Success is something everyone wants to achieve. Yet, it’s desired in different degrees and in different ways. When talking about spirits, I think these words by Colin Powell are fitting: “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.”
After all, for a distillery and a brand to thrive, hard work, learning, commitment, and persistence are important elements. A distillery’s team won’t immediately get things right. It takes multiple tries to get the desired profile of a product. Not only that, it also takes years to see if that batch of distillate was fermented, distilled and aged right or long enough. Perfection… is up for debate, since some think they can achieve while some think they can only chase it.
This is where Edradour and Ardbeg come in. The first is one of the smallest independent single malt distilleries in Scotland, while the other is one of the best known and readily available Islay single malts. Despite the difference in size and styles, both are successful brands that have their own cult followings. However, each brand’s success doesn’t mean they’ve achieved perfection.
Edradour is one of under-the-radar brands that geeks tend to like. One of the odd things about them is their non-basic range is more popular than their core range. By non-basic range, I’m referring to their releases that have been matured or finished in various ex-wine casks, their single cask strength bottlings in Ibisco Decanters, and their peated whisky (Ballechin). I can say this because it’s a more common sight for me to see various Signatory Edradour and those ex-wine casks releases get posted online. Aside from this, they might also be better known as the single malt that’s owned by Signatory, which isn’t surprising since Signatory is one of the most beloved brands of independent bottlers out there.
Despite having a cult following, I find it odd that there’s little chatter about Edradour (at least in my part of the world). One can guess that part of it is due to the followers not wanting to talk it up too much to lessen the influx of new fans, thus decreasing the chances of increased competition. Another reason is that not everyone likes the challenging textures and/or flavors of worm tub-condensed single malt. But, I think it’s mainly due to the Edradour 10 being bottled at 40% ABV despite being non-chillfiltered (NCF) and having no added coloring. They mostly bottle their entry level expression at 40% due to their small production. I don’t dislike them for it, since all of their other expressions are bottled at at least 46% ABV.
Yes, the most popular brands of single malt are mostly chill-filtered, bottled at 40% ABV, and have added coloring… but they have marketing to hype them up. If Edradour does even a bit of marketing, it doesn’t reach my part of the world. This means the only ones paying attention to them are the drinkers who haven’t been completely eaten up by marketing. These folks are mostly die-hard believers that a “craft” whisky must have the holy trinity of at least 46% ABV, NCF and no added coloring. Having tried various delicious niche brands of spirits, I’ve learned that the ABV a spirit is bottled at shouldn’t be a huge factor in choosing what bottle to buy, if you’re more open minded and know your stuff better.
This leads me to Ardbeg. To me, they’re the brand that helped push the NAS movement into mass acceptance. They taught consumers that age isn’t everything. I think proof of this is that they’re so well-loved despite their core range and their limited editions being mostly NAS. It’s like consumers who love peated whisky and like age statements turn a blind eye to Ardbeg bottlings. In my opinion, this is their greatest legacy and their greatest success. Bottle everything that fits in the holy trinity of today’s standards and your fans will be your champions.
However, their most noticeable faults are the recent lackluster limited editions. Not only have the quality of these been not aligned with how they’ve been praised, but the unreachability of these editions are losing Ardbeg fans. I don’t know the proper way/s to fix the speculators and auctioneers, but I feel like they need to. Otherwise, Ardbeg and whisk(e)y itself are going to lose fans. It’s a good thing the 10 year, Uigeadail, and Corryvreckan are still very reliable.
With all that said, I’m going to review the underrated Edradour 10 and the well-liked Corryvreckan.
Edradour 10 Years Old – Review
40% ABV. £42.95 from The Whisky Exchange. USD $64.99 from K&L.
Color: Ms. Heard.
On the nose: I immediately get a some-what prickly sensation. Safe to say this is a result of the worm tub. At the start are light and brief aromas of coffee, dried apricots, strawberries, hay, barley husks, lemon pith, banana-flavored candy and apples.
In the mouth: The prickly worm tub sensation is more intense here. I get light tastes of Amontillado sherry funk, coffee, raisins, caramel, chocolate, Saba banana and sapodilla.
A two-faced whisky. More distillery DNA on the nose but more cask influence in the mouth. Notes linger more in the mouth, but the aromas are clearer. Aside from the lack of ABV, this is a good whisky. I don’t find any faults in this. It’s just a shame that most, if not all, of the Edradour fans are geeks who prefer whisky bottled at higher ABV. Being 40% just doesn’t do it for them.
(at TWE price; 4.5/10 at the K&L price. An extra 50ml and 3% ABV shouldn’t warrant an estimate of extra USD $20.)
Ardbeg Corryvreckan – Review
57.1% ABV. £75.45 from The Whisky Exchange. USD $79.99 from K&L.
On the nose: Straight up pronounced aromas of peat, smoke, Japanese seaweed snacks (usually a mix of nori, sesame seeds and almonds), hazelnuts, sheaved peanuts, ginger candy, caramelized nuts and kombucha.
In the mouth: I immediately get tastes of peat, smoke, ginger candy, Japanese nori paste, pickles but not much sourness, Japanese seaweed snacks, hazelnuts, and shaved peanuts. In-between and after are light tastes of toffee, butterscotch, caramel, nori, and French toast.
I’m glad to know that this is still good. The complexity and intensity of flavors are still there. The ABV also doesn’t burn as it would suggest. I’m glad I can still rely on this as I continuously miss out on Ardbeg’s limited editions. But goodness gracious, it’s a lot more expensive since I last bought a bottle of this.
However, it’s a bit different from how I remember it. For me, there used to be more sweetness coming from the French Oak. Now, that sweetness has been diluted and has turned into more nutty notes. Perhaps, I could also blame it on how my senses have developed.
Corryvreckan image courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.
Nice color description for the Edradour. Took me a second to get it and then I almost spit my coffee out from laughing!
Hi L Budd, nice to know someone caught that. Thanks for reaching out
Please stop saying everyone (or almost) wants higher proofed whiskies. You only interact with a fraction of whisky drinkers, so I find it highly disingenuous that you speak for all Edradour or whisky drinkers. This Edradour fan is a geek who does not constantly whine that whisky is not bottled at higher ABV
I’m not a whisky geek but have been put off in the past from buying a core bottle of edradour because of the abv. The 2 edradours I have tried were both signatory bottles, both single cask and both 46% or above and both were outstanding.
If they were more readily available then I’d probably buy one but I often order my whisky online and have skiped over the core bottling purely because of the abv. Its a shame really as the whisky seems to be of a very high quality as does their cask selection.
Hi Mark, the lack of availability stems from Edradour having only 1 pair of stills. It’s a sad fact but I think that’s also an appeal to the distillery. And I agree that the Signatory bottlings are great. I also wish they were more available.
Ha. Thanks for the reminder. You’re right that I only get to interact with a fraction of whisky drinkers. As for speaking for Edradour whisky drinkers, check the Edradourian Knights FB group. You’ll notice the 10 year barely gets attention there. While some may not whine about the 10’s lack of abv, it surely is a factor why they don’t drink it as much.
The whisk(e)y community is dominated by a small percentage of people who feel the need to complain about the abv on virtually every spirit under 110 proof. They tend to band together with others who believe they are superior because they can shout out every passing flavor they think is present in their whisk(e)y. In no way do any of these groups represent the majority of whiskey drinkers. But they are certainly the most vocal and constantly trying to assert themselves as experts that must be listened to.
Maybe just review the whisk(e)y in the glass in front of you, without wishing it was higher alcohol. Or speculating that it would taste better if it was NCF or didn’t have coloring. That might make it better, might make it worse. The world will never know.