This review of Ardbeg 10 is part one of my Ardbeg Assay.
When I’m looking for whisky to enjoy, I have a few priority specifications. Non chill filtered. No colouring added. Bottled at a decent strength. These are objective signposts that point us in the direction of serious whisky territory. In this case, Ardbeg 10 ticks all those boxes.
The cask maturation is a combination of Bourbon, and refill Sherry. Ardbeg only uses 1st and 2nd fill casks, so we know they’re not flogging any spent wood here for their entry level release. The current vatting contains whiskies ranging from 10 to 13 years old. In the past, Ardbeg 10 saw inclusion of whisky as old as 23 years. These days, older Ardbeg stock is not forthcoming due to some substantial gaps in their production during the 1980s and 1990s. Take that for what it’s worth. Myself, a pale peaty dram gets me charged up.
Sun bleached hay. The legs on the glass are slow to form, and when they fall, are thin and sparse.
The peat profile is unique and the predominant characteristic is balance. One part medicinal, veering into the solventy end of things, black sharpie markers and iodine. One part earthy, with damp, freshly laid sod. And one part coastal, kippers, the joint of a steamed crab leg, and freshly hauled in fishing nets. Amazing, but a bold harmony manages to come from that. It’s something characteristic of most Ardbegs I’ve tried, and this Assay has got me thinking about it. Bold and balanced. The Celtic knots that Ardbeg uses on their packaging serve well to symbolize their profile. Individual strands woven together, and knotted ornately, and seamlessly.
Beneath the peat there are fruity notes of berry preserves, an almost sugary-ness on the high notes.
It’s worth pointing out that there are absolutely no calling cards of an undermature whisky to speak of here, in terms of profile, or heat. It’s a bit prickly, but at 46%, you can really dive into this thing and not get burnt out.
Spirit heat is the first thing to present on the tongue, a bit numbing. A burst of steeped green tea in the mid-palate cut by an ashy afterburn, post cigar.
Medium weight. Light, slick, and oily like a roasted peanut.
Enduring, tongue coating. A slight bitterness is left lingering on the palate. Dry.
Ardbeg 10 can be had for a very decent price, retailing in my area for $80 or less. Based on that value, and judged against others in its category, Ardbeg 10 is superior.
Speaking of price, it does live in a somewhat strange zone, well under $100, but outpaced by whiskies only $20 or $30 more expensive. Maybe it’s a reflection of the times we’re in, and the current ratcheting prices of single malt, but $20 or $30 is really nothing to wince over, and can easily get you into a more premium range of single malts, even within Ardbeg’s own brand.
Ardbeg 10 acts nicely as a companion to food. Its solid balance and lack of extremes makes it a good base to interact with other flavours. A classic pairing with creamy cheese is a winner, and surprisingly, it also plays well with spicy foods, which is not a category of cuisine that many whiskies can boast a decent compatibility with.
In some ways, the 10 also performs better in a tumbler than it does in a nosing glass. There’s not too much to get overly analytical about here, so a fun glass, and a fast pace is actually a pleasant treatment for this whisky.
For these reasons, Ardbeg 10 ekes into the realm of fine, by a hair.
The Ardbeg 10 I sampled for this review was stamped with bottle code:
L61271 03/03/2015 | 15001991 16:52
Check out Tim Puett’s website The Ardbeg Project which gives, among many many other things, an in-depth explanation of bottle codes if you’re curious to know what they mean. It seems like the code format has changed since the page was last updated, but I’ll still provide the bottling codes in full with all my Ardbeg reviews.
Stay tuned for part two of my Ardbeg Assay, a review of Ardbeg Corryvreckan