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So on my last trip up to visit (and taste) with @Victor I took the opportunity to pick up (and open) a new batch of Ardbeg (batch L13 241). I opened it at his place and we both tasted it. I thought, “this is a pretty good Ardbeg TEN.” The reaction of @Victor was that it was an inferior batch. He then let me try his open bottle . . . this batch . . . and BAM my Ardbeg experience was brought back into perspective. This L10 152 is a great batch, and I am very grateful that @Victor gave me a sample to do this review. Here is my impression after one taste at his place and a 2oz sample bottle. I can only imagine what this must have been like when it was freshly opened . . .
Nose: Very big on the nose! Tons of peat, far more ash, tar, fresh asphalt, and motor oil then the L9. This also has tons of fresh cut grass; it almost stings the nose. This can’t be 46% . . . it has so much power! (and I know it has been open for a while!) There is a bit of lemon there adding some brightness, but it is only noticeable when you really hunt for it. Lemon is not a note I immediately go to with this nose. This has a surprising amount of “midrange” tone to the nose. It hits you right were a good Brora would; what I call the “mustard tone” region. This has a wonderful one, two punch. First it hits you with a low deep peat tone, and then K-POW in the face with tons of midrange and high tones. I like it. It definitely is in competition with the L11 194 for best nose of the night. Now it is getting into some lime and lemon tones (like lime cream). This is easily the biggest nose of the night, and perhaps the biggest Ardbeg TEN nose I have encountered.
Taste: This is sweet, but not as sweet as several of the other batches. Very thick ex-bourbon influence of vanilla, wood, but still plenty of peat. There is a hint of that charcoal wood.
Finish: Big peat attack with an abundance of that liquorish note. The liquorish is sweeter then the L13 241, but without being as big and dominant. That said the liquorish is bigger than the L11 194. Now, lots of hay, barley, and grassy notes appear to go with the peat and iodine. Very much in that “cut grass” category compared to other Ardbeg batches. I like it.
Complexity, Balance: Second most complex and second most balanced batch of the night. It is the biggest (which I like). It really is that mid-range cut grass that really causes this one to stand out. It isn’t quite as complex on the finish as the L13 241, but I love the power.
Aesthetic experience: Love this bottle. It is just fantastic. 46% is the minimum that it needs to be. It is also NCF and I highly doubt there is ANY e-150a in these bottles.
Conclusion: I would LOVE to own a few bottles of this. I swear, @Victor has some fantastic batches of Ardbeg at hand. When you regularly encounter amazing batches of Ardbeg it is easy to see why people go gaga for this distillery. And then there are bad batches. If your first bottle is one of these you will probably be very disappointed in Ardbeg and question all the hype. My answer – check your special secret batch code!! Here good people is a fantastic example of Ardbeg TEN from the newly produced spirit. I doubt there are any old casks in this vatting . . . and it is still amazing. It goes to show the importance of cask selection.