I never ever thought (when Perpetuum was released) that this bottling will win against its successors as I (like many others) had the impression this was the weakest Ardbeg Day edition so far. But now I must confess: This was the best (to my liking) in three years. Oh, oh Ardbeg - where are you heading to...
The colour of the Perpetuum is clearly the most pale of the three, while Dark Cove (nomen est omen) is the darkest. Kelpie is closer to Perpetuum than to Dark Cove, maybe just one or two shades darker. While Perpetuum has the most Ardbeg trademark nose (surprisingly) Dark Cove is rather shy but much sweeter (due to the dark sherry casks) and Kelpie offers some strange aromas on eucalyptus and camphor (that remind me a little bit of a cough medicine and disinfectant solution). Interestingly I find the Perpetuum best and the Kelpie by far the weakest in this head-to-head.
Perpetuum is based all around sweet and peaty flavours that are not too complex, but somehow balanced. Dark Cove is due to the sherry casks much sweeter, the peat is more in the background. Again it is a little bit hot and peppery. Kelpie is all about this strange eucalyptus/menthol flavour (maybe they should have named it "Koala" instead) - if you love this, than it is probably very interesting (Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor, who smoked menthol cigarettes only would like this, probably). But I do not, I hate menthol as it reminds me of bitter medicine... You guess my rating for this round now, don't you?
Perpetuum arrives big and mouth-coating on the palate while Dark Cove is quite sweet, but a little bit hot at the first sip. Kelpie is a little bit hot and peppery too and not as mouth-coating as the Perpetuum. Again Perpetuum wins this round closely followed by Dark Cove. Kelpie is not impressive. The Perpetuum finish is very clean and long, typically Ardbeggian. Dark Cove has a quite long but very sweet finish that is somehow more one-dimensional than the Perpetuum. And the Kelpie: The finish gets dry and bitter (due to the heavy tannins of the virgin oak), I do not like such a profile. It is significantly shorter than the other two as well, so again: Perpetuum first, Dark Cove second, Kelpie last...