Tuesday, 6 July 2010


*Guest post by Tim*

It is rare to find 'the one' meant for you. Someone who stands out from the crowd, has a bit of an attitude, plenty of personality and who is exciting to be around. So when you do find her, you should cherish her, treat her properly and remain faithful.

I thought I had that with Ardbeg Ten, the punchy little malt from the Inner Hebrides. She offers a brilliant mix of a toffee, creamy and salty nose with plenty of iodine. The taste is sweet before a rush of peat hits your tongue followed by a waft of tobacco smoke which lingers on the palate. The problem is that curiosity so often gets the better of us. Bluntly, if she is tasty, then what are her sisters like?

A visit to Ardbeg’s home on the island of Islay, and a distillery tour (left), provided just the opportunity for a little, um, experimentation. But then came a classic male mistake. The tour guide laid out all the malts and I went for the one with the promise of immediate gratification. The latest expression of Ardbeg Supernova boasts phenolic levels of 100 ppm, around twice the level of the Ardbeg Ten. This is irresistible to any lover of peaty malts. The nose was surprisingly underwhelming. In the mouth the smoky peat was there and a little pepper too. But there was little more. At £80 a bottle, she’s an expensive date but doesn’t offer up as much as you might hope.

Then came the real treat: Ardbeg Uigeadailnamed after the loch that provides the distillery’s water. It includes some spirit aged in sherry butts as well as bourbon casks. The nose was Christmas cake and wood smoke. The flavours in the mouth were rich and luscious but all of the fantastic peaty flavours were still there. The tastes lingered long after the liquid was gone.
So it was time to look at one of the younger sisters. We were offered up Still Young, a perky little nine-year old and part of a series charting the development of the classic Ardbeg Ten. The toffee, the salt, the peat were all there. At 56.2% ABV she should have packed a few more flavours, but in the end there was little to make her stand out from her 10 year-old sibling.

By comparison, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, which included spirit aged in French oak casks, lacked a certain pizazz. She gave little away on the nose aside from a hint of cut grass. In the mouth the whisky tasted summery and somewhat dry with a white wine feel. Perhaps trying the Corryvreckan after the Uigeadail is akin to sipping gaspacho after chocolate pudding. She just wasn’t right for the mood. Likewise Rollercoaster, a bit of a gimmick of a whisky incorporating ten casks, one from each year from 1997. She was pleasant but tasted thinner than the ten-year and, in the end, was nothing special.

So after these dalliances, did I return back to Ardbeg Ten, a little shamefaced but with renewed loyalty? Yes and no. Ardbeg is still at the front of my drinks cupboard but sitting next to her in filial harmony is a bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail for those occasions when only something a little spicier will do.


  1. Top post - when can we go back?! Look out for a Whisky Squad Ardbeg tasting session later this year.

  2. I absolutely love your reviews and descriptions.

    I just bought a bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail, and very much looking forward to it.