So, for the holiday exchange I got a bottle of Ardbeg from Chad. Later on, when I was helping get some of the Christmas stuff made I poured myself a couple ounces of the stuff over ice. First, I’ll say that I’ve had scotches aged from 7 years up until 25 years. I drink them all the same way; over rocks. So, before I get to how I liked it, I’ll explain what a single malt scotch is. I’ll also note that this is the first one from the Islay region of Scotland I’ve had, and it’s definitely the one with the most peat I’ve tasted as of yet.
Basically, they take barley, throw it in some water, let it start germinating, then pull it out and dry it. Now, from what I gather, Ardbeg uses peat as the fuel for heating the floor that then dries the grain. They then take this grain, throw it into some new water with some yeast and let it ferment and go about the whole pot still bit. Then they throw them into barrels to age and pick out several of the barrels to get the taste that’s closest to what they want.
First impressions, I get a smokey salmon nose. Which is then followed up by a peaty/earthy/smokey baconish taste. Which, trust me, doesn’t sound like it should work. Yet they somehow pull it off. The finish is, obviously, smokey, and kind of sweet in a way I can’t finger, and it lingered on for quite some time. Little sips definitely are the way to enjoy this, if you take anything bigger it’s like swallowing a lit peppery/cocoa-y/leathery cigar. It has an ever minuscule burn if you take it just a little sip by little sip. And thing bigger and you feel it for a few seconds. I’ve definitely had worse experiences with booze, so I would really not even consider this an issue.
I will say a couple things, overall it’s not bad. I’d probably rate it an 7.5-8/10. For a 10 year, being relatively unaged, it puts some older scotches to shame. I would love to taste a more aged Ardbeg so the peatiness may have mellowed out slightly. I also would say that people who would just jump into it are foolhardy, it has a really, REALLY, forward profile that will knock some people out of their socks. With all that, it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, and it did hold its own. Would I buy it? Probably. Would I recommend it to people? Only if they knew what they wanted and what they were getting into.