Monday, March 21, 2011

Flavour Monster - Ardbeg 10yo

Ardbeg 10yo - note the light colour in the glass
I thought it was time I threw my own 2 cents worth in on the Ardbeg 10yo. We have all had it and think we all like it to some degree. Whenever an Ardbeg makes an appearance at a club meeting the bottle risks becoming an endangered species. If you a newcomer to the whisky world you may find this too strong but really I feel if you like lots of flavour in your food and like a challenge then this is certainly a whisky to try before you die as you won't be disappointed.

My Grandmother use to have a nip of whisky (JW Red) every night. A few years ago I thought to introduce my mother the world of the single malt. She did not like the Glenmorangie's and Glenlivet's of this world but she loved Ardbeg instead. She did not really drink whisky straight before then.

One of the true flavour monsters of the single malt world it is worth knowing that the Ardbeg distillery has more than once come close to being closed indefinitely. These days it retains a legendary status amongst us single malt drinkers and hard to believe it nearly ceased to exist.

Ardbeg 10yo
Alchohol: 46%
Location/Region: Isle of Islay
Colour: Light pear

The nose is smokey ash, sweet malt, a little moist with hint of sea air. Just the smell alone makes me think of a cold wet day on the coast. The smell will permeate a room while the whisky still fills the glass.

To taste those sweet notes on the nose quickly turn to an chewy earthy spice, heavier smokey ash, and strong alcohol high in the throat. Salts are there but not so much as on the nose.

The finish is deep, soothing, long and drawn. Heat in the cheats, smoke in the pallet and a tingle on the tongue but you also find those sweet notes again.

Balance is quite good regardless of the heavy ash smoke and in fact that is exactly what you are desiring in the Ardbeg 10yo. Either you start on this whisky and stay on it for the rest of the night or you class it as a finisher and look forward to the experience when the moment comes. Ardbeg 10yo is extremely rich at first though I have always noticed it diminishes somewhat within the first 4 weeks of opening and all those high notes give way to the ashy peat smoke.

I like and appreciate Ardbeg 10yo though I would not consider it a daily dram nor is it ever in the front of my mind when my whisky stocks are low. That said I would easily give this a 6 out of 7. It is always consistent and always pleasing and something to look forward to. Something to savour and not over indulge. Goes well with dark chocolate that has a very high cocoa content.

Ardbeg does not just make peated whisky even though the common myth is that all Islay Whiskies are peated / should be peated. For Ardbeg this is nearly true but with the release of Ardbeg Blasda at only 8 parts per million phenol content I am really looking forward to the day I taste this sucker.

To finish off it is worth a note I would prefer Ardbeg 10yo over Laphroaig 10yo yet on the other hand give me a Laphroaig Cask Strength (or Quarter Cask) and day over an Ardbeg Uigeadail.

Das Baron