Ardbeg An OA is named after the Mull of Oa on the Kildalton coast in the south west of Islay. Where Ardbeg distillery is situated, some protection from the worst the Atlantic has to offer!  In the summer of 2017 it was the first addition to Ardbeg’s core range in the last eight years. As such, An Oa is intended to show a more approachable side to Ardbeg single malt that’s as rounded as the Oa peninsular, without losing the characteristic distillery style.

The recipe is based on a combination of seven different types of casks: Pedro Ximénez casks, heavily charred virgin oak and first-fill bourbon casks are the most important. These have been married in a large French oak vat housed in The Gathering Room at the distillery.

Ardbeg AN OA is designed to be on the lighter end of the core range, below the Ardbeg 10 Years, Corryvreckan and Uigaedail.

Color: Light gold

Nose: This sweet, creamy Ardbeg offers notes of butterscotch, fennel seed, tobacco leaf, Honey Nut Clusters and hints of mixed boiled sweets (fruit, Everton mint and menthol).  Fresh with a mezcal-like straightforwardness at first, a bit uncommon for Ardbeg. However it develops a good balance of sweet and dry aromas. The citrus notes are subtle and rich, coming through as flourless orange cake, sweet lemons, fennel seeds, acrid peat smoke and vanilla. Not much PX to be found, the virgin oak being a bit louder in any case. Some seaweed and menthol. Mouth: slightly thin, with the same acrid toasted notes, a faint tarry note and then some wood spices (pepper, ginger) and chocolate. Black tea. Grapefruit.

Palate: Still plenty of peaty oomph, although perhaps lighter in body. Notes of cigars and golden syrup flapjacks with sweet black tea on the tail and hints of chocolate limes.

Finish: okay, on spicy notes (peppercorns, clove), light chocolate and bonfire smoke. Smoky treacle lingers with a little peanut brittle. Lingering, seductive, gentle yet intense, with flavours of aniseed, hickory and distant subtle smoke.

Ardbeg AN OA deserves its spot in the core range. It is rather light, yet (virgin) oak-infused and reasonably smoky.

Score: 84/100