December 5, 2016

Ardbeg Dark Cove - The... err... darkest Ardbeg ever... ish.

As Ardbeg has had a penchant for doing over the past few years, they're produced something both instantly detestable and delicious. Allow me to explain.

The Ardbeg marketing machine is a serious corporate Death Star armed with three-wheeled motorized tricycles and solid gold bottles with S&M whiskey harnesses. And they seem to need this incessant hum drum of clich├ęd whiskypiphany (just made that up!) combined with over-the-top accessorization in order to pedal No-Age-Statement whiskies in a myriad of questionably different limited releases, consistently over $100/bottle. Hey, it's good work if you can get it. 

So when the latest Ardbeg limited release "Dark Cove" came out, we were predisposed to derision...

Add to our expected arsenal of abuse the fact that the label says all kinds of silly things on it.

"Take this whisky and hide it well. For its heart has been matured in DARK SHERRY CASKS, imparting waves of treacle toffee, coal tar, squid ink, noodles and toasted coffee grounds. The DARKEST ARDBEG ever."

The word "heart" actually does mean something when it comes to distilling - this isn't it. And doesn't this just seem like a list of dark things? Would you want to taste "squid ink" in your whisky? More to the point, this isn't the darkest Ardbeg ever. Not by a long shot. Here's what a dark Ardbeg looks like:

Here's the coal tar, squid ink, & coffee grounds Dark Cove:

Ok, ok, but enough kvetching about how it's not the darkest ever, it's not even that dark, and why do people keep trying to market "darkness" as if they're selling spray tan?  Let's taste it.

Tasting Notes

Nose: It really does smell delicious. There's a lot of peat, and it's just wrapped up beautifully in sweet black licorice. There's all kinds of good overripe fruits going on, like sickly sweet melons and guavas, in a good way... a really good way. There's some good leather polish, cough drops, and ocean brine. Weird bunch of notes to put together, but it's instantly recognizable as a quality malt. We'd be shocked if there wasn't at least a mix of some well-matured spirit in there despite the lack of age statement. 

Palate: The mouth-feel is just HUGE. Like sipping on castor oil, it absolutely coats your throat on the way down and lingers around the little pockets in your mouth. Very enjoyable. Note to self - if the 92 proofer is this thick, must make a point to try the 110 proof big brother, must be like crude oil. It's a very well balanced palate with more honey and traditional sherry notes like raisins & plums. 

Finish: Much lighter on the phenolic peat fire than your typical Ardbeg, the finish continues the trend here of wrapping up the smoke in the sweetness and fruit. It's memorable, but not in the "hours and hours of smoldering smoke" kind of way you've grown to expect from Ardbeg. This is a much more nuanced finish with the texture of the palate coming to the fore as the most memorable element. 


Yes, yes it's still a NAS bottle for over a hundred dollars (or good luck finding the 110 proof committee version for under $250!), so we're supposed to be pissed off here. Sure, ok, we're still a little pissed off trying to pick the squid ink out of our teeth. But this stuff is GOOD. It's really an awesome drinking dram and still better than many >$100 bottles out there in our opinion. It's like what Corryvreckan was shooting for, with big fruits playing off against the peat, although Corry was a miss for us. This one nails it.

So good job Ardbeg, yet again despite having to climb the wall of marketing yakety yak, this malt is damn tasty.



  1. Plenty of Dark Cove CR on the shelves here in Madison WI for $125.

  2. Just opened a bottle of the CR. It's what you described but turned up to 11 with the higher proof. Bonus: I got it in VA where the CR was priced the same as the standard offering that's still sitting around!