Let’s face it, there are surely only two possible reasons that you might be reading this review. Either you’ve never tried Ardbeg 10 year old whisky before and you’ve decided to find the most obscure review possible before committing to buy it or not. Or else you already know the drink and are looking at this to reinforce your opinion that you love or hate Ardbeg.
I suppose a third option would be that you’ve stumbled across this by accident and haven’t made it past the first sentence before clicking away. So well done for making it this far.
Ardbeg – it clearly a manly drink for manly men. I mean just look at that bottle for a start – so dark, so brooding, they could slap a label on there saying ‘It’s not for girls’ if it weren’t a direct breach of copyright to do so. But you’ll probably know Ardbeg, like Laiphroaig and most of the other Islay are the Peaty Beasts. Strongly flavoured, medicinal and often seen as an acquired taste.
Looking at reviews and comments online you see the same phrases coming up – it's all "blasts of peat smoke" this, "full flavoured" that and "monster" the other. Everything is very big and aggressive. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of subtlety but it clearly inspires some serious dedication.
I do like a peaty whisky and I’m pretty familiar with Ardbeg but this is the first time I’ve thought to compile any notes on a bottle. So here goes;
There’s no doubting is a serious no-nonsense whisky. I think it keeps things simple and plays to its not inconsiderable strengths. It’s too brawny to be considered smooth but it’s not harsh. A bit of burn so it’s worth a little dash of water. As you’re drinking it you realise it’s a little lighter than you might expect with a bit of sweetness - citrusy fruit rather than sherry. Also, it looks paler than you might expect given the expectation of full-on monster flavour.
Obviously the smoke is there there’s no getting around it but there’s more to it than just a face full of peat. It’s not the same sledgehammer that you get with Laphroaig. It’s more of a fire in the hearth rather than the house being on fire.
So it’s pale, it’s smokey, it’s a little bit sweet. It’s just good stuff but you probably knew that already. Or else you hate the stuff because you don’t like smokey whisky, in which case I can’t really help you.