Ardbeg Grooves Review - Regular vs Committee Release


Ardbeg’s annual releases are highly anticipated among fans. The most popular of recent years, Dark Cove, was much beloved and was turned (unofficially) to a regular release called AN NO. Each year, fans get something different. Each year, there are two releases; the regular releases and the committee release, intended primarily for Ardbeg committee members (an organization that’s free to join). 

There’s much folklore between why there are two releases. The committee release is certainly boozier by a few percentages of alcohol. It’s also, in some cases, believed to be the more authentic batch of the two that includes more difficult-to-find casks of whisky, where as the regular releases is a higher (but still not high) volume product and thus a little more muted in flavour. Whatever the truth of it is, committee releases are intended to be “more special.” And more expensive. Certainly on the secondary market. 

In this review, we’re going to compare Ardbeg Grooves with Ardbeg Grooves Committee releases. Disclaimer: I was provided samples of both (though I did purchase Grooves as well). This comparison is mostly academic, as I feel people that have access to the committee release will buy that, and people that are Ardbeg fans will buy the regular one. But I will say, perhaps for the first time, the non-committee release is a touch better! 

Both are finished re-charred wine barrels. For those expected wine notes, you’ll be disappointed. It’s impossible to tell the true influence of the wine finish without tasting the original whisky, but there’s certainly a lack of wine character in this Ardbeg. With the barrels being re-charred, that shouldn’t be a surprise exactly, but just an interesting thing to point out. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, granted, because wine can be too sweet and can mute some of the softer complex flavours. Overall, I really enjoyed both releases, and bought a bottle, and drank through it fairly quickly. 

Incidentally, the name Grooves comes from the shape in the inside of the wine barrels after they’ve been re-charred. 

Ardbeg Grooves - Regular Release
Score: 87

Nose: Freshly squeezed orange, simmering smoke, distance butterscotch, and candied lemon. Lots of salty brine on the exhale especially. Lavender is there, but it comes and goes. 

Palate: Surprisingly levels of char on the palate, great oak spice, roaming dried fruit and baking spice flavours. Surprisingly smoked paprika spice in the middle and back of the palate, that’s complimented by buttery and tangy notes. Those tangy notes (mustard?) continue expand to the finish, as does the buttery notes. 

★ ★ ☆ ☆  A great buy for the fans of the distillery
A satisfying pour of whisky, in a lineup that’s tough to compete within. The wine-finished elements are shy, perhaps too shy? It’s hard to judge without having a taste of the original recipe, but I’d like a little more constructive notes considering the risky barrel finishing play. Ignoring the expectations of wine-influences, this is a pretty good modern scotch with plenty of spice and lots of sweetness. 

Ardbeg Grooves Committee Edition
Score: 86

Nose: Nice spoiled fruit acidity and char. Char flaking off burnt oak. The caramel is a little richer on this end compared to the regular Grooves, the baking spices are a little more prominent. 

Palate: Sharp oak spice hit, great levels of char, and the caramels wash-over. The citrus crush is there, closer to blood oranges. The paprika spice is hot hot hot (compared to the regular release, it’s even hotter). Baking spices, but more focused on cinnamon. 

★ ★ ☆ ☆  A great buy for the fans of the distillery
I’ve not always tasted Ardbeg committee release with the regular release side-by-side, but the main difference tends to be booziness. That tends to be a biting win for me. These two are so similar. I get more wine-notes on the committee release which makes it more fun on the nose, but it’s a little too sharp on the palate. A little too hot. A few drops of water settle the drink, but at that point, you may as well drink the regular release.

*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆  Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆  Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆  Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆  Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★  Extraordinary, memorable, and original