Ardbeg

Whisky Review – Ardbeg 10


Approachable. It’s a word I’ve been using quite often lately. But what does it really mean? Here is how Webster’s dictionary defines it:

approachable:  capable of being approached : accessible; specifically : easy to meet or deal with <friendly and approachable people>.

And how does this word relate to whisky? I guess it depends on what you like your whisky to taste and smell like. Although I enjoy all that Scotland has to offer with regards to whisky, I am perpetually drawn to Islay (guess I’m a sucker for a smoky dram). I’ve had the opportunity to sample Ardbeg on several occasions, but it wasn’t till I tried a 6 year old, “for discussion purposes only” expression that it really captured my attention. Since I enjoyed this very rare expression so much, I thought I’d pick up a bottle of the 10 year old. It’s both highly rated by the Malt Advocate (John Hansell gave it a 93) and relatively affordable ($46 for a 750ml bottle). I think this whisky is very approachable when compared to other Islays. The Ardbeg 10 definitely has the signature smoky flavor of a classic Islay, but it’s not as overpowering as something like a Laphroaig 10 (aka Kingsford per Limpd), and at 46% ABV, it’s also exceptionally smooth. I highly recommend this whisky and give it a solid A.

13 replies »

  1. Ah Ardbeg, a fine whisky – glad to see ye like it. Whilst I love it, I’m always worried the massive peat dose will put people off. So what’s the six year like? I’ve never had a chance to try it.

    Also have you ever tried the bowmore set, I’ve always found them very mellow for Islays, especially the 15 year version.

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  2. Damn, now another scotch to add to my list. I have a bottle of Bowmore right now and it is very nice…mellow, just the right amount of peat and smoke. It goes great with a cigar!

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  3. The six year old Ardbeg was really interesting. I had it during a “Society” whisky night that The ROK hosted in late June. Apparently, this was one of those “I know a guy that knows a guy” situations, i.e. we never should have been able to get our grubby mitts on this whisky. Since it was only a six year old, it lacked the balance and smoothness of the Ardbeg 10, but I really liked that it had such a big personality. Being a fan of Islay whisky, I don’t mind the big flavors. Especially the smokiness.

    I had a Bowmore at St. Andrews in New York this past March. I believe it was a 12 year old. I really enjoyed this very smooth and moderately smoky whisky. Sadly, I don’t see alot of Bowmore expressions around here. The Bowmore Legend is available, and very affordable. Is it any good?

    Cheers!
    G-LO

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  4. Afraid I’ve never tried the Legend version, however all the versions I’ve tried have been very nice, if completely different to each other ( I think Iain Banks once said something about , if you couldn’t find a version of Bowmore you liked, then maybe whisky wasn’t for you, due to the huge range of styles they cover) so id guess it should be worth a try.

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  5. Hi G-Lo, I recently picked up a bottle of Laphroaig QC which was my first Islay purchase. I’m a bit back and forth on it. I don’t dislike it, but all that smoke makes it a bit of a load to drink all the time (I think if I save it until winter, it might be better!). Anyway, I’m curious about whether you think that I should give some of the other Islays – like Ardbeg 10 – a go, considering I’m a little on the fence with the smoke in Laphroaig QC. As an aside, Talisker 10 is my favorite whisky – it’s got a nice peat flavor without being really smoky.
    Thanks,
    Ryan

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    • Yo Ryan!

      I REALLY like the Quarter Cask. I think you should step away from it and then revisit. I’ve had similar experiences with new whisky purchases. I don’t know if it’s because of my expectations or if it has something to do with that initial alcohol hit when you first open a new bottle. Whatever the reason, it sometimes takes me awhile to reach a verdict. I read a review of the Ardbeg Alligator on Dramalot, and they too experience the revisit the whisky thing.

      As far as the Ardbeg 10, I really like it! Smokey, peppery, and a wee bit medicinal. Since you like Talisker 10 (one of my all time favorites), I’d say that the Ardbeg 10 is like Talisker 10 on steroids. You might want to try buying some samples from Master of Malt. That way you won’t be making such a huge investment. Did that help at all?

      Cheers!
      G-LO

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      • Ryan,

        G-Lo is the King of Smoke. I think he’d drink a Kingsford briquette if you pulverized it and called it whisky. I agree that the Masters of Malt is a good way to ease into a variety of Islay whiskies. I prefer the gentler whisky out of Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich. You might want to try the more heavily peated Port Charlotte or the super peated Octomore. Although, the various samples we have had from Ardbeg are very good as well.

        Slainte!

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      • Thanks for the comments guys. I think it’s good advice to step away from it for a couple weeks. I’ll let you know how that changes my opinion.

        As far as Master of Malt, I like the idea, but I wonder if I’m missing something – I looked at the website and it looks to be about $50 to get 5 1-oz. samples shipped from the U.K., and they have a rather poor selection of “entry-level” malts. The only standard bottling Islay they have is Lagavulin 16, and I really don’t see the point in ordering drams of 30 yr. Ardbeg or other special bottlings. They do have Octomore, which would be interesting for “educational” purposes at least! Also note that I live in Pennsylvania, so any US-based whisky dealers won’t ship here.

        Thanks, I appreciate the responses!

        Ryan

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      • G-Lo and limpd, thanks for your responses! I have taken your advice on two counts: I took a break from the Laphroaig and I also ordered some miniature bottles, which were expensive, but what else is a whisky nut like me to do?

        So on the first count, stepping away from Laphroaig didn’t really help. I still find the “burning autumn leaves smoke” quite heavy. It’s enjoyable, but not something I’m looking to go out and buy again anytime soon. But, on the second count, I got a miniature bottle of Ardbeg 10. Wow! I loved it! You were right on the money with your reviews. Ardbeg 10 is like “Talisker on steroids,” and is a powerful whisky, but like you say the smoke is still not as overpowering as Laphroaig. The smokes definitely are different.

        So, maybe I’m an odd-ball, but I am a bit lukewarm about Laphroaig but am an instant fan of Ardbeg. I will definitely be buying a bottle when I can!

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        • Yo Ryan!

          Glad to hear that you found something you like and that you enjoyed the Ardbeg 10. As far as the Laphroiag 10 goes, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1000 times, it is a bonafide polarizing whisky. You either like it or you don’t. Rarely is there any middle ground. Oh wait…it appears as if you’ve found the middle ground, i.e. lukewarm. There is an upside of course… that whisky won’t go bad, so you could always go back again and again to see how your tastes are evolving. Besides the actual drinking, the cool thing about all of this “research” is seeing how your tastes change as you broaden your horizons. I guess it’s true what grown ups always told us as we were growing up, some things in life are an acquired taste.

          Cheers!
          G-LO

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