By Jake Emen
There’s not much secret left to a spirit which Jim Murray extols with phrases such as “perfection on the palate”. As such, I don’t need to send a news blast letting you know that, well geez, Ardbeg 10 Year Old single malt (“Ardbeg Ten”) is pretty darn good! All the same though, I’ll do my best to offer up a fresh take on a reasonably priced single malt which is known for its bold flavors, yet manages to be surprisingly approachable as well.
Opening up a bottle of Ardbeg Ten (46% abv) and taking a lingering whiff is like being punched in the face by the smoky, peaty, salty air of Islay – in the best way possible. It’s an unforgettable aroma, and whether you’re new to the world of scotch whiskey or you’re a longtime connoisseur, it’s a welcome one as well.
Ardbeg Ten has a light amber color in the glass, and with a bit of ice, you’ll get that trademark cloudiness thanks to the fact that it’s non-chill filtered. The amber then dissipates to the dim yellow of moonlight left largely concealed behind passing rainclouds.
Take your first taste, and you’ll get a hefty dose of peat, along with lighter citrus notes, and pepper. It’s that mix of the citrus with a touch of sweetness which doesn’t allow the peat to overwhelm you. It’s certainly the dominant component to both the aroma and flavor of Ardeg Ten, but it doesn’t take away from the complexity of the rest of the whisky, either.
The Ardbeg 10 Year Old single malt has a long, warm finish, which brings back some of that salty sea air, with a bit of fruit and sweetness to wash it down.
Chilled with ice, the peat and smoke are dulled a bit, allowing you to take notice of some of the additional aforementioned aspects of the spirit – the salty sea air, the citrus, the sweetness. The finish is just as long, and perhaps even sharper, bringing back some of the power you missed earlier.
Is this going to be your favorite whiskey? Is it a must-try? If you like peaty scotches, then it’s basically a can’t miss. If you don’t like peat smoke, or you’re feeling less adventurous, the Ardbeg Ten is strong enough in scent and flavor to leave you hiding in the corner.
Still, even as an unabashed member of the Brotherhood of Bourbon, this single malt scotch was able to win me over. And when I recall sipping on a glass of this whiskey, it’s not just the peat that comes to the forefront, it’s the unmistakable scent of salty sea air, which manages to transport you to a seaside cliff on Islay, green grasses swaying behind you, crisp wind blowing your hair, waves crashing on the shore beneath you.
Price varies greatly depending on where you’re buying from – at my local store, I picked up a bottle for about $50, while a larger $45-$60 range was found on various online outlets.
“If perfection on the palate exists, this is it,” says Mr. Murray of the Whisky Bible, who named it the best single malt 10 years and under in 2012, and in 2008 he labeled it the World Whisky of the Year. It’s a multiple gold medal winner that Whisky Advocate scored at 93, and Whisky Magazine named as an Editor’s Choice.