Tag Archives: Islay

Ardbeg 10, 46% ABV, non chill-filtered, Islay Single Malt

After trying the HP 12, my burgeoning palate really missed the peat and smoke found in Laphroaig QC. A little internet sleuthing lead me to a beast of a peat/smoke bomb, Ardbeg 10. Highly touted for it’s robust, take-no-prisoners smoke monster attitude, this little gem hails from Scotland’s Islay region. It is widely known as Islay’s smokiest and peatiest offering.

I had no idea if I was ready, but I was up to the challenge:

Ardbeg 10, 46% ABV, non chill-filtered, Islay Single Malt, $50 USD ardbeg-10-year

Color: Pale, light tan-yellow. Looks thin and when swirled creates fast-moving legs and sprites above the swirl mark showing its non chill-filtered ABV off nicely.

Nose: Like Laphroaig QC, this Islay packs a wallop. Smoke, tobacco, anise, acrid burnt wood freshly snuffed out, background of sickly sweet dense honeysuckle. A neighbor having a barbecue. Your kitchen a couple of hours after you have fried up some bacon for breakfast.

Palate: Like the sight of it suggests, thin. This whiskey sneaks right in there. When held in the mouth the thick summer honeyed floral arrives and as you move the whisky to the back of the palate sharp anise arrives. Then, nothing. For about a second, then PEAT AND SMOKE kick you in the molars. It’s like a strobe light of wood smoke, tobacco, barbecue notes, and a playful sweetness raving inside your gullet. Truly delightful and can really catch you off guard if you’re not expecting it. Beware.

Finish: Ardbeg has finish for what seems like an eternity. I’m surprised to not be exhaling smoke. The higher ABV does not add to burn so much as it adds to intensity of lingering peat, delicate honeyed floral sweetness, and bright anise. The finish, while heavy in notes, is light compared to what you may be expecting.

Overall: Yes, this one is palate puncher for sure. Bare knuckled. I thought the Laphroaig QC was hardcore, but Ardbeg 10 takes the cake. These are all good things. I really enjoy the fact that so much flavor, nuance, passion, and craftsmanship can be conveyed in a single sip. Truly a treasure to enjoy occasionally, but this is not an expression that I need to keep around. While it is exceptional at taking the Islay taste and turning it up to “11”, it’s a piano that only plays the one note.

 

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Highland Park 12 year, 43%ABV, Island Single Malt

this next one is one of the most interesting and complex scotches I’ve had to date. Highland Park 12 is quite polarizing to its tasters as well. When I first go into scotch, I began following and reading the subreddit r/scotch. The community is very inviting, quite helpful, and an excellent repository for reviews and future scotch selection suggestions. However, they do not agree as to whether this scotch is great. Some love it, some hate it. It is a poor expression if you like Islay, it is a poor expression if you like Highland. However, I find the hybrid to be quite interesting. It composes both worlds nicely yet leaves you wanting for more from either side.

Highland Park 12 Year, 43%ABV, Highland Single Malt, Orkney Islands $50 USD Highland Park 12

Color: Amber with hues of gold in the sunlight.

Nose: At first is a light smokiness like off clothes worn in an evening next to a campfire. Light and it comes and goes as the nose evolves. Next is an overwhelming honey/nectar/sweet smell that is off-putting at first until the smoke comes back to play. They work well together, but I’m not at all sure I like the sweet by itself. I only get the malt notes with the tail of the honey wave prior to smoke returning.

Palate: This one really coats your tongue and you get a light warmth in your whole mouth before the flavors show up. Sweet honeyed smoke and a waft of grasses blossom as you swallow and then the peppery warmth trails behind the whisky as you swallow.

Finish: It lingers for a long time, pleasantly. I drank it neat and it was almost hot with alcohol at the very split second beginning, but the flavors of sweet smoke caught fire and warmed all the way to my stomach. A good all-round dram.

Overall: A very drinkable, middle-of-the-road scotch. I can see why it polarizes r/scotch so. It is neither an amazing islay, nor an amazing highland, but it is quite drinkable and unoffensive to the palate. As I get into the scotch world, I am finding more and more that I simply prefer big, bold Islay tastes. Highland Park ’12 touches that note, but does not play it very long.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask, 48% ABV, Islay Single Malt Scotch

In keeping with the theme of going for the jugular, my next stop on the great single malt train lead me to a beast of a beverage – Laphroaig Quarter Cask. I dabbled my toes into the fruity, delicate waters of Speyside. Now I wanted to see what the region of Islay had to offer.

This is the first scotch whisky I had tried that touted it was “non-chill filtered”. I did a bit of looking into it and to me it essentially means that the whiskey maintains some of the esters and other compounds during filtering (due to it not being chilled to zero Celsius) that give to the overall flavor profile. Best I could tell, many whisky snobs love this about a scotch and quite frankly, I’ve grown to become fond of it as well. It generally ensures the whiskey to be above 46% ABV which also lends to robust flavor by not watering it down. You can read more about chill filtering here :  http://www.whiskyforeveryone.com/whisky_basics/chill_filtration.html

 

Now the taste….Holy fucking shit. Seriously. Imagine yourself again as a complete novice to the world of whiskey and scotch. Your only exposure before had been taking shots and chasing it with beer or some crappy whiskey watered down with syrupy Coca Cola. You’re faced with this robust stallion of a beverage that takes your taste buds hostage and won’t let go for 15 or 20 minutes. It’s an exhilarating ride that leaves you breathless, excited, and wanting it to happen again very soon.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask, 48% ABV, Islay Single Malt Scotch, $54 USD Laphroaig quarter cask

Color: Soft gold like dried wheat in a sunset. Tiny drops form on the glass when swirled giving credo to its robust ABV.

Nose: BIG peat and astringent medicinal campfire smoke. Floral sweetness languid like jade.

Taste: Astringent iodine, peatpeatpeat, pleasant and warming full coating mouthfeel. Then, not much of anything until you swallow…wait for it…campfire in your mouth. It tastes like a summer dusk by a fire after a long day hiking. Absolute breathtaking. There’s a bit of a spritey sea salt play in there as well.

Finish: Warm and lingering. Almost loitering. Smokey malt replaces the wood, but you can still smell the burnt wood. A hint of anise.

Overall: Still the best dram I’ve had today. Hands down.