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
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.