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This is an abbreviated of a blog entry I will post tonight or tomorrow
According to their promotional materials, Ardbeg is as close to perfection as makes no difference. That's a bold claim. It's also similar to claims made by pretty much every scotch whisky distillery. I've often compared Ardbeg to Clubber Lang and Lagavulin to Rocky Balboa. This is obviously my completely subjective opinion, but if any scotch is going to knock Lagavulin out and claim the coveted "Joe's favourite scotch" title, it would likely be Ardbeg.
But I also find Ardbeg to remind me of the movie "The Big Lebowski". Like the Coen Brothers' cult classic, there's a lot more going on than it would appear at first glance (or first sip, as it were).
- Nose (undiluted): Sweet vegetal peat, charcoal barbecue smoke, seaweed (iodine), brine, a light citrus note, there's another grassy note in there as well. This is a well-layered nose that develops as the whisky sits in the glass.
- Palate (undiluted): mouth-coating, yet light and bright, but not thin or watery. Very balanced. No rough edges. You wouldn't guess this is 46% ABV. There's citrus, pear and a significant amount of malt/cereal sweetness under the big peat and smoke you expect from Ardbeg.
- Finish: very long finish, cigar ash, dark roast coffee, licorice and a bit of pepper. I can taste Ardbeg for hours after I finish it, which, to me, is a wonderful bonus.
Adding water to Ardbeg Ten thrusts the iodine/seaweed and brine notes forward on the nose. It's like walking on a beach and smelling the remnants of a campfire. Delightful. The sweet malt notes and the pear flavours are also more apparent with some water added. Drinking Ardbeg is a gratifying experience with or without water. There's a lot more going on than smoke and peat.
Pouring a dram and taking that first sniff, you'd be forgiven for thinking peat and smoke was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But Ardbeg is not as it seems. It's bold and complex, yet not without subtlety. Much like the eponymous character in "The Big Lebowski" was not the self-made man he claimed to be, Ardbeg is not what it appears to be. It's much more.