I think this is the question everyone is asking ever since the Dark Cove Committee Release came out, can the General Release be any better? You can read about my thoughts on the Dark Cove Committee Release here and Esmond’s notes of the Dark Cove General Release (“GR”) here and the Committee Release (“CR”) here.
I must plainly admit that I used to be a ‘cask strength’ head, but lately I have grown to appreciate a whisky that’s bottled at the ‘right’ ABV; bigger isn’t always better, there’s just something about a well thought out curation that seems to appeal to me. With that said let’s keep an open mind and dive straight in and compare the two!
On the nose, the CR exhibits more of a citrus, herbal driven nature, it’s sharper with an immediate dose of burning peat smoke displayed and a strong iodine note developing in time, to peat heads’ delight; whilst the GR is definitely more refined and approachable. The GR has a seductive espresso driven creaminess and a dark chocolate presence, spray of sea salt leading way to lemon zest and French vanilla, the peat seems to have taken a step back and it does grow rather dry on the backend with an ashy smoke gaining strength later on. The casks seem to have played more of a role in the CR, with a more prominent sherry and moist oak notes.
The GR is quite syrupy on the palate by Ardbeg’s standard, no doubt from the Pedro Ximenez influence, cured blackcurrants and dark chocolate flakes with a strong coffee ground note wrapping around the underlying creaminess. Dr. Bill has again involved his love for coffee in this creation, with the peatiness subtly intertwined with the delivery at first and gradually expanding along with the smoke. The CR in comparison is brighter and even more syrupy in nature but perhaps not as fittingly named, it has a generous tropical fruitiness through out with the spices being more vibrant.
A touch of condensed milk for the GR in the finish, with the taste of an earthy espresso lingering, and a hint of vanilla to follow. This differs quite substantially with the CR, which in my opinion is delightful in its own way with all its tropical elements.
I wasn’t expecting these two expressions to be that diverse in nature, but there they are. Let’s just say I am having a hard time believing that these two whiskies came from the same vat. This is somewhat unanticipated but personally I do prefer the GR better, a well tailored expression that really embraces the theme, and arguably more sophisticated. This is a solid Ardbeg Day/Night bottling I very much enjoy.
* to both Dark Cove General Release and Dark Cove Committee Release