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Ardbeg 10 Year Old

2009 vs. 2012

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@WhiskyBeeReview by @WhiskyBee

17th Oct 2013


Ardbeg 10 Year Old
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Here’s a little comparison review of an older vs. newer bottle of Ardbeg 10, just to see if any significant changes occurred with this popular dram over a three-year period.

I found an older bottle of Ardbeg 10, tucked behind a row of newer bottles, on the shelf at the local store. I recognized the older-style packaging that was discontinued in 2009, so of course I snatched it up. Bottle code is L9 096, which, I believe, is the last batch issued in the U.S. (April 2009, according to the Ardbeg Project website) with the old bottle and packaging. This review will compare that bottle to a 2012 bottling, with a code of L12 071.

Maybe there’s not much practical value in comparing two random batches, I’ll admit. And it might prove nothing insofar as the “older=better” debate is concerned. I could have a sensational batch from ’12 and a dud from ’09, after all. So maybe I have no better reason for writing this review than wanting to share my thoughts as I enjoyed these two drams side-by-side.

The 2012 bottle is about five months old, down below the halfway mark. Last sampled a couple of months ago, and gassed after doing so. This will be my third dram from the 2009 bottle, opened three days ago.

Nose (2012, neat): Stings with earthy peat. A bit of that unpleasant pavement-after-rain smell. Lemons and fresh sea air help balance things. Something sharp and metallic here, and I kind of like the way it kicks you in the nostrils and dares you not to like it. Tames down considerably after a 12-minute sit.

Nose (2009, neat): Much, much fresher. No dirty or metallic notes here. The peat and lemons are co-stars here, and a little touch of mint is a new supporting player. No sting, no alcohol, even with the heartiest of whiffs.

Palate (2012, neat): Nice and syrupy on arrival, nice oily coating as it sits. Begins rather subtly with vanilla and citrus fruits (or a lime Dreamsicle, if you prefer), followed by a slow-creeping burn of peat and pepper. A fascinating finish comes and goes in waves: just when you think it’s gone, it comes back for yet another encore. Carmel and smoke during the quiet moments, pepper and smoke during the crescendos.

Palate (2009, neat): Yes, this is a very different beast. Smooth as butter on silk, even if that smoothness compensates for some lack of balance. (But then, whoever praised Ardbeg 10 for its balance?) More tame and watery in the arrival than the ’12, and the development is much slower, but the same heat and peppers show up eventually. No back-and-forth finish here; it’s steady, long-lasting, but mild—and with much more wood. The wood turns sticky and sappy after about a minute.

Even at a rather healthy 49% ABV, I prefer Ardbeg 10 neat. But I also enjoy its changes after a few drops of water. Just a few, please. It’s a lousy swimmer and drowns easily.

Nose (2012, with water): A strong vanilla note, absent before. The vanilla almost dominates now, in fact, as the neat aromas become soft whispers. The peat makes a major resurgence after a 10-minute wait.

Nose (2009, with water): Same as the 2012, only less so. The vanilla is tamer, the other aromas near-invisible, and the traces of peat are slightly dirtier. Overall, however, there’s a bright freshness to it that’s something of a face-slapper in itself.

Palate (2012, with water): Eerily like the neat 2009. Quiet, neutral arrival, followed by some peppery sting. A little more vanilla overall. Some wood, no longer exclusive to the ’09, appears in the finish.

Palate (2009, with water): Two or three drops of water really make a difference in this one. A creamy balance of vanilla and peat on the arrival, with a much more interesting burn (peat, pepper, lemons and limes) as it develops. The finish is more clipped, but it’s full of some nice vanilla and oak. Nothing but pure peat at the fadeout. Yum.

Hmmm…I guess I didn’t prove much beyond the difference in two each-in-its-own-way tasty batches. And that you should nose and drink both neat, although be sure to have a couple of sips of the ’09 with a little water. And that I probably didn’t mention “peat” in this review as often as I should have. On most nights, I’d give a 90 to both, but I’m in a generous mood tonight.

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systemdown commented

Really nice side-by-side comparison! Good job. Just to be clear though, the score is given for the 2009 bottle only?

10 years ago 0

WhiskyBee commented

@systemdown - No, I'd rate them about the same. Maybe a point lower for the '12, if only because the '09 has an extra outstanding component. Different drams, to be sure, but about the same percentage of major likes and minor dislikes for both. The profile has changed but the quality has been maintained, I'd say.

10 years ago 0

systemdown commented

Oh right, thanks for clearing that up! Wasn't sure if you were scoring both or just one of them.

10 years ago 0

Nock commented

Great review! I think it is always helpful to put one dram up against another – in particular when you have two different bottles of the same thing. So bravo for cracking open the old bottle! It sounds like a very valuable lesson was learned – Ardbeg 10 is mostly consistent and mostly great. And I think this is a rare thing for distilleries. They are all going to change from batch to batch. The key is not for a consistent flavor profile but a consistent quality (just my opinion). That said, I have never been disappointed with a standard purchase from Ardbeg Ten, Laphroaig 10yo, or Lagavulin 16yo.

10 years ago 0

Rigmorole commented

I've been trying to find a bottle of the 2009 Ardbeg 10 in town here. It seems the carton has black labels for everything, whereas the 2012 has writing below the black label on the gold colored box and the bottle of the 2012 has a yellowy orange box around the word "nonchilfiltered" on the 2012 but not on the 2009.

Is that right? Anybody know? WhiskyBee? Can you compare, since you've got both laying around right now?

It's very hard to determine the difference because reviews of the 2012 sloppily use/recycle online images of the 2009 bottle and the 2009 box. I don't see the bottling date anywhere on the bottles or the cartons. I've looked fairly thoroughly at the liquor store.

I would like to put away a few bottles of the 2009 in my collection for a rainy day in the future. They are getting harder and harder to find. I used to like the 10 year more and your review minded me why, WhiskyBee.

Big thanks go out to WhiskyBee for generously opening up a bottle of the 2009 when he still had a bottle of the 2012 open. Well done, WhiskyBee. Well done.

10 years ago 0

WhiskyBee commented

@rigmorole: Actually, it's the older bottle with the box around the "non chill-filtered."

New one: tinyurl.com/la7ycgy

Old one, discontinued in '09: tinyurl.com/kxelnou

Also, the newer box has the Ardbeg "A" embossed in the background. The older box is plain green.

Thanks for the thanks. I had to look it up myself, as I've finished (and thrown out) the 2012 bottle since I wrote this review. A 2012 is easier to replace, after all.

10 years ago 0

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