It doesn’t get more ‘Islay’ than this. Ardbeg Ten is one of the truest expressions of an Islay single malt I have ever encountered. It epitomizes the region and style. Quite possibly the greatest ten year old whisky I’ve tried and most likely the best entry level expression to come from any of the ‘big eight’ on Islay.
It is the fountainhead of Ardbeg’s resurrection, and as such, it stands as a monument to the rebirth of the distillery. Its clean lines, sharp angles, austere clarity and defined character have shown that the distillery has not only pulled off the Lazarus act, but done so with style.
Interesting to note…old stocks saw the light of day when the distillery reopened in 1997 under Glenmorangie, but quickly disappeared in expressions such as the brilliant ‘17’ and ‘Airigh Nam Beist’. At this time the oldest expression in the Ardbeg core range is this, the Ten. And even still…demand outstrips supply. No wonder there is little old stock hitting the market outside of the indies.
Straight outta that sexy emerald bottle, this is a light straw-like color, quite similar to pale diffuse sunshine, and it prickles at the nostrils a little, ‘cause hey…let’s face it…this is a young whisky.
The nose is all about campfires and smoldering peat. Salty coastal notes and briny iodine are everywhere. Next…buckets of freshly squeezed citrus fruit and a mild nutty vanilla leeched from the bourbon oak. The charred wood notes are to die for and marry well with wispy stirrings of anise (which appear a little more boldly on the palate).
Heat, peat and smoke on delivery and arrival. These come right up front, ride along through the development and stay until the party is over. Surprisingly the Ten is somewhat creamy and vanilla-noted. There is fruit there as well…mostly young ripe green fruit and lemon rind. The finish has just a touch of melon behind the oaky vanillins, smoke and drying green apple skin tartness.
This is coat-your-mouth, room-scenting, firewater. Well worth taking the time to savor.
Ardbeg firing on all cylinders is a nearly unstoppable machine, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the pure spirit when the distillery’s entry level expression, at a mere ten years of age, is this bloody good.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt