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Over the next while, interspersed with other reviews, I'll be revisiting some standard, entry-level single malt expressions that I haven't written on before (but that I've mostly tasted in bars, at parties, etc). Many of you may find this exercise boring but I find it very interesting; it's always good to revisit an old friend (or nemesis) with fresh eyes (or a fresh palate, as the case may be). In this case, we have one of my favourites.
Ardbeg 10 Year Old as been part of their stable for a very long time, but the current variant came out in 2008, ten years after Glenmorangie acquired the distillery. In other words, Dr. Bill had full control over this spirit.
The colour is an extremely pale yellow, like very weak tea. On the nose there is a liquorice sweetness, with tart green apples, tar, damp campfire, lemon/lime, and lots of briny sea spray. More peaty and robust with a drop of water. The complexity of the sweet/peat combination is astounding, especially in an entry-level expression such as this. I could nose this forever.
On the palate, there is more brine but again, it is surprisingly sweet and malty. Pears, bandages, more lemon/lime. Dried grasses in a field. Sardines on saltines. White pepper and a touch of mint. Water brings about a creamier mouthfeel and a bit more peat and spice. Wonderfully delicious.
On the finish there are deeper spices, and low waves of rolling peat smoke. This may very well be the greatest of all entry-level single malts, with complexity, vibrancy and excitement. It's too bad it is so expensive - in Ontario this is $100! - but I suppose this is now a luxury product, since being acquired by LVMH. FYI this is a huge Jim Murray favourite, scoring 97 and winning World Whisky of the Year in 2008. Knowing each and every one of you has tried this scotch, I hope I haven't bored you too much!