Ardbeg 10 Year Old

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Ardbeg 10yr.jpgArdbeg distillery enjoys a cult-like status among its ardent supporters that few others seem to approach. From the Ardbeg Committee and its exclusive annual releases, to the first annual Ardbeg Day held this year on 2 July, there is no shortage of fervour surrounding its whiskies. At the nexus of this fanaticism is none other than the distillery's core expression: the 10 year old.

Polarizing and powerful, this whisky is bottled at 46%, non-chillfiltered, and can either clear a room or fill it depending on who you ask. Rich and flavourful no matter how one regards its properties, it is certainly worth exploring at least three or four times before judgment is passed, and deserves an even longer look from those that proclaim their love of peaty whiskies as there are few standard expressions that carry phenol level of 54ppm. 
Nose: Sea spray and leathery smoke lash out as soon as it hits the glass and go on to permeate the room. Following the initial blast is refined vanilla coupled with floral heather that evokes memories of spring in the woods at the seaside. Underneath all of this, a light citrus hint of lime awaits discovery, typically appearing only after one gets to know this whisky very well, but once it is noticed it is there forever. It is worth noting that a splash of water helps to reveal a soft whisp of coffee. 

Palate: At the outset, the smoke becomes somewhat rubbery, while the vanilla fights for attention with pepper and oak notes. Robust yet medium bodied, a brown sugar sweetness plays against salt and a subtle sour hint of citrus that becomes less defined than on the nose. It is here that the smallest of splashes of water serves to mitigate the pinch of heat present while simultaneously developing the flavour profile into an earthy whisky creme brrulee.

Finish: Long and truly unlike any whisky from anywhere else, it is here that the peat takes on a medicinal element while the creme brulee becomes truly evident and lingering. Memories of nearly burnt sugars and smoke are the last to leave, albeit more than 15 minutes later. Meanwhile, in a fashion rarely seen elsewhere, a splash of water does nothing to alter the finish.

Overall: Not for the uninitiated or the faint of heart, once this whisky grows on you it simply takes hold and sets down roots. Extremely well balanced and singular in its profile it is pure enjoyment for lovers of peated whiskies. Sadly for the Ontario buyer its $99 price tag renders it overpriced in comparison to other markets (for instance in Alberta Kensington Wine Market offers it for more than $30 less), but by no means does that diminish its place as a must have for just about any whisky shelf.

Aside: Normally, I'm not one for cocktails. But those that know me well enough know that I am a lover of flavour combinations. So it is with that in mind that I ask you to read on with a grain of salt; celery salt to be exact. As the Ardbeg 10 year old is the key ingredient in one of my all time favourite weekend brunch kickstarters: the Ardbeg Caesar. 

How do you make one? Simple. Replace the vodka in a standard Caesar with an equal measure of Ardbeg 10. If you really want to go for broke and enjoy my ultimate Caesar, swap out the celery stalk for a crispy and well patted-dry piece of bacon. I mean, what is the point of worrying about health consciousness when you are already preparing a single malt Caesar at 11am, right?

For those of you unfamiliar with the Caesar, it is a distinctly Canadian phenomenon that resembles a Bloody Mary and is used as the preeminent weekend hangover cure. Here's how I make mine, in sequence:

  • Rim a cocktail glass of your choice with celery salt (I run a bit of fresh lemon around the rim first to get it to stick)
  • Add 3 to 4 ice cubes
  • 3 to 4 dashes of Worcester sauce
  • 1 to 2 dashes of hot sauce (I prefer Tobasco)
  • 1.5oz of Ardbeg 10 (more if you are feeling particularly opulent or hungover)
  • 6oz of Clamato
  • Garnish with a lime wedge
  • Add 1 thick cut piece of bacon that has been cooked until crispy and patted dry with a paper towel to remove excess fat to prevent an oil slick on the drink
  • Stir (preferably with the bacon as that means the piece is thick enough)
For those among you that are recoiling in terror, I only ask you to try it once. I have had the luxury of switching none other than Davin De Kergommeaux and Dominic Roskrow on to this anomaly and witnessing it first hand.

Slainte! 

2 Comments

Loved this review - you nailed the flavor profile of this wonderful base expression - perhaps the most outstanding base expression of any distillery. However I you proved to me I could never be a good Canadian. I hate Clamato!

Haha. Thanks Josh!

Perhaps you just need to put some Ardbeg in that Clamato.

Also jokes aside, it is wonderful stuff that needs no help to command the glass. Yet it plays so well with food!

Have you ever tried it alongside Cashel Irish blue cheese? It's surreal.

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  • Matt commented on Ardbeg 10 Year Old:

    Haha. Thanks Josh!

    Perhaps you just need to put some Ardbeg in that Clamato.

    Also jokes aside, it is wonderful stuff that needs no help to command the glass. Yet it plays so well with food!

    Have you ever tried it alongside Cashel Irish blue cheese? It's surreal.

  • Josh Feldman commented on Ardbeg 10 Year Old:

    Loved this review - you nailed the flavor profile of this wonderful base expression - perhaps the most outstanding base expression of any distillery. However I you proved to me I could never be a good Canadian. I hate Clamato!

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