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Archive for the ‘Ardbeg’ Category

Introduction

Wow, it’s been quite a few weeks since I posted any whisky reviews. I’ve been busy with a work project, and while I’ve had my fair share of drams, and taken notes here and there, I just didn’t find the time to write an actual blog post. My plan now is to quickly post a series of notes on core Islay expressions.

In January, I read Serge’s great post about reviewing whiskies and establishing “benchmarks” for yourself on WhiskyFun.com. For the most part, I think I’ve done basically what he talked about in that article when reviewing whiskies. When I take tasting notes, it’s in a controlled, consistent environment. I always compare with familiar expressions, and I have personal “benchmark” expressions for different types/regions of whisk(e)y.

Ardbeg 10 has been an Islay benchmark for me over the past two years. However, after reading Serge’s post, I realized that I never actually wrote up my notes and provided a score on this expression. So here we go…

Ardbeg 10

Tasting Notes

Ardbeg 10 (2010; 46%; $50)

Nose: A combination of sweets and wood smoke, like eating smores at a camp fire. Some fruit (leaning towards citrus) and vanilla are also present.
Palate: Big and oily, turning peppery as it works towards the back of the tongue. Bottling at 46% was a wise decision! Don’t confuse “big” with rough, though. This is actually a pretty smooth customer.
Finish: Continued pepper on the tongue, and the camp fire comes back up through the nostrils. In fact, it’s as if the wind shifted and the smoke blew right in your face and stuck to your nose hairs. As the finish very, very slowly dies down, I feel like there is a hint of licorice or anise present. This is a flavor that I’m generally not fond of, but this whisky is so good overall, I’m able to work around it.

Comments: Relatively light in color, but deep and brooding at heart, I think Ardbeg 10 is the perfect drink for sitting in a cabin in the woods during the winter, near a fire and reading a book. It’s well rounded, smoky, and big without being overwhelming. I’ve had two bottles of this…one from 2006, and this 2010 bottle. From my notes, I found the two to be very similar. This expression is deserving of the many accolades it receives, and truly is a benchmark Islay whisky. Obviously, not an expression for the anti-smoke crowd. This is on the high side of a B rating for me; 86 points.

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In my post yesterday, I talked about the Glenmo/Ardbeg tasting I attended, and the fact that they served a cocktail with Ardbeg in it:

Smoky Peach

Smoky Peach

Smoky Peach

  • 2 parts Navan vanilla cognac
  • 1 part Ardbeg 10
  • dash of Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
  • served on the rocks.

After the big tasting yesterday, I was going to skip my nightly dram tonight, but having purchased some Navan and Peach Bitters on my lunch break today, I wanted to try making a small Smoky Peach.  I purchased Navan vanilla cognac, the same one they used at the tasting. I was interested in Meukow VS Vanilla (yes, admittedly because I thought the bottle was cool), but after reading this comparison on Scottes’ Rum Pages blog, I decided to stick with the Navan. I want to be able to serve this to people who don’t care for a heavy “spirit” nose, and I think the strong vanilla component is important for this cocktail.

I started with 35ml of Navan and 20ml of Ardbeg, then added a little under 1/2 teaspoon of peach bitters and finally the ice. Too much bitters for me! A little really does go a long way (I guess the shaker cap was a good clue to that this was the case). I added a few more drops of Navan and Ardbeg, then let the ice melt a bit and it was closer to what they served last night. Next time, I’m going to try 44ml Navan, 25ml Ardbeg, and somewhere around 1/4 (or less) teaspoon of bitters and adjust from there.

I’ll post an update if I find the “perfect” mix (for me).

[Update 6/6/09] The 2-1 ratio of Cognac to Ardbeg seems to work just fine.  It’s the peach bitters you need to be careful with.  Start with just a drop and work up.  I made a mix with 8 oz Ardbeg and 16 oz Congnac, and I only needed a few drops of bitters.

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Tonight, a couple of friends and I traveled 50 miles to a Glenmorangie and Ardbeg tasting. My neighbor’s wife was nice enough to drive us, although when we signed up, we thought the Sportsman’s Fine Wines and Spirits where it was held was located about 15 miles closer. I’m glad we didn’t realize that until today, as we probably wouldn’t have signed up, but it was totally worth it (easy for me to say, having hitched a ride). For $35, we got a cocktail, some snacks, a dram of the 7 whiskies listed below, a Reidel “O” glass, and special pricing on the whiskies in the tasting. I believe there were around 25-30 participants.

Glenmorangie/Ardbeg tasting matt

Glenmorangie/Ardbeg tasting matt

They started us out with a cocktail, which I believe they called the Smoky Peach. I can’t remember the specifics (I’ll have to email them and find out), but it contained Ardbeg 10 along with either peach bitters and cognac, or some other kind of bitters and “peach cognac” [is there such a thing?]. Anyway, it was much more tasty than I expected, and I’d like to try it on some non-whisky drinking friends sometime.

Update – I got the details:

Smoky Peach

  • 2 parts Navan vanilla cognac
  • 1 part Ardbeg 10
  • a dash of peach bitters
  • served on the rocks.

Next, we went through the following whiskies:

  1. Glenmorangie 10 year (40%) – Lightly sweet with orange blossoms. Perfectly nice, but doesn’t move me.
  2. Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban (46%) – This one surprised me. A little time in port casks really made a difference over the 10 year. Richer. The port really comes through on the nose. I got some enjoyable spiciness sticking on the tongue through the finish. I like it a lot…it’s on my list to buy.
  3. Glenmorangie Signet (46%) - This I enjoyed a lot. I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion or what, but I tasted the elements of dark chocolate the organizers described. Usually I don’t sense chocolate in whiskies where other people do. I would love to buy some of this…at half the going price. The packaging is really sexy, though.
  4. Glenmorangie Astar (57.1%) – This was a big hit tonight. Lame pun alert…as this starts showing up in more tastings, expect to hear about how it was the “star” of the show. Yuck…that hurt to write. Anyway, this was supposedly the first time this was made available in Arizona, and there was a mad rush at the end to grab the available 15 or so bottles. To me, it was just a more potent 10 year old (although, admittedly a VERY drinkable cask strength).
  5. Ardbeg 10 year (46%) - This is a great value relative to the other Ardbegs in this tasting, which cost over twice as much as the 10 here in Arizona. It’s hard to go wrong with this one, and I have an open bottle in my cabinet.
  6. Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (46%;1990 vintage) – While the Quinta Ruban surprised me in a positive way, I was actually a little let down by Nam Beist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very enjoyable drink. All Ardbeg, but a little mellower and more creamy than the 10. It does have a long, long finish though. I guess what disappointed me was that it wasn’t “beastly”…it was the tamest of the three. Of course, it IS the oldest, but that name gets you thinking it’s going to be all kinds of crazy. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this at $75-$85 a bottle (relative to the $55-$60 the 10 goes for), but Nam Beist is going for around $140 here in AZ. That disparity with the price of the 10 doesn’t work for me.
  7. Ardbeg Uigeadail (54.2%) - Mmmmmmm. That sherry influence really works with the peat, although the sherry isn’t nearly as strong as it is in the Lagavulin DE. What a nose on this one! I took advantage of the discount price and bought a bottle.

This was a great time and well run. The three of us that went together gave it a big thumbs up, and it was nice to meet Sean from the Whisky Magazine forums. Sean said the Sportsman’s Scottsdale location (much closer for me) is going to do a Signatory tasting sometime. I want to be there.

Tasting some tasty scotch

Pretty decent turn out for the tasting

Pretty decent turn out for the tasting

Nice place (Sportsman's)

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