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Ardbeg 10 Year Old

Bottled 16/11/2015

0 1182

@VictorReview by @Victor

6th Aug 2016


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

The last digit of the reviewed bottle's bottle code is unclear, but it is assumed to be 2015, because the bottle was purchased in May 2016. The bottle has been open for 10 weeks and is 85% full

Colour: very pale, like pinot grigio

Nose; petrol, bitter peat, light smoke, lemon, but not too much, light brine. I like this a lot better than when the bottle was first opened. Water added softened the nose, but did not add anything but dilution. I had bought my neighbour this bottle and a bottle of Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength Batch # 007 for a dinner party with 8 of his friends from Beijing. The Laphroaig was very popular at dinner; this was not. After dinner my neighbour gave me this bottle to take home. Score: 22.5/25

Taste: sharp-edged acrid bitter and sour peat with just a little sweet peat added; more lemon citrus than the nose, still tolerable, but near the limit of being too much. Faint hint of vanilla. Water added softened the palate and left citrus as the noticeable accompaniment to bitter and sour peat. There is no improvement with water. Score: 20.5/25

Finish: long, bitter and sour, with no balance. The finish is not a highlight. Water added increases the perception of the sour component, and offers no improvement. Score: 19/25

Balance: very good on the nose; fair to good thereafter. Score: 18.5/25

Total Sequential Score: 80.5 points

Strength: quite strong in all phases of the tasting. Score: 23/25 points

Quality: good to very good flavours throughout. Score: 21/25

Variety: good variety of flavours. Score: 21/25

Harmony: too much sour and too little sweetness in the mouth. Score: 18/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 83 points

Comment: despite a very good nose, this batch of Ardbeg Ten goes too sour in the mouth with inadequate sweet balance and is one of the lesser batches I have tasted. If this one was blended using the nose alone, I can understand why. It does have a great nose

Related Ardbeg reviews


Alexsweden commented

I find it curious that Ardbeg enjoys such a good reputation still, while producing whisky with such varying quality. I've had great Ardbeg 10 and I've had very disappointing Ardbeg 10.

4 years ago 0

Pierre_W commented

I agree with @Alexsweden's comment. Ardbeg has been plagued by batch variation for a number of years. I wonder why they cannot get this under control, especially so as Uigeadail and Corryvreckan are invariably superb.

4 years ago 0

sorren commented

Ardbeg has never had me as a fan but like said the batch variation is strange.. I sometimes wonder why there is not more uproar about this..

4 years ago 0

Taco commented

The latest bottle for me was bought late 2015 and had a 2015 date. Very mediocre and disappointing compared to ones from the past (I've probably had 12 bottles over last 5 years). Best I've had was a 2011, and this has been the worst. Still okayish for the $41 price, but not as consistent as I've found Corryvrecken. I'd like Perpetuum to take the Ten's place, as I found it to be similar but upgraded (v.10.2). That is, if they could maintain quality.

4 years ago 0

BlueNote commented

You've got me worried now @Victor. I usually always grab one at any duty free or when I see a good price. I Currently have one open from 2013, one 2014 and 3 2015s in the bunker. I have never noticed dramatic batch variation, but I hope I don't encounter any like yours. I'm hoping yours may have been some sort of anomaly and my 2015s are much better. Cheers.

4 years ago 0

Alexsweden commented

@Pierre_W, honestly I've had Uigeadail that were ''alright'' but not anywhere near the incredible flavor of my own bottle purchased in 2013. Might be bias of course but there certainly are variations in those two as well.

An interesting question would be if Ardbeg is abnormally varied or if we're more acutely aware being that its got such a good reputation.

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

bourbondrinker commented

My bottle went down like a charm! It must have been from the good batch...

4 years ago 0

Nock commented

@Victor, thank you for the nuanced account of this particular batch of Ardbeg TEN. I am not surprised to find the “off” batch. Which is to say, the batch is not bad, but it is not up to the heights that Ardbeg can achieve.

And I agree that what usually goes wrong with Ardbeg TEN is that harmony between the sour lemon peel and the sweet peat. I hate too much of that sour note in Ardbeg. At its best the sour lemon note can really brighten up the nose (just like salt in food) which allows you to see all the complexity. But too much (like too much salt) can kill the experience.

@Pierre_W, the batches of Uigeadial and Corry are just as variable. One of the worst Corryvreckan’s I have had was @Victor’s first bottle. It had the same disjointed sour lemon notes.

@sorren, I think most people don’t know to look out for the batch number. And most people buying Ardbeg are just after a peat fix – which it can always deliver.

@Taco, I agree that the Perpetuum was like a “better than average” bottle of TEN. I remember first trying it at @Victor’s house. Then we pulled out is fantastic batch from 2010 (L10 152 – read his review). That batch was sublime and blew away the Perpetuum in my book. My conclusion, a good batch of TEN is all you really need. The problem is finding one. But once you do – stock up!

@BlueNote please provide your batch numbers from 2015 (all if you want). I have tried 3 batches from 2015, 3 from 2014 and 4 from 2013. I am happy to tell you some are quite good, while others . . . not so much.

@Alexsweden, I would answer your question by saying yes to both! I think at its best Ardbeg TEN can be the best entry single malt out there (provided you are not averse to peat). But it also produces a wide variety in terms of consistency and quality. So there are bottles of TEN I would score in the mid 90’s and some I have scored as low as the 70’s.

Now, I have not followed any other distillery as closely as I have followed Ardbeg. So I really don’t have as much experience with any other one distillery. The closest examples I can give are Laphroaig 10yo, Glenlivet 12yo, and Glenmorangie 10yo. I would say all three produce a very consistent whisky from batch to batch. I have had not-so-good examples of all three, and good examples of all three. However, none of them, at their best, can come close to Ardbeg TEN at its best. And none of them fall off as bad as Ardbeg TEN can drop. A good example of Laphroaig 10yo, Glenlivet 12yo and Glenmorangie 10yo can get into the high 80’s. And poor examples dip into the low 80’s. But most of the time I am drinking one of these single malts I think “around a B in score.”

I think of brands like Oban, Clynelish, Dalmore, Old Pulteney, Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, and countless others. None of their entry level malts ever really blow me away. You might find a good batch and think, “this is good; I enjoy this bottle.” However, with some batches of Ardbeg TEN, Amrut Fusion, Spring Bank 10yo, and Benromach 10yo you can find an excellent whisky that astounds you while the next bottles leaves you highly disappointed.

These are the two categories I tend to notice in whisky: 1.) highly consistent but not something exciting 2.) highly variable with great highs and lows.

Personally, this is why I love the second camp. I think a good bottle Springbank, Amrut, Benromach, BenRiach, Lagavulin, Bowmore or Ardbeg can launch a whiskey obsession. I have had bad batches from all of these distilleries – which can really cause you to think twice before buying again. But I have also had astonishing examples as well. I have been trying to keep track of bottle codes and batch numbers so I can hoard some of the more astonishing examples for the future. I am so grateful to Amrut for butting batches on the bottle. Ardbeg has become much easier to discern. Benromach, BenRiach and Lagavulin are very difficult to figure out (if at all).

So all this long diatribe to say, I don’t think Ardbeg should be crucified for variability. Is it variable? Yes. Are others just as bad? Yes. Is Ardbeg worthy of cult status? Yes. I have many bottles stashed away of their standard line (TEN, Uigeadail, and Corry) that are amazing. Should you rush out and buy a bottle? I would be careful. That is what brought me to Connosr several years ago. I love to exchange batch codes with likeminded individuals to hopefully avoid the “not-so-great” batches.

If you want a consistently great peat monster pick up Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength – any batch. It will score in the low 90’s and make everyone happy. However, a good example of Uigeadail or Corry will blow Laphroiag away in my experience.

All this reminds me that I have a number of old reviews I need to post on Ardbeg!

4 years ago 1Who liked this?

Victor commented

@Nock, no one on Connosr is more prepared to write an Ardbeg 'diatribe' than you are. As I think that you already know,--and I now reiterate to all of you other gentlemen who have commented on this comment trail--I am in agreement with almost everything you, @Nock, have said above. Long late night hours tasting and discussing Islay whiskies together have led to that familiarity. I am I think a little less tolerant of some of the lesser Ardbegs than you are. Otherwise you and I give very similar appraisals of the various products of Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Lagavulin. Yes, if consistency is what I am looking for I will go with Laphroaig, but for the biggest thrills the best products of Ardbeg would also be my preferred choice. @Nock, post those old reviews!

Gentlemen, thank you all for your comments!

4 years ago 0

BlueNote commented

@Nock. I can give you two of my 2015s. L60520 06/01/2015 and L61265 27/02/2015. I have another one but can't quite read the full code. It would be later 2015 as I got it at a duty free in July. Haven't cracked any 15s yet, still working on a 13 which is very good and still have a late 14 to go before I get to the 15s. I agree, there are differences, but I still find the 10 to be a pretty reliable dram and I'll always have at least a couple on hand. It's the one that turned me onto peat about 10 years ago. Cheers.

4 years ago 0

Victor commented

8 months after opening the bottle I am liking this bottle a good deal more than at first and also a great deal more than I did at the time of this review. The sourness has lessened considerably. I would currently rate this one NTFB 22.5-22-21-21= 86.5 points. Not bad. Not bad at all.

4 years ago 0

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