Info: In my post about our brief visit to the distillery, I included a couple of pieces of Ardbeg history as it might be handy later. Well, later is now. Due to a friendly challenge to not only find old Ardbeg but quite specifically a 1981 Kildalton, I had to chase down one of the The Story of Peat packs which Ardbeg released in 2005 for…19.99 pounds. Well, times changed, didn’t they? The Story of Peat includes a TEN, an Uigeadail, an Ardbeg 17 as well as the desired Kildalton 1981. The latter strangely never beeing released as a full bottle.
Anyway, let’s start with the TEN. This mini has the code L3 134 5ML 0851 (I added the space between the characters. It’s actually bottling code style G4) which means that this mini was bottled in the year 2003, on the 134th day of that year, on the bottling line 5ML which was (still is, as it is still active!) the fourth line which is used for minis, at 08:51 am.
Which means, if you know your Ardbeg history, that this was distilled at least (minimum of ten year old whisky in the vatting as it is age stated) in 1993 and hence by Allied Distillers. During that time Ardbeg only distilled for two month a year due to the low demand! Oh how the times have changed. For more background and history stuff check the Ardbeg project, their site is fantastic!
Situation: Sitting in the office, having just bottled a couple of samples, now happily listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Recent release of Ardbeg TEN
Nose: Slightly bitter and citrusy peat, ashy smoke, a rotten vegetation note, brown sugar, cut grass, tar, cured meats like Black Forest ham, leathery with all kinds of spices. This is remarkably rougher than the other one!
Taste: Neutral entry, needs a few miliseconds to arrive then it’s bourbon cask sweetness: vanilla and brown sugar, feels a bit watery, leathery peat as well as some dark fruits and, white pepper at the end,
Finish: Milk chocolate, clear smoke, ashy, salty with some white pepper bits, slightly bitter peat, citrus fruits, tar, dark coffee,
Conclusion: While two years ago, I gave this a 87, I would now give it a 85, I like it and it’s good, but that’s about it. The side-by-side with its ancestor highlights the weaknesses of this one. I just reread my older review and would still agree with the notes, I would, like I said, score it a bit lower these days though. It’s still a good solid malt and compareable to the other Islays like Laphroig 10, Coal Ila 12 Lagavulin 16 or Kilchoman Machir Bay, though out of those I probably like the Ardbeg 10 the least by a very close margin.
Old Bottling – Code L31345ML0851
Nose: Totally different. Wow! I didn’t expect this. Sulphur, brown sugar, the citrusy notes are far more pronounced, there’s almost no bitterness. Milk chocolate,cold smoke – like a fireplace on the next morning, hints of melon and simialr tropical fruits. The rotten vegetation note is far more in the background and hardly noticable. Vanilla custard, cinnemon and different backing spices as well as some cloves? The nose is noticably softer and more complex than the recent one.
Taste: Neutral entry, white pepper, peat, dark chocolate and bitter coffee, again some tropical fruits as well as citrus fruits show up but are dominated by vanilla, coconout, and slightly bitter woody notes, a pleasant slightly oily mouthfeel,
Finish: Tobacco, peat, cigarette smoke, salty, coconuts raspeln, chocolate, quite long actually, brown sugar and vanilla, oak, there’s a weird “dark” touch to the finish which I really like put can’t really put my finger on. Oily mouthfeel and a bit drying at the end. Quite a nice finish
Conclusion: Maybe it’s completely the power of imagination but the older bottlings seems much more complex and deep, it shows more wood influence as well as chocolate notes. I have to do the Oogie blind, to cross that out! Even though, I would say that these difference would have also presented themselves blind, I know what the power of imagination does to your perception, so maybe not. Damn, I have to do the others blind and let my wife pour them for me.
Right now, the older bottling presents itself more like a limited edition than the good ole regular TEN release. If you come across one, make sure to try it!
Other whiskies with the same score: here