The Ardbeg distillery is situated on the western Scottish island of Islay. It was founded in 1815 and they produce some of the smokiest whiskies in the world there. Ardbeg has been closed down on a couple of occasions only to be reopened by new owners. The last closure was in July 1996 and production restarted in June 1997 following a takeover by Glenmorangie PLC, who were in turn taken over by drinks giant Moet Hennessy, who remain the current owners.
Although they produce only a million litres of whisky a year, Ardbeg have numerous distillery bottlings within their core range as well as regular limited edition special releases. It is also popular with independently bottling companies and buying these is a good way of getting older Ardbeg whiskies. This 10 years old is renowned as being a smoky classic and the distillery has a cult following of fans around the globe.
The colour is a gorgeous golden brown and the nose is fantastic and pungent. It is very smoky and full of sweet peaty aromas (think of damp moss). Mixed with this is a more sugary sweetness (imagine butterscotch), some vanilla and a distinct saltiness. The palate is creamy and full bodied with an abundance of smokiness (more like charcoal or burning ashes this time). The sweetness from the nose is also present (reminiscent of barley grains) along with the vanilla again, something herbal (think of moss again), some warm spices (imagine ginger or red chilli) and a salty tang. The finish is rich, long, smoky and enjoyable. The smokiness is very earthy with an antiseptic note that can be present in whiskies with high phenol levels (see explain about ... peat). The malty sweetness comes through before turning quite dry and woody right at the end.
This is a fantastic whisky that is extremely well balanced and complex, with all the elements complimenting each other perfectly. It can be found in larger supermarkets and independent retailers for between £30-35. Ardbeg 10 years old is a 'must have' bottle for any whisky collection or for anyone who love seriously smoky whiskies. Its great!