Review: Ardbeg Grooves Committee Edition

Ardbeg Grooves Committee Edition

This year’s Ardbeg Day release, Ardbeg Grooves, is a vatting of Ardbeg single malts that have been matured in ex-bourbon and charred red wine casks. Though Ardbeg has yet to reveal the type of red wine casks used, a reliable source tells us that they used heavily charred Portuguese red wine barrels, similar to 2016’s Glenmorangie Private Edition, Glenmorangie Milsean.

For the uninitiated, Ardbeg Day is an annual celebration of all things Ardbeg, promoted through worldwide events and the release of a new, limited edition bottling. Ardbeg Day bottlings are released in highly allocated quantities as a Committee Edition and in larger quantities as a general release. The Committee Editions are released in advance of Ardbeg Day and are bottled at a higher proof, but are otherwise identical to the general release. Ardbeg Grooves Committee Edition was released in March and the general release will be available starting Ardbeg Day 2018, or June 2nd.

Ardbeg Grooves Committee Edition Specifications:

  • Spirit: Scotch.
  • Type: Single Malt.
  • Region: Islay.
  • Age: NAS (No Age Statement).
  • ABV: 51.6% (103.2 Proof).
  • Cask: Matured in ex-bourbon and heavily charred Portuguese red wine casks.
  • NCF (Non-Chill Filtered)? Yes.
  • Natural Color? Yes.
  • Price: $124.99 for 750 ml.

Elias’ Notes:

  • Color: Amber.
  • Nose: Buttered popcorn, smoke, brine, iodine, seaweed, citrus (lemon, lime), cinnamon, paprika, a hint of leather.
  • Palate: Rich, oily mouthfeel. Sweet. More smoke, brine. Pears, candy apples, red hot cinnamon candy, vanilla.
  • Finish: The red wine maturation comes through strong. Long, dry, and sweet. Toffee. More earthy peat/smoke, candy apples, red hot cinnamon candy, and vanilla that fade slowly, making room for ripe stone fruit (peach, plum).

As an Ardbeg fan, I’ve always enjoyed their limited releases, but there’s no denying that recent Ardbeg Day bottlings haven’t diverted enough from the core Ardbeg range in profile to justify the cost. For example, Ardbeg Perpetuum (2015) and Ardbeg Dark Cove (2016) were both fine whiskies, but they were also very similar in profile to Ardbeg 10 and Ardbeg Uigeadail, respectively. Why buy one bottle of Perpetuum or Dark Cove when you could purchase two bottles of Ardbeg 10 or Uigeadail for the same price?

Ardbeg Grooves is different. This is one of the best Ardbeg Day releases I’ve had in years. It has a unique profile unlike anything in Ardbeg’s core range and is perfectly balanced, with the charred Portuguese red wine barrels imparting a variety of fruit and spice notes that compliment the core Ardbeg spirit without overwhelming it. This is a must buy.

Elias’ Rating: 92/100

Jayson’s Notes:

  • Color: Amber.
  • Nose: Smoke, ash, brine, paprika, fruity (tropical mangoes, melons). Drop of water brings out some citrus.
  • Palate: Nice mouth feel. Clean and creamy. Starts out smoky, peppery, then more sweet – like a sweet glazed ham. Some cinnamon.
  • Finish: Ashy, spicy – almost like a sweet spice that turns into orange Creamsicle and lingers with earthy peat and olive oil.

Wow! This is so good and well-balanced. I went back-and-forth on this between 89 and 90. With water it’s a hair better. Without water the finish was slightly off. I definitely recommend this and I’m glad I have a backup. Might be the best Committee Release I’ve ever had.

Jayson’s Rating: 89/100

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