I first tasted this beauty of a sherried Ardbeg at a somewhat decadent tasting of sherried whiskies in St. Paul this past February. I may have mentioned this tasting before–a number of whisky enthusiasts got together and each brought at least one non-standard bottle of sherried whisky. There were a number of standouts that evening, including a very old G&M Longmorn and a quite young SMWS Bowmore that one of the hosts brought out as a special “dessert” treat. I thought this Ardbeg was not very far behind. My friend Rich, who brought it, included a sample in a swap we conducted the same evening–a swap in which I sent out far more samples than I got back but came out much further ahead. (More on Rich’s generosity in the coming weeks.) I’ve been both looking forward to trying it again and feeling reluctant to then be in the position to not be able to try it again. This run of sherried whiskies, especially this mini-run of sherried and peated whiskies, seems like as good a time as any to renew the acquaintance.
Ardbeg 10, 1993 (58.6%; sherry hogshead; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Just the slightest bit butyric at first but it soon burns off. Then there’s dry smoke, both medicinal and cereally, mingling with toffee sweetness. The smoke expands and becomes a little sweeter and there’s also some lime now. Really quite beautiful citrus–kaffir lime peel–with some white pepper sprinkled on top. Some mineral notes as well (wet limestone). The initial toffee note aside, the sherry takes a backseat on the nose for a while but then the dark sweet notes return. A tiny drop of water enhances the sweeter sherry notes but the lime’s still there.
Palate: Raisins and toffee and then minerally smoke arcing out of the sweetness. A lot of lime on the palate as well but also hints of melon. The smoke gets rather acidic but it’s a clean, sharp acidity rather than something that might set your teeth on edge. Just when I was about to note that the sherry notes recede after the first sip, here they are again: first it was a raisiny/toffee coating around the smoke, but now it’s caramel and nougat inside the smoke. Eminently drinkable at full strength but let’s add a drop. Well, water doesn’t hurt it but I think it was better without–the smoke gets a little drier and there’s a little more tarry bitterness now.
Finish: Long. Acidic smoke and salt and tar. Water brings even more salt and some drier smoke.
Comments: What’s not to like? Nothing at all, but just a little more fruit and it would be in the 90s.
Rating: 89 points.
Thanks to Rich for the sample!