interests of disclosure:  somewhat embarrassingly, they bear little or no relation to my own, which is, frankly, a touch disconcerting for someone in my position who’s supposed to know what they’re talking about:

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Label

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Label

Colour: Deepest amber

Aroma:  Heady, intense, powerful

With the first sniff, encounter the deep and turbulent force of Corryvreckan as it pulls you inwards.  Swirl the glass and dip your nose into the torrents of tarry ropes, creosote and linseed oil rising from deep within the vortex.    As you succumb to its power, a collision of waxy dark chocolate, warm blackcurrants and muscovado sugar pulls you under its spell with a burst of plump cherries and earthy pine needles leaping from its depths.

Swirl water into the glass, and observe the magical collision of whisky and water.   As the liquid warms up, the seething cauldron bubbles and bursts, as you edge closer to sniff a pot full of gutsy cayenne-peppered steak and oysters smothered in hot Tabasco sauce surfacing from a mix of tomatoey beef stock and shrimp jambalaya.  Salty seasoning brings a briny character with tangy crisp seaweed and smoky bacon swirling on the surface with hints of sweet vanilla, spicy cloves and blueberries.

As the whirlpool narrows and quickens moving ever deeper, surrender to its dangerous depths with the heady force of menthol, treacle and chilli sauce.

Taste: Plunge into the whirlpool and taste the mysterious depths of Corryvreckan.  Torrents of taste well up on the palate; deep, peppery and chewy, bombarding the tongue with its intense tastes and textures. The first plunge brings forth chewy peppered steak soaked in pepper sauce with the tang of crispy seaweed.  As you descend deeper, encounter a mouthful of black tarry espresso coffee that coats the palate with rich melted dark fruits (blackcurrants, blueberries and cherries) and bitter almonds.  As the taste soaks in deeper, star anise and hickory dry out the palate before a surprise of chalky effervescent violets fizz to the surface.

Finish: Long, deep and remaining powerful into the finish with black tarry coffee, chocolate coated cherries and hot pepper sauce, the lingering memories of your mysterious and daring journey into Corryvreckan.

Ah, well.  Each to his own, eh?  See you soon with more tastings of forthcoming stuff.

Cheers,

T

Posted in Scotch Whisky, Whisky Tasting Notes
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Comments

Pär Caldenby says:

You ought to be pretty pleased that your tasting note had not succumbed to the same marketeer’s plague that the OB one has. Who do they think they’re fooling, or even attracting, with that little load of mysticism?

Ouch for the price point though. Over the top. Just like one or two other Islayites of few years and peaty clamour. (Mind, I’ve gotten the PC8, but that is where the line is drawn, really.)

/ Pär

butephoto says:

Seventy bucks? No chance!

*moan, grumble.

Hi Tim ,
Nice Notes !
I think MHUK have got the price on this totally wrong ! £70 is way too much especially for something that is supposed to be going to be a standard bottling for a while and is younger than the bottle it is replacing . I was expecting it to be more expensive than the Committee release but not nearly twice the price !
In a way i can’t blame them when they look at what the idiots on E-bay pay and think we should be having some of that ! But why take it out on genuine fans and drinkers !!!
I’ve had a sample of this and i must say (and i hear it being said already “well he would say that….”) it is a very good whisky ( i was really looking forward to it’s release), a different fruitness to the Committee one , it is a very good drinking Beg and i said at the time of trying an ideal addition to the range but shame LVMH has spoiled it by the Pricing !!!!

mmmhumous says:

Nice sermon 😉

Totally agree with your assessment of why the bottling bears a silly price tag. But I’m still not the willing to pay £70 of £30-40 whisky.

C57 says:

Not so long ago I would have bought it at that price, if only to compare with the Committee release.
Times and finances have changed and Ardbeg have now priced me out of their market for this one.

Good job I still have a couple of Committee bottles!

Jimmy321 says:

It’s really sad to see the price i was looking forward to the replacement of the Beist (being my fav Ardbeg) but at £70.00 i will wait to try this years Lagavulin 12 before i decide to stock up on a good affordable dram.

Willie JJ says:

Yes the price point is distressing. Hopefully the large retailers will judge that it is too high and take some of the sting out of it 🙂

It is worrying that the number of reasonably priced Ardbegs is now down to two.

borgom says:

The news of this pricing is very disappointing.
I love Ardbeg whisky but I’ve also been priced out of purchasing this.
How can £70 possibly be justified?
I understand TimF’s point about the inevitability of price rises but a few like Ardbeg have increased pricing far beyond a justifyable rate.

Tim P says:

Tim…great blog entry!!!

£70 is a bit of a shock to me, but these wackos that Gordon mentioned mess it up for the rest of us. Paying substantially more than RRP on ebay or whiskyauction for an expression that is still available in retail is utterly mind numbing.

Geez!

jim says:

You couldn’t see the whirlpool??? Shocking! 🙂

Sue Denim says:

Ah, but Tim your notes aren’t half as fluffy and pretentious! Why do so many marketing people seem to think malt fans want a novel’s worth of tasting notes for one single bottle? Do they think this drivel actual sells their whisky, or are they doing it as a joke? Not that I pay any attention to them anyway, i’d rather come to my own conclusion.

I think you’re spot on with the supply and demand price-point issue too, at least in the cases of Ardbeg and Bruichladdich. The question is, do you continue to cough up £70 or more for these peaty Islay malts, or (god forbid) consider trying a whisky not from Islay?

[…] Ardbeg Corryvreckan: Exclusive Tasting Notes!! | The Whisky Exchange BLOG blog.thewhiskyexchange.com/2009/08/ardbeg-corryvreckan-exclusive-tasting-notes – view page – cached AUTHOR:Tim F POSTED IN:Coming Soon, Distillery News, New Products, Rants, Tasting Notes DATE:2009-08-28 — From the page […]

Christofer says:

£70 is a lot of money, at least for my wallet. But the Corryvreckan is without a doubt the finest Ardbeg I’ve tasted. Beating Supernova, 17yrs OB, 17 yrs OMC and Uigedail. I’m sorry to say that I will buy at least two Corrys as soon as they hit the stores.

What makes it even worse now is that John hansell says on his blog that the Corryvreckan will be $85 in the USA , thats £52 at current rates for a whole 50ml more !
I can’t see TWE/LFW/RMW matching that from £70 Willie….

Par Caldenby says:

I do think that Ardbeg and Bruichladdich (with Octomore) will be in good company before very long – and may even look cheap.

While Octomore and to some extent Port Charlotte are very heavily priced for their respective age – and I don’t like that very much – there are a number of more reasonably priced bottlings from Bruichladdich. Not that they have a lack of bottlings… However, the above comment that there are now only two reasonably priced Ardbegs left is disconcerting, as it is a very good whisky. But the A10 is treated a bit like bulk and I suppose the second one must be Uigeadail, which is not as unique (or good) as it was when it first came out. Sad development, despite the A10 being good, or usually very good. And particularly sad as I really liked the Committee Corryvreckan with its extra French oak influence.

/ Pär

aw says:

I think I’ll get this. I water down cask strength whiskies to around 46 to 48% (no way could I drink – or even nose – something at 57.1!) so CS bottlings tend to go that much further than the standards. Seeing that Beist is about £50 for 46%, Corry at £70 for 57.1% isn’t so bad.

[…] Whisky Exchange blog has an interesting take, to say the least, and notes that Corryvreckan will be a site more expensive in […]

aw , there’s a major flaw in your logic . Age , Beist is a 18yo whisky so you can’t compare it to Corryvreckan in the way you did . Although the age of Corryvreckan isn’t known the ingredients that make it up are known to be from post Glenmorangie Production so say 11yo , though the Committee Bottling was thought to be under 10yo at the time .
So a fair comparison would be Renaissance , also post Glenmorangie production , also a similar Strength , 55.9% vs 57.1 .
Similar age , Renaissance was 10yo .
Now the price…..
Renaissance £41.99
Corryvreckan £70
Hmmm bit of a difference !
Even if you go to the other Cask Strength Ardbeg , Uigeadail (not a lot older than 10yo) but only £45 a bottle !
Sorry but it is so bad !

aw says:

@Spirit of Islay: I will happily pay for quality, and from the reviews I’ve read, this Corryvreckan is right up there as top-notch Ardbeg. If not on age, you can certainly compare ANB and Corry quality-wise; Serge, for example describes Corry as “bigger Airigh Nam Beist” and gives it 92 points. On that basis I’m not going to be too upset at paying £70 seeing as I’m going to water down to ~48% and the bottle will go that much further than one at 46%.

Pär Caldenby says:

Meg Deak,

Borderline (and beyond) copyright infringement and trying to pass off your own products there…go away!

/ Pär

Tim F Tim F says:

Oops – sorry Par, I should have spotted that. Meg Deak, you are history.

Pär Caldenby says:

Naeh bother apologising – happy to help when possible…

/ Pär

[…] Ardbeg Corryvreckan replaces the Airigh Nam Beist and has already been announced in the UK (check Tim’s notes), but yesterday was the official launch date. The Committee version was received very well last […]

gal says:

just got my bottle.

good stuff. i enjoyed the oranges, and lemons on the nose, and the mouth is very complex.
yet, i do think i like the Uigedail better.

this one is 90, Uigdeail i will give a 95.

Jeff says:

In looking at the £70 price in the UK and the $85 USD price in the USA there is a disparity in cost vs. volume, however, one must evaluate how the costs are compiled. We do not have a VAT in the USA in addition to a sales tax which effects the cost of the whisky. 17% VAT is put on every bottle of Whisky except those comming to the USA.

My best estimate to the USA import price for Corryvreckan would be approx £15 per bottle for 75cl from there one needs to add:
-cost of ocean freight
-Gallonage taxes, customs costs, broker costs, and etc
-importer mark up
-lorry costs to warehouse+ warehouseing fees
-lorrry cost to wholesaler
-wholesaler mark up +local tax
-delivery charges to retailer
-retailer mark up + local tax

From here things can get a bit complicated as each person in the distributain can take a larger or smaller mark up than I have calculated. Since most importers represent several brands they also can sell things at a loss or break even and make up for it. Wholesalers can take a smaller margin if it means selling out quickly. This also occurs with some retailers. Retailers who are known to sell inexpensive whisky compared to the competition may be low balling the price of certain brands in an effort to get you to shop there. They anticipate you being a long term client and will more than pay for any discount you have recieved.

I need to state for the record that the above is only based off of my personal knowledge from running my business and is by no means based off of any facts on how Ardbeg does its business. They are a much larger company than mine and have vastly different costs structures.

In the end I would say that the real difference in costs has more to do with Taxes and VAT than mean corporate profit mongers.

Cheers,

Jeff

JimmyC says:

Have yet to put my nose to this dram. But if it can best the beast, then rest assured that a bottle will sit above the laphroaig, where it will be more often used.

I’m sad to see the nam beist go!

Pedorstroika says:

They could call this one the atom bomb!
I agree with Gal tho, the Uigedail is easyer on the tongue. The smoke and burnt taste in this one is quite overwelming, even for me, and I call myself an Ardbeg fan.
In an Islay tasting I think I would take this one last, because it’s so powerfull.
The finish is one of the best I ever had, it goes on and on and on.
All and all I don’t regret I bought this one, but it’s very different from my other Ardbegs (10, still young, allmost there, Uigedail, Beist).

[…] wonderfully integrated wine cask influence–the original 2009 release, at least, was matured partially in Burgundy casks. (I’ve been particularly attuned to this because of the variety of excellent […]

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