I’ve already written multiple reviews, linked above, of Ardbeg. I’ve discussed the history of the distillery, basics of Islay Scotch and peat, as well as other information. If you’re interested in any of that, just click the either of the links above. Otherwise, I’m going to jump right into the actual whisky review.
Ardbeg An Oa Overview
- Spirit: Islay Single Malt Scotch
- Aged: NAS (PX sherry casks, Virgin charred-oak, ex-bourbon)
- ABV: 46.6%, 93.2 proof
- Price: $55-60
Ardbeg An Oa is named after the Mull of Oa, located on the southwestern coast of Islay. It’s a rocky peninsula that offers some protection from the harsh coastal conditions that the Atlantic brings to the west coast of Scotland.
Ardbeg An Oa marries whisky from Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, virgin charred oak casks, and ex-bourbon casks. The whisky from these casks all spend time together in Ardbeg’s gathering vat, allowing these whiskies to spend time together before bottling.
This is a NAS whisky, so we don’t know exactly how long these spend together, but we do know Ardbeg Wee Beastie is the youngest whisky in the Ardbeg family, so it’s more than 5 years.
Ardbeg An Oa acted as the second in line of the core range after Ardbeg 10 for a couple years before Wee Beastie was introduced. Now, it serves as the third in line.
Ardbeg 10 usually runs in that $45-50 price range, An Oa is just a step above at $55-60.
Ardbeg An Oa Tasting Notes
Now that we’ve covered what the whisky is, let’s discuss how it is.
Nose: Butterscotch, banana, candle wax, wicker, smoke, brine, a touch of pepper and mint.
Palate: There’s still that smoke and salt or brine, but it’s not standing out more than anything else. Butterscotch and molasses. There’s a seedy component with some pepper leading into the finish.
Finish: Salt and pepper. The pepper and mint comes in at the end of the palate and the start of the finish. As the pepper fades away, there’s a salty aftertaste.
The more I drink Ardbeg An Oa, the more I like it. It’s a little thin and sharp on the mouthfeel, but not too bad.
Cohesive is a good word to describe Ardeb An Oa. Balanced doesn’t quite work because the flavors are all very strong and potent, they just work well together.
Ardbeg 10 had a strong salty and smoky profile. Wee Beastie was almost all smoke. Ardbeg An Oa has so much more to offer than just smoke and salt. Upon nosing it, I was back at my grandma’s beach house with her wicker furniture, salt breeze coming in, with candle’s lit. The palate offers all of that and some maple as well.
Ardbeg An Oa Review Summary: Is It Better than Ardbeg 10?
This is the most complex and nuanced of the cheaper Ardbeg whiskies. I haven’t had the Corryvreckan or Uigeadail yet, but An Oa is certainly a step up from the 10 Year or Wee Beastie.
If you’re looking to try Ardbeg, I’d recommend getting the “Three Monsters of Smoke” package if you can find it. There are 3 200ml bottles that include 10, WB, and An Oa. I enjoyed trying all three, comparing them against each other, and learning about what I like and dislike when it comes to Islay Scotch.
If you’re going to just buy one whole bottle, the extra $10 is definitely worth it in my mind to upgrade from the 10 Year to An Oa. I think it’s safe to say that I’m finding what I like in the world of peated scotch.