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Ardbeg The Abyss: Legendary Corryvreckan Whisky Returns

Ardbeg Corryvreckan was a revelation when it arrived in 2008 – these are the last casks from that release.

By Alex Martin

Ardbeg has summoned a legend from the deep with its new Scotch whisky, The Abyss. This rare release, limited to 400 bottles and priced at $27,500, is inspired by one of the most popular bottlings in recent memory, the Corryvreckan 2008.

The Corryvreckan, named after the mysterious whirlpool in Hebridian waters, was a revelation among Ardbeg’s committee members. First aged in ex-bourbon casks for just under 10 years before spending another nine years in ultra-active heavily toasted French oak casks, Corryvreckan brought out the very best in Ardbeg’s ‘sweet and peat’ profile. Today, the remains of those original 5,000 bottles sell for more than $1,500 at auction.

For a distillery built on mad experimentation, Ardbeg naturally kept some of those French oak casks back to see what would become of the whisky if left for longer. Sixteen years later, that experiment has become The Abyss, a 34-year-old whisky aimed directly at the fine and rare market.

[See also: Port Ellen: The Resurrection of Whisky’s Fabled Ghost Distillery]

ardbeg abyss label
The Abyss is limited to just 400 bottles / ©Ardbeg

True to the original, Ardbeg The Abyss is bottled at cask strength, although it has lost some of its potency. The Corryvreckan 2008 was bottled at a mammoth 57.1% ABV. The Abyss is 48.4%, but in exchange for strength, you get a powerful flavor profile, full of toasted marshmallows, dark chocolate and worn leather. As far as Ardbeg whiskies go, this takes its place as one of the oldest it has ever released.

While we’re all for experimentation in Scotch, keeping whisky in what Ardbeg describes as “ultra active heavily toasted” French oak casks for 24 years would appear doomed to fail. You would expect the cask to consume the liquid, leaving it dry and brittle, full of tannins. But, of course, that is not the case. Ardbeg’s heavy spirit has ridden the storm and emerged with a new level of depth that still bears a resemblance to the original, albeit with some clear oak spices in tow.

With a heavy price tag, as now seems customary with all rare releases, you get far more than a bottle of prized juice. Ardbeg teamed up with comic book artist Tradd Moore to bring the legend of the Corryvreckan whirlpool to life. The resulting comic book, which tells the tale of a Viking prince once lost to the whirlpool, is only available with the 400 bottles of Arbeg The Abyss. The bottle and the comic book come in a sleek silver capsule that looks capable of surviving a ride down to the bottom of the ocean.

[See also: The Best Scotch Whisky Collections to Invest in (and Drink)]

Tradd Moore’s comic book, based on Planet Ardbeg / ©Ardbeg

Ardbeg The Abyss – Tasting Notes

Color: Ardbeg’s signature black bottle hides this whisky’s tantalizingly dark color. It’s far darker than you’d expect of any Islay whisky, let alone Ardbeg.

Nose: There’s a beautiful balance of smoke, oak and fruit on the nose. For Ardbeg fans, the distillery character is identifiable: Ashy smoke, roasted lemon, treacle and toasted marshmallows. A touch of water brings out more of the herbal notes, giving it a menthol quality.

Palate: An oily mouthfeel with the oak spice coming straight in upfront. The ashy, day-after-BBQ taste is there followed by nuttier notes: pecans and crushed walnuts. There are further signs of maturity such as worn leather and dark chocolate. Little of the fruit that the nose eludes to, but no marks down for it.

Finish: We are into smoky realms here. The age takes its place as the Ardbeg peat outlasts everything else.

Score: 8.5/10

10 A unicorn: Spend whatever it takes
– 8.5–9.5 Top shelf: Impress your fellow whisky geeks
– 7–8: Great: Buy two bottles – one to drink, one to keep
5.5–6.5: Very good: Keep it on the shelf – a good daily drinker
– 5: Not bad: There’s better out there for the same money
– Below 5 – Disappointing

Ardbeg The Abyss from $27.500. Available to buy via, at the Distillery Visitor Centre on Islay, and through the Moët Hennessy Private Client channel, across the world.

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