Islay region – 57.1%ABV – cask strength – 750ml bottle – $79-89 | £60 | €66
Such a strange thing. You know, when I first got into Scotch whiskies, it was the peatier ones that drew me in. I wanted to do nothing more than drink brimstone. The peatier, the better. And when I first started drinking whisky, that’s all I could taste; until, that is, I started “tasting” whisky rather than “drinking” whisky.
Once I started “tasting” whisky I had a tough time getting past the smokey peat – all I could taste was smoke so I figured I branch out and try ANY whisky as long as it had NO peat. I abstained from peat for a bit more than a year and during that time I really began to hone my tasting skills (I’m still not a professional by any stretch of the imagination but I can hold my own. At least, that’s what I tell myself…). I was feeling good about my whiskying (is that even a word? My guess…no). So good that I decided to branch out a bit more and reintroduce myself to peat, slowly but surely. I started with Dalwhinnie, sprinkled in some Springbank (great Campbeltown malt!!), Highland Park, then winter finally came back to New England and I decided to get back to the big peat – Ardbeg!
Tasting the Ardbeg 10yr again after going through so many lighter Speyside & Highland whiskies was like a reawakening!! I was able to start pulling out the citrus notes, the tea leafiness, brine — this was a whole new experience for me! My eyes were reopened.
Fast forward a year and a half or so and we get the announcement from John Hansell of the Malt Advocate that Ardbeg’s Corryvreckan got the prestigious Best Single Malt of 2009 award. I have so much respect for John Hansell and much of what he says has helped and continues to help me choose the direction I take on this fun-ass whisky journey. This being said, I had to get some Corryvreckan for myself and see what this was all about.
So, here we go. Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 2009 Single Malt of the year:
Initial whiff — Even though this is 57.1%ABV, I had no problem jamming and keeping my nose in the glass. Sweet smoke, big smoke but very sweet, briney (think sushi roll seaweed), lots of citrus, the smell of freshly tarred cut tree-limbs, telephone poles on a hot summer day (sorry for that one but growing up we had a telephone pole at the end of our driveway and there was some tar on it and during the summer it had a smell that was similar to what I’m smelling here). Very complex. Pleasant and making me reminisce of days gone by (this is what whisky is all about!!).
On the mouth – Sweet & bitting smoke, oily but not as much as the Uigeadail, iodine, wet ropes, back to the citrus, maybe some figgy stuffs?
Finish – Lasting, bubbly, like boozy seltzer, getting grassy (is this the stuff that made up the peat?). A big smokebomb but so much more!
In sum — No where near as angry a malt as the Uigeadail. Though close… So the question is: is the the best single malt of 2009? The great thing about whiskies and the tasting thereof is that it’s all up to you! For me, yes. It’s quite apparent that Ardbeg knows what they are doing. They’re making damn good whisky. This is my favorite whisky released in 2009 (that I’ve tasted). Was it the best single malt I’ve tried in 2009? No way. Enjoy toward the end of Autumn or on a cold-cold night. Bundle up, grab your favorite book and let yourself be taken away!