Sitting in the gulf between the islands of Jura and Scarba, the Corryvreckan whirlpool is one of the largest and most dangerous in the world. The unique underwater topography results in a tide that flows at 9 knots and in over 9 metres high waves. This is a truly terrifying force of nature, and any whisky bearing its name can only be fearsome.
It is no surprise that Ardbeg has chosen to name a whisky after this whirlpool. The Ardbeg Corryvreckan pays homage not only to this lethal landmark but also to the myths that surround it. In so doing, the distillery has claimed that the Corryvreckan is “the epitome of an Ardbeg”.
Regular Water of Life readers will be quite familiar with Ardbeg. Previous reviews have touched on the bold, brash silliness of the Wee Beastie, and the refined sophistication of the Uigeadail. In short, Ardbeg isn’t afraid of pushing boundaries because they know how to produce excellent whiskies.
This week has provided another reason to pay attention to Ardbeg; they have announced that their new stillhouse is now fully operational. Commissioned by the newly arrived Colin Gordon back in April, this has increased Ardbeg’s capacity from 1.4 million litres a year to 2.4 million a year: a significant uplift. Hopefully, this will result in an increasingly broad range of releases and more spirit towards the excellent committee releases.
So, to the whisky itself. Can the Corryvreckan live up to the reputation of its namesake?
Islay Single Malt Whisky; no age statement.
57.1% ABV. Cask not disclosed.
Non-Chill-Filtered. Colouring not disclosed.
£70 (The Whisky Exchange)
Nose: A swirling mixture of aromas. There is peat-smoked salmon, roast chicken, seaweed and iodine, blackcurrant and browned butter, ready salted crisps and just a hint of vanilla.
Palate: Buttery, sweet and salty. Salted caramel, banana bread, and dried seaweed come to the fore, underlined by a healthy peat fire. These are joined by muscovado sugar, chocolate-coated coffee beans and citrus fruits, and finally pepper and cumin seeds.
Finish: A full, oily finish with plenty of pepper, butter, and peat smoke.
Opinion: This is a truly maritime Ardbeg. Notes of salt and seaweed are incredibly prominent, meshing perfectly with the expected Ardbeg peat. This is definitely one for the Islay fans. It’s sweet, it’s salty, and it’s full of flavour. It opens up a bit with water, with spices becoming more evident and liquorice emerging.
Does it live up to the Corryvreckan name? The complexity certainly does: there is a sense of a swirling mix of aromas and flavours, with different notes emerging and disappearing one after another. The Corryvreckan legend written on the packaging further ties it to its inspiration. However, I have an issue with one statement on the box: that this is the epitome of an Ardbeg. I think this isn’t quite correct: this lacks the balance of sweet, savoury and smoke that makes the Uigeadail so good. I think that there may be slightly too much going on. While I understand that the whisky has to be “in your face” to live up to the maelstrom it is named after; it does seem ever so slightly unrefined for a £70 whisky. It doesn’t lack anything in intensity, but this means that it may be lacking a little balance.
In summary, this is a good whisky that lives up to its inspiration. It’s a great example of a cask strength maritime Islay and worth considering for any Islay fans. However, personally, I would probably end up buying the Uigeadail, which is both cheaper and more sophisticated.