Say the word “Ardbeg” aloud and a phantom taste will visit the palate of everyone within earshot: specifically, a heavy, intense Islay peat. Ardbeg’s latest offering, Ardbeg Dark Cove, clearly isn’t apologizing for peat. In fact, it’s looking to dial things up to 11.
The limited edition release (just 1100 bottles) has no age statement, but has been aged in dark sherry casks. It’s rich, dark gold, almost burnished in appearance and is being marketed as “the darkest Ardbeg ever.” The nose is chock full of the expected peat assault, plus whiffs of a bonfire–burnt oak and wood chips. There’s a certain meatiness about the nose as well, as if someone’s been roasting a cured leg of ham over that fire.
For all its peatiness, Dark Cove is surprisingly smooth in front. Its mouthfeel is rich, thick and heavy from the start, but the first sip draws raisins, dates, cinnamon and even caramel. It isn’t until those flavors have nearly vanished that spice begins to build on the center of the palate. It’s a slow-burner, but once it kicks up it gives no sign of leaving. Deep, dark charcoal flavors are revealed, and by the time they fade into the back of the palate a distant savory note emerges, as if you’ve just helped yourself to the last piece of Iberico ham.
The eve of summer may be a curious time to release an Islay that doubles down on such dark, heavy flavors, but Ardbeg’s made a spirit that we’d happily tipple any time of the year.
— 46.5% ABV
CE Rating: ★★★★