...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Single Malt Report: Ardbeg Taste Off (part 1 of 3) - Ardbeg Ten

(Since I'm traveling, there probably won't be more than three posts this week.  That all depends on the quality of the Blogger app on my Android phone...)

By reading this post's subject heading you'll know the matter being discussed this week.  If you're an Ardbeg hater, please return next week.  (And if you are an Ardbeg hater, whattsamatta you?)

I will often exhalt the little indy distilleries while simultaneously poopooing the multinational conglomerate Big Whisky.  It's not that I'm anti-capitalistic, it's that I chose to support small businesses.   They tend to have closer contact with their products and more direct relationships with their customers.  They're also more likely to provide something exciting because in order to succeed as a small business one needs to deliver a product unique and/or better to the market.

Then there's Ardbeg.  Ardbeg is owned by Glenmorangie Plc.  Glenmorangie Plc is owned by Moet Hennessey -- a multinational luxury behemoth.

But I am smitten with Ardbeg anyway.  Why?  Because they've taken their ownership's capital allowance and invested it in exploring malt whisky's potential.  It has resulted in a considerable (please don't call it a cult) following and consistent critical raves.  Personally, I've yet to meet an Ardbeg whisky that isn't a terrific adventure.

On Friday, I experienced significant tumult in my writing career.  So I thought it best to mark the occasion with a Taste Off that I'd been anticipating for some time.  An Ardbeg Taste Off.

From Left to Right:
Ardbeg Ten (Part 1)
Ardbeg Uigeadail (Part 2)
Ardbeg Corryvreckan (Part 3)

Each glass held approximately 30mL (about 1 fl oz).  Each was sampled neat.  First, after a 15 minute wait.  Then a second time, another 45 minutes later.

To begin...


Ownership: Glenmorangie Plc (Moet Hennessy)
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrels
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Phenols: 54ppm
Bottle Code: L10 165 12:47 6ML

Yes, I have reviewed this whisky before.

That was in a dark bar, whisky in an open flat tumbler, on a rockin' night.  The notes I'd taken were minimal, the rest of the review was from spotty memory.

Today's NEW report was done in a controlled setting, at home.  The Ten was in a great glass, lined up with other Ardbeg whiskys to compare and contrast.  And these Taste Offs are my favorite whisky experiences because they really allow me focus and explore.  No Taste Off takes less than 90 minutes.

That bar experience happened in late October last year.  Three weeks later I bought a bottle of Ardbeg Ten from K&L Wines.  I opened it almost six months ago and am now down to the final dram.  It's always been fun and my opinion of it has grown gradually.  It's not chillfilltered, probably without caramel coloring, and bottled at a good 46% ABV.

Time for tasting.

Round 1 -- neat, 15 minutes in the glass before tasting

As you may note from the first picture in this post, the color is the lightest of the three -- where Pinot Grigio meets old hay.  The nose starts with fruit bread / fruitcake, then a rush of wet peat.  There's cinnamon, docked fishing boats, and a bonfire in the distance.  A lovely (to me) sooty peat hits the palate first, then rich honey.  Ultimately, it's a bakery full of sweet breads, fruit tarts, and cakes.  That bakery note continues into the excellent finish.  Then peated lemons, maybe a little candied, and a rummy pound cake.

Notes:  It's a peated lemon cupcake.

Round 2 -- neat, at least 45 minutes after the first round

The nose has become much sweeter now, like a rich spicy pudding along with some banana bread.  The peat has eased off, but an oceanic note has emerged further.  The peat soot remains in the palate, well merged with cinnamon toffee syrup (Ed.: that's not a thing).  There's cane sugar or maybe peated rock candy.  The sweets stick around the longest in the finish.  There's some chimney smoke, brown sugar, and honey.

Final notes:  I read recently that at 54ppm, this is the heaviest peated regularly available single malt.  That rings somewhat true on the nose and palate, but it blends so well with a multi-faceted sweetness and a bunch of bakery notes that the peat is no longer the lead characteristic.  Ardbeg Ten may be a heavy hitter but it's not overwhelming.  If you like its neighbors Laphroaig and Lagavulin, you probably won't mind a sip of this.

Availability - Many liquor stores
Pricing - Higher than most 10yrs; Great at $45 or less, don't pay over $55
Rating - 91