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Caol Ila was more peppery and a bit more cantankerous in a good way. Quite a few similarities. Both drams had their own strengths.
I must say that the creosote-like hints in Ardbeg were not ideal. There is a taste that reminds me of diesel fumes and creosote. It's faint but there.
The Ardbeg had a wide variety of flavors, perhaps wider than the Caol Ila, and I liked the hose on the Ardbeg more for sure. Even though Caol Ila is created right by the water, Ardbeg did remind me of the sea quite a bit more, which is nice. A little seaweed and ocean brine crept in there, which I did not detect as much in the Caol Ila.
I had a glass of both up on the bar and gave them a thorough comparison.
Caol Ila 12 wins at 88 points. Two more than the Ardbeg 10. Both are delicious but the creosote and diesel hints in the Ardbeg palette just don't quite work for me. Despite this short-coming, I still liked it a great deal, however, despite the "industrial" aspect to it, which the Caol Ila did not have.