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Ardbeg Grooves Single Malt Scotch Whisky (700ml)
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- ABV 46%
Grooves is set to be one of the more sought after “Ardbeg Day” releases with demand for the Committee edition causing Ardbeg’s website to crash.The annual releases mark the final day of Islay’s Festival of Malt & Music (Fèis Ìle). This year, it’s June 2nd. As usual, you won’t be able to buy the cask strength bottling unless you’re a Committee member, however, the whisky comes in a 46% variant for general retail. Volumes aren't specified, but this year's seems more severely allocated than any we can recall. And the story behind the quirky title?
The intention of any Ardbeg Day bottling is to offer an unusual blend or introduce a novel production technique that differs from the distillery’s traditional practice. For 'Grooves', director of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden has employed heavily charred red wine casks, the heat creating grooves in the surface of the wood. The expectation was to release flavours and aromas accenting "smoked spices, distant bonfires and chilli-seasoned meats". "Casks made with grooved wood aren’t entirely new" notes Whisky Advocate. "Dewar’s released “Scratched Cask” a few years ago, where it finished whisky in heavily charred casks that had been scratched at the char layer, while Maker’s Mark offers grooved “cuvée” staves in its Private Select barrel program. The grooves offer additional surface area for the spirit to come into contact with, meaning heavier wood influence in the final whisky’s flavor.” The marketing team have followed through with packaging inspired by 1960s hippie culture. And if you're lucky enough to attend the festival, this year will see the distillery transport whisky fans back in time, to the Ardbeg village of the late 1960s. Manager, Mickey Heads, adds “It was a very different place – a groovy wee community, with its own post office, billiards hall, two choirs and even a football team." It sounds like fun, but we'll have to settle for the whisky. Tasting note: Amber to deep gold in colour. A great sniff: Sooty and salt laced. Develops over 5-10 minutes yielding aromas of baked citrus, stewed plums, wine soaked pears and suggestions of smoked fish and beef jerky. Later passes accent the sweet malt countered by 'fresher' notes of smoldering eucalyptus, lanolin, menthol tobacco and butter menthol lozenge. Quite soft on entry, but at 46% still manages a decent attack; lots of wood sugars melting into the phenols; the honeyed-smoked combo evokes (heavily peated) Highland Park. Creamier to finish with a salty-sooty deluge. Dapples of chillie heat and menthol-rub through the aftertaste. The wood vies with the peat in controlled tension. 46% Alc./Vol.