Ardbeg 10 Years Old

Islay single malt scotch whisky

46% ABV, £40.63 for 70cl available from Master of Malt

Score: 87/100

Ardbeg10yo

What they say:

Ardbeg Ten Years Old is revered around the world as the peatiest, smokiest, most complex single malt of them all. Yet it does not flaunt the peat; rather it gives way to the natural sweetness of the malt to produce a whisky of perfect balance.

Typically most whiskies are chill-filtered and reduced to a strength of 40% ABV. Ardbeg Ten Years Old, however, is non chill-filtered and has a strength of 46% ABV, thus retaining maximum flavour, at the same time giving more body and added depth. It’s whisky with none of the goodness taken out!

Aroma

A burst of intense smoky fruit escapes into the atmosphere – peat infused with zesty lemon and lime, wrapped in waxy dark chocolate.

Bold menthol and black pepper slice through the sweet smoke followed by tarry ropes and graphite. As you dip your nose in further, savour the aroma of smoked fish and crispy bacon alongside green bell peppers, baked pineapple and pear juice.

Add water and breathe in the vortex of aromas rising from the glass. An oceanic minerality brings a breath of cool, briny seaspray on chalky cliffs. Waxed lemon and lime follows with coal tar soap, beeswax and herby pine woodlands. Toasted vanilla and sizzling cinnamon simmer in the background with warm hazelnut and almond toffee.

Taste

An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavour explosions on the tongue: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. This is followed by a wave of brine infused with smooth buttermilk, ripe bananas and currants. Smoke gradually wells up on the palate bringing a mouthful of warm creamy cappuccino and toasted marshmallows. As the taste lengthens and deepens, dry espresso, liquorice root and tarry smoke develop coating the palate with chewy peat oils.

Finish

The finish goes on and on – long and smoky with tarry espresso, aniseed, toasted almonds and traces of soft barley and fresh pear.

What I say:

Sampled on numerous occasions but most recently during and evening with Dr Bill Lumsden at Royal Mile Whiskies hosted Ardbeg tasting in celebration of their 200 year anniversary and also at the Water Of Life Society ‘For Peat’s Sake’ tasting held on 19th February 2015

Colour:

Light straw gold (4/20), heavy, slow tears

Nose:

Deep cereal barley malt, slightly lactic/cheesy, citrus leman and lime juice, old leather, briny sea spray and iodine, medicinal, coal-tar/carbolic soap, swathes of peat smokes, dirty and earthy.

Taste:

Sweet peaty influence I always liken to peanut and satay sauce, peat smoke, cereal barley malt, marmite, treacle, vanilla essence and maple syrup, touches of dark chocolate, tobacco smoke and black coffee.

Finish:

Long, malty with sweet, earthy peat smoke.

Overall:

Classic and well-loved single malt from Ardbeg – and for good reason. Many baulk at the price-tag for this entry-level 10 year old expression, but on tasting few go back and feel they’ve been overcharged. Subtly constructed and quite complex.