Ardbeg An Oa 'more approachable' than 10-year-old

Ardbeg’s latest expression An Oa, pronounced ‘an oh’ has not been designed as a replacement to its most popular 10-year-old but a more “approachable” addition to its core range, according to its creator.

Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at the Glenmorangie Company, joined DI at an invitational tasting event in London to discuss the reasoning and processes behind the creation of Ardbeg An Or.

“It was a three-year project for me to create this whisky,” said McCarron. “Bill (Dr Lumsden – head of distilling and whisky creation) walked into the room one day and said, ‘Brendan, we need a whisky that’s sweeter and smokier than our 10-year-old’, and then left again.

“Although this was quite a broad statement, we’ve come up with a whisky which is more approachable to add to our core range, which only had three expressions in it at the time.”

McCarron was employed by Lumsden three and a half years ago to act as a replacement to the whisky industry veteran when he retires.

When tasked by Lumsden to create the whisky, McCarron said he was unaware at the number of ex-Pedro Ximénez the distillery had in its ageing warehouses.

“Of course today we have spreadsheets which log every single barrel in our warehouses, but I just didn’t realise how many PX barrels we had.”

As part of the process for creating the new whisky, a French gathering vat was built for £0.5m and housed in the distillery’s former grain store where the whisky ages.

According to Ardbeg, An Oa has a smoky power, mellowed by a delectable, smooth sweetness. The expression has been available since September 2017 and is yet to be released until 2018 in some countries.