Ardbeg An Oa was added to the distilleries core range in September 2017 and was the first new addition in just shy of 10 years. Until that time the range was but 3 being the staple 10 year old, Uigeadail and Corryvreckan. The latter two being no age statement expressions and the An Oa is no different. Why is that?
Well, in 1981 the distillery was closed. Between 1989 and 1996 Ardbeg had sustained periods of nil production or at best very intermittent production phases. Thus when the distillery was purchased and the doors were re-opened, the new owners Glenmorangie had an array of stock issues (namely aged product) to work with. With the current owners LVMH (or Moet – Hennesy as they are known in Australia) taking over in 2004 the stock levels (age and quality) have increased to a point that age statements are definitely back on the cards with the impending release of the 19 year old later this year or early next. But I digress.
What makes An Oa so interesting is the way in which it is blended(1). The expression contains whiskies of different cask types – including Pedro Ximénes, virgin oak and ex-Bourbon – that have been married in Ardbeg’s ‘Gathering Room’, which houses 2 huge vats made of French Oak. This room is housed in the distilleries former grain store and is extremely impressive to look at.
“There is a wonderfully Ardbeggian magic to The Gathering Room, where the parcels married together in this whisky merge over time, to reach new levels of complexity.” Explains Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s Director of Distilling.
“The whisky’s smooth, creamy texture leads to a huge syrupy sweetness on the palate, as milk chocolate, orange and smoky tea leaves mingle with sweet spices, cigar smoke and – unusually – grilled artichokes, before a lingering, seductive and smoky finish.
“It is years since the world’s smokiest, peatiest Islay malt added to its core range. We hope smoky malt whisky fans everywhere will be drawn to Ardbeg An Oa.”
If you were wondering, An Oa is pronounced “An Oh” and is named after the Mull of Oa. Situated at the end of the Oa peninsula, it forms the most southerly point of Islay.
An Oa is my personal favourite from the core range. Although I am a fan of hugely peated meaty drams, the An Oa in contrast, displays only subtly smoky aromas. But I find it so well rounded that it makes up for the lack of peat PPM. With notes of creamy toffee, aniseed, dates and hints of peach and banana, it is just a really fantastic daily drinker and meets that price point perfectly. Plus, if I am after that huge peat hit, I usually just follow it up with the Correyvreckan that sits beside it in my cabinet.
An Oa! If you haven’t yet, now is the time to try it!
(1) Now the readers that are newer to the whisky game will be scratching their heads wondering pondering the fact that An Oa is a Single Malt Whisky but I have just said it is blended. I am not going to go explain this reasoning here as I can see this article reading as long as the Les Misérables novel. So I will follow up on what makes a Single Malt Vs a Blended whisky in another article shortly!