Scotch Whiskey Review: Ardbeg Ten Years Old
A lot of people who enjoy single malt whiskies from Scotland unfortunately usually stick to a few of the well-known, popular brands that can be found in liquor stores everywhere. While these famous whiskies are superb and are well-loved for good reason, there are some whiskies that come from the country’s smaller distilleries that are simply phenomenal and so full of character that they make the famous brands seem almost bland in comparison. One single malt whisky that has been a favorite of connoisseurs for a few years now is Ardbeg Ten Years Old, a terrific liquor produced by the Ardbeg distillery on Islay, a small island off Scotland’s west coast. While very uncommon in shops around the world just a few short years ago, Ardbeg is rightfully gaining a large, incredibly loyal fan base.
A little history
The Ardbeg distillery was founded in 1815, and in 1887 output was over 1.1 million litres of whiskey per year. In 1911 the name Ardbeg was registered as a trademark, however, in the 1980’s production came to a standstill and the distillery was closed more or less permanently until 1997, when Glenmorangie purchased it. In 1998, Ardbeg 1975 was launched, and a year after re-opening, Ardbeg was voted Distillery of the Year. In 2000, Ardbeg Ten Years Old was launched, and ever since then, Ardbeg’s various fine single malt whiskies have been winning awards such as the World Whisky of the Year. Fortunately, because of their fine products and loyal growing customer base, the Ardbeg distillery is highly unlikely to ever close again.
Taste and character
Ardbeg Ten Year is known in whisky connoisseur circles as the best whisky in the world, in fact, for three years in a row it has actually been voted as “Best Whisky in the World”. What makes Ardbeg so incredibly good is that it is peatiest and smokiest of all the Islay whiskies, which are known for being smoky and peaty. However, what separates Ardbeg from competitors is that it strikes a balance; it has a fruity floral aspect to it which prevents the smokiness and peatiness from taking over. The result is a sublime experience. Distillers at Ardbeg say that because the whisky is non-chill filtered, its ABV is 46% rather than the industry standard 40%. This means that all the flavor is retained, but at the same time more depth and body get added.
The complex aroma is what tasters first notice; peat, citrus, dark chocolate, smoky fruit and ocean minerals, along with black pepper, graphite, bell peppers and pear juice. When a drop of water is added to the whisky, even more aromas are released; briny sea spray, pine forests, vanilla and hazelnut scents make a person’s mouth water in anticipation.
The taste can only be described as an explosion; peat, citrus, garam masala, toffee, brine, bananas and currants are only some of the sensations a person can experience. The finish is like a very dry espresso, with hints of liquorice and smoke, and it doesn’t end there; because the finish is so long a person will also experience ephemeral notes of aniseed, toasted almonds, and fresh, ripe pears.
How to drink Ardbeg Ten Years Old
Ardbeg is absolutely a single malt that you want to drink by itself with just a drop or two of water to open up the flavors and aromas to their maximum potential. Ardbeg can be consumed without ice or water; however, only about half of its characteristics can be experienced when no water is added. For those who like their whisky to be cold, ice can be used, but rather than use ice cubes one large lump of ice should be placed in the glass. This is to ensure the ice doesn’t melt too soon and water down the whiskey too much. While plain tap water is recommended, carbonated mineral water can be used as long as it is the Highland Spring brand that is found in Scotland. Other brands tend to adulterate the flavor.
Cocktails and mixers
All experts agree that Ardbeg should not be used in a cocktail; it is meant to be enjoyed with only water. However, if you are convinced that Ardbeg will make a lovely mixed drink, keep in mind that it will not mix well with sweet flavors. Therefore, if you simply must make a cocktail, try the classic Bannockburn where Ardbeg’s smoke and peat character will blend well with the other ingredients.
1 Old Fashioned glass
1.5 ounces Ardbeg Ten Years Old
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1.5 ounces Tomato juice
1 Slice of lemon
1 “lump” of ice
In a cocktail shaker packed with ice, stir the Ardbeg, Worcestershire sauce and tomato juice for about thirty seconds. Strain and pour in an Old Fashioned glass, and add one lump of ice. Garnish with a lemon slice.
For more information about Ardbeg Distillery products, visit www.ardbeg.com.