“Unapologetic” is a fairly apt way to describe Ardbeg’s marketing. More specifically, they drop vaguely sourced quotes like “as close to perfection as makes no difference” and “unquestionably, the greatest distillery on Earth,” as if to epitomize themselves. Some may say it’s fun and confidence, others might call it egotistical and self-aggrandizing. Regardless, Ardbeg stand out as one of the world’s largest scotch producers. Alongside Lagavulin and Laphroaig, they’ve effectively become the face of peaty Islay single malts.
This identity is reinforced by a celebrated core lineup, along with the expected dose of premium and otherwise limited bottlings. Ardbeg 10-Year is the brand’s flagship, a highly revered option that often wins enthusiasts over time and time again. Maturation takes place in ex-bourbon barrels while the final product is non-chill filtered and bottled at 46% ABV. Local pricing hovers between $50-$60.
Nose: Musty earth. Mulch with hints of semi-sweet chocolate and charcoal. Black pepper and mellow citrus undertone. Light, but also rounded out. Begin to get whispers of birch over time, followed by permanent markers before a familiar dried apple and pear personality comes out.
Palate: Lightly smoked wood and a light layer of chocolate. Honey note begins ever so faintly and slow develops into the finish. A bit fungal upfront, almost like dill Havarti.
Finish: Earthy with slow-developing smoke from burning wood amidst honey. Peat shows the most here with more mulch, feels like breathing in a bog.
I was first introduced to Ardbeg 10-Year at a friend’s house a couple years ago before tasting the Game of Thrones single malts. Sharpie markers immediately sprung to mind while nosing, and tar came to mind while sipping. It wasn’t my first exposure to peat, but was definitely the most challenging at that point in time. Revisiting Ardbeg 10-Year after becoming more acclimated to peat not only made it easier to appreciate, but surprisingly enjoyable. I bought the Monsters of Smoke set from last year and compared Ardbeg 10-Year against the other included expressions, Wee Beastie and An Oa. If it tells you anything, I finished this one first.
The personality on display here is befitting of Ardbeg’s marketing, but maybe not to the same extent of a certain other expression in their portfolio. Perhaps the best thing I can say about Ardbeg 10-Year is that it’s simply enjoyable. Each sip brought home how rounded and well-crafted it is. Although the whisky’s flavor profile matches the pale color, it still feels developed enough to satisfy one’s craving for a solid, peaty dram. My only grievance has to do with where I live: Most local stores charge close to or over $60 a bottle, which is a bit higher than what I’d comfortably spend, especially with any consistency. It’s something of a no-frills dram, and for the right drinker, that’s all they might need.