Ardbeg seems to be 'the new Macallan' - being highly collectible, heavily marketed and more and more expensive due to its popularity. Nevertheless, it's a cracking good Islay peat bomb and of consistently high quality. On the nose, Ardbeg 10 is uniquely intense with phenolic peat smoke, briny seaweed and an underlying sweetness. The arrival is big, bolt and in your face! Intense peatiness masks sweet and spicy notes in the background, leading to a long, substantial and slightly dry finish. A truly outstanding malt with way too much fancy marketing.
[March, 2017] Another Ardbeg re-taste: When the new TEN was released I found it a very good, easy-to-drink dram (that by no means is comparable to the 10-years old guaranteed from the seventies or eighties, but nevertheless very nice in its new profile). And I scored it with 88 points (significantly better than an average dram).
Today I tried a recent bottling of the TEN and - what a disappointment: It is rather weakish and with a drying-bitter finish. I guess Ardbeg uses partly virgin oak casks in this recipe and these heavy tannins harm not just the balance but the mouthfeel too.
This is most probably due to the problem that LVHM has difficulties in sourcing enough bourbon casks from the US. The Scotch whisky boom came at a time when the US whisky industry was in deep recession - so the Scotch demand for used bourbon casks was and still is much higher than the US distilleries can supply. As a consequence the Scottish distilleries cut down the maturation times to use the same cask more often (and masked this by introducing NAS whiskies) AND (as this was not sufficient enough) they had to use virgin oak casks in addition. For sure they market this as an intentional strategy, but it is pure despair in the end. What can do you if you do not have enough good quality casks at your hands?
The outcome is devastating (at least to my taste buds), but hopefully they create a new followership among all the new whisky aficionados that do not know how excellent Ardbeg and all the other great drams once tasted (before the boom)...
Lemon, pepper, strong ashen smoke, dark chocolate, going into espresso, a hint of vanilla, slightly bitter and pungent, some thyme and rosemary, gentian, juniper, kumquats, clams and sea spray, seaweed and iodine, apple cider, lemon oil
very long, peppery, ashen, lemony, smoke, vanilla, kumquats, lemon zest, iodine and juniper berries - lemon oil and ash remain in the entire palate / throat area for a very long time
The nose does not show many impressions, but these are very intense and harmoniously connected. I do not want to stop smelling. But also in the mouth like the Ardbeg, even if the intensity in the nose from something subsides. The finish completes the overall impression. An impressive standard whisky.
Soft and sweet, intense notes of vanilla, lemon and smoke stand side by side on equal footing, followed by slightly weaker orange, a little bit of oak
Soft onset, but then immediately strong smoke, some white pepper, some lemon, then classic notes supplied by ex-bourbon barrels, vanilla and caramel
Soft, smoke, sweet, then some bitter notes, smoked lemon, rosemary, long