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Ardbeg Ten Years Old

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For me, Ardbeg 10 is the embodiment of an Islay and it is that Islay essence that sets Scotch whisky apart from other whiskies of the world. Smoky peat and the smells of the sea are what come to mind first when I think of single malt Scotch. It is because of this that Ardbeg 10 is my favorite Scotch, though not necessarily the one I most enjoy drinking.


Here at B&B, we're all familiar with the word "reformulation" and just like shaving creams and soaps, spirits with the same label, but different vintages, can be have dissimilarities due to changes in company management, ownership, production equipment, etc. In Whisky Magazine #9 (4/2000), Michael Jackson gave Ardbeg Ten an 8 1/2 and Dave Broom a 9. In Whiskey Magazine #50 (9/2005), Martine Nouet gave it a 4 and Dave Broom a 4 1/2. This shows a lot of variation during batches distilled during the tumultuous small scale years. Although I have not tasted it, the so-called "new" Ardbeg show much promise based on it's "Single Malt Scotch of the Year 2008" status in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible. From the tasting notes that I have read, it is a slightly different animal than previous incarnations. Pat's (castlecraver) comments in the October 2008 Speakeasy Spirit of the Month thread reflect this.

The specimen under review here was bottled in 2002 under Glenmorangie ownership. It was distilled during Ardbeg's small scale days, 1989-1996, after the distillery was brought out of being mothballed from 1981-1989. Glenmorangie stepped in in 1997 and purchased Ardbeg, probably saving it from permanent closure. My feelings on this particular bottle are in line with the Jackson/Broom thoughts of 2000.

Color: Pale straw. Lighter than the typical Islay amber. A deceptive appearance for what follows.

Nose: Bold with a blast of smoky peat and a more subtle followup of tar and brine. Something even lighter emerges as well, both sweet and spicy.

Body: Big and full without being too thick. Slightly oily.

Palate: Again, it begins with a blast of smoke. As the smoke starts to clear, seaweed and tar pop out with a very light hint of sweet citrus.

Finish: Peppery, warm, and dry as the ever present smokiness lingers on.

All in all, Ardbeg is a very big, powerful whisky, but comfortable at the same time. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but for someone wanting to go beyond the more "well mannered" single malts you typically see behind an average bar and experience something much bolder, give Ardbeg Ten a try.

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This is Single Malt Islay Scotch. This is the Simpson Chubby of scotch. This is an experience as much as a drink.

The price is in line with other Islay 10 year old scotches, but something about Ardbeg is more distinctive. I have sampled 4 different bottlings from Ardbeg and they all have a common thread running through them.

This one is about big smoke and peat. At 10 years old the peat is still fresh and the dominant flavors. The sea spray and idoine come are over played a bit. The 1990 has much less peat/smoke, but much more salty. The 1990 is much more tame than the standard 10 year old beast.

In the end, this is the YARDSTICK of Islay scotch!

You like it or you don't. Personally, this is my favorite distillery.
Right, I guess that if I didn't like it, it will also make a good review (that's always what I'm looking for when I buy something, someone happy won't let me know where the defects are).

As much as I want to like and love Scotch, it doesn't work for me. I bought this one thinking, 10 years old, the price isn't so bad, I usually pay around the same price maybe a bit less...

I normally drink Bourbon or Whisky...

I am unable to drink this stuff. This taste like ashtray a bit (sorry for being harsh) and it feels like I smoked a few cigarettes the next morning. As a non-smoker, it's not that great.

I tried to go pass the cigarette taste, I found a bit of toffee and some sweetness in there.

I didn't enjoy it but again, I'm not a scotch drinker.
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I have to confess, I found this undrinkable, from the smell to the taste. Not even adding water made this potable for me. This does not mean that it is a bad Scotch, just that it might not be to your taste if like me what you enjoy is a traditional Highlands. Perhaps with time and more experience of single malts I will come to appreciate it. But right now, it makes me pass out just to sniff the open bottle. I do not know how to describe the smell except as wool left out in the rain.

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