Nose: Tar. The predominant note on the nose is definitely tar. Citrus and salt are also present, as are some notes of dried grass around the edges.
Palate: Crap-tonnes of coastal, medicinal, peat. Some citrus and vanilla, as well as hints of tar and some charcoal. Traces of over-brewed black tea floating around at the edges.
Mouthfeel: Not the thinnest whisky, but not exactly a heavyweight – especially for an Ardbeg. Smooth, and with no alcohol bite.
Finish: Long and punchy. Plenty of lemon and salt, with an absolute mountain of peat still hanging around.
Ardbeg’s youngest age-stated whisky, and (despite an arm-full of NAS releases) still their entry level bottling. No mention of it being colouring-free, so we can assume there is caramel colouring of various amounts to get every batch looking the same. It is non-chill filtered though, which is nice to see from one of the larger distilleries; especially for their entry level whisky – it was actually Ardbeg’s first non-chill filtered whisky when it was originally released. It’s also bottled at 46% ABV – another rarity for at this level.
This whisky was awarded the gong for World Whisky of the Year in 2008 by Jim Murray, who also stated in his “Complete Book of Whisky” that “if perfection on the palate exists, this is it”. I don’t always agree with Mr Murray, but in this case I will concede that he was on to something.
Ardbeg is a proud distillery on the coast of Islay, and is currently owned by the Glenmorangie Company who purchased the distillery in 1997 and restarted production. Like many Scottish distilleries, Ardbeg has had its troubles over the years, and has been shuttered twice; once in 1981, and a second time a decade later in 1991. I’m personally quite fond of Ardbeg, and it is rare that I don’t have a bottle open of one of their releases – more often than not Uigeadail.
I bought this particular bottle of Ardbeg 10 as part of a haul for a 10 years with cancer party; as one of 10 ten year old whiskies; several of which were single-cask and/or cask-strength. It held up reasonably well, especially against the higher-strength whiskies; yet despite being a whisky from a distillery I drink reasonably often, being non-chill filtered, and being 46% ABV, this Ardbeg just felt like it was lacking something tiny when compared to the ten year old from nearby Laphroaig that we also drank that weekend.
Would I Drink It Again?
Probably - I certainly wouldn't turn down a dram, but not sure it beats out nearby rivals, or even other Ardbeg bottlings to ensure I'd buy a bottle.