Corryvreckan Single Malt Whisky
Posted by Matt on February 24th, 2011
Although availability was announced by Ardbeg in the fall of 2009, Degan and I first experienced this whirlpool-inspired single-malt at Hopscotch 2010. The first thing I asked myself about this whisky was “I wonder what ‘Corryvreckan’ means?”
It turns out that the straight of Corryvreckan is located in Islay – it is the channel between the islands of Jura and Scarba, off the west coast of Scotland. Due to some unique geographic attributes, it is home to the third-largest whirlpool in the world – perhaps predictably named “the Corryvreckan”. Dr. Lumsden, Ardbeg‘s Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation, explains how it inspired the whisky:
“Like the whirlpool, Ardbeg Corryvreckan is heady, intense and powerful. Its ‘finish’ is long and deep, leaving the connoisseur with a lingering thought of a mysterious and daring journey.”
After the pour, I immediately notice the aromas of peat and smoke. The Corryvreckan has a fairly deep golden hue – almost like a light rye. Bringing the glass to my nose reveals peppery hints of citrus fruit and honey, surprisingly delicate and subtle. The Islay sea spray is detected, and it explodes through the initial flavours on the first sip. A strong bite of alcohol; it is followed by hints of leather; the promises of honey, pepper and citrus from the nose are fulfilled. Some dark and bitter flavours from the peat make themselves known and play against the sweetness already on my tongue; as the Corryvreckan slowly fades, the sea’s flavour rises in prominence while the smoke and the sparkle of citrus remain. This whisky remains on my palate for a while. While never unpleasant, the tail is dominated by the darker flavours and my reflex is almost to chew it. It is salty, meaty and delicious.
Although I’m not sure it needs any, I add a couple of drops of water and repeat.
The nose has changed dramatically: it is now dominated by the sweetness. The pepper and citrus are detectable but not in balance anymore. A sip reveals that the bite remains, and – surprisingly – the heat of the drink is stronger and lasts longer. The flavour profile is similar, but everything is under a blanket – except the mid-taste leather and the salt / meaty flavours on the tail. The citrus seems to have disappeared altogether from the drink, although a follow-up sip reveals that it remains, it is just suppressed. Other notes are the same – it trails off into same the salty, smoky, meaty deliciousness as before. I still have the suppress the urge to chew.
If you’re in British Columbia, a bottle of Ardbeg Corryvreckan is available through BC Liquor Stores for $146. Not inexpensive by any stretch, but I think it’s an excellent value. You won’t be guzzling this one – at 57% alcohol by volume it is definitely a sipper – and I daresay that Ardbeg is right when they suggest that it is a whirlpool of flavours. I can’t think of many other spirits that have presented such a complex, well-balanced and interesting mix of flavours while never straying from the core value of tasting incredible.