It goes without saying that a new Ardbeg standard release is very exciting. What sets this fourth official range bottling named after the beautiful Islay peninsula ‘An Oa’ apart from the existing ones? From a marketing perspective, a slightly smoother entry level version would make sense without betraying the true nature of this untamed Islay whisky. And it is exactly that:
Nose: The An Oa stats on green notes of agave (Mezcal-esque), herbs (fennel, oregano, thyme), green tea (nettles), mint (catnip), anis and lime zest that meet the classic peaty Ardbeg profile. The focus is on tar, resin, a sweet peat-iodine-soot-combo, leather, quite some cocoa, roasted coffee beans, dates, chalk, oak and toffee. It somehow smells more liqueur-like than other Ardbegs, but it is clearly spirit-driven.
Palate: Great balance, classic Ardbeg, but more civilized, streamlined and quaffable. This plays on the lighter and sweeter side of Islay. For a change I am getting mossy green earth, vanilla and apple-hickory-BBQ-smoke that joins the world of Ardbeg. Well-made, this subtle yet ardbeggy dram.
Finish: Medium length and very pleasant, this unifies contrasts of wild and mild, of elegance and intensity. Introduce people to Ardbeg with this one.