The Ardbeg An Oa 46.6% abv noses like a sea turtle, stranded on a sandy beach, lying on its back, little leathery legs ineffectually waving goodbye. (Don’t worry, dear reader, this review isn’t going to turn into a Kafkaesque story.) I happen by and flip it rightside up, marveling at the diamond-patterned back, the feel of the shell, the smell of the ocean and algae, the crunch of the limpets and barnacles, and the sense that sometimes, with one simple merciful action, everything becomes right with the world. There’s also an oaken tub, where Scotsmen who were overly taken with the imagery of Italians who dance/crush grapes into wine, tried jig/mashing peat and barley into either whiskey or something to burn during the winter to keep warm. A poetic endeavor, destined to failure on both fronts.
The mouth hits that peculiarly Arbegian fugue whose point is a gently-twirling Alexander Calder mobile of thin slices of oatmeal scones (with maple frosting), and whose counterpoint is HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION. Sorry, got carried away there. The counterpoint are the first two lines of Gravity’s Rainbow, but applied to smoke that looks like a vapor trail, high aloft, whose flavors drift down faster than ever Newton or Einstein could have predicted. In Thomas Pynchon’s words, “A screaming coming across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.”
The finish brings the beloved blackstrap molasses (mis)used by a sourdough miner to attach shingles to the roof of his shack, since he’s out of brass nails. His mule saddle sits inside, unused since last winter when old Jessie, named after his unmarried gender-ambiguous Aunt/Uncle Jesse, just couldn’t make it up the riprap granite gunpowdery trail to the mine’s entrance. Then there’s the throat-coating one expects from the finest palliative for coughs and the afterburn one expects from inadvisedly prematurely opening the door to a wood-burning stove to add more hickory and mesquite mini-logs.
On the scale of Scrabble™ words–
The Ardbeg An Oa is Anoa (Get it?)–Sure, the Oxford English Dictionary might define ‘anoa’ as “a small deerlike water buffalo, native to Sulawesi,” but to you, it will ever be the word you busted out to thwart your opponent in the semi-finals of the tournament by racking up a triple word score by turning ‘faun’ into ‘fauna.’ How did your opponent make such a basic blunder? He was transfixed by the sight and sense of you reflectively swirling and swilling your Ardbeg An Oa.
–Our thanks to David Blackmore and Ardbeg for the sample!