Like the Old Weller Antique, the Ardbeg 10 is not a special release. Unlike the Old Weller Antique, it’s actually available everywhere whisky is sold. Amid all the shenanigans that Ardbeg have gotten up to since they re-opened, their 10 yo has been the mainstay of their range, Unlike the Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan (which came later), there have not been many reports of changes in its character or even of decline. I’ve previously reviewed bottles from 2007 and 2009 and liked them a lot; more to the point, Serge V. gave the 2015 release 89 points. That should bode well, in theory, for this bottle which was released in 2016. By the way, it’s become much easier to read the bottle codes on Ardbeg bottles (see below): I don’t know how the Ardbeg obsessives are coping with the loss of their special codes.
Ardbeg 10 (46%; 2016 release; from my own bottle)
Nose: Lemon, phenolic smoke, oysters and some vanilla/cream. The sweeter notes build in the glass but so too do the coastal notes (oysters, kelp, brine) and the carbolic/disinfectant notes. Water brings out some sackcloth and cereals.
Palate: The first thing that strikes me is how thin the texture is. Then there’s the vanilla and smoke and lemon from the nose, pretty much in that order of arrival and initial emphasis. Gets sweeter as it goes and, after a while, almost cloying so. With more time it gets more phenolic and the sweet notes recede a bit. With water there’s more of a bite—more lemon but also some mustard. The texture is improved a bit as well.
Finish: Long. The smoke expands again, getting ashier and there’s some white pepper too. Spicier on the finish too with water.
Comments: Sweeter and less phenolic (on the palate) than both the 2007 and 2009 releases. It’s the thin texture that’s the most disappointing part—it seems to emphasize the sweet notes. Even though it improved with water. I’m afraid this very much feels like a decline. However, not having tasted Ardbeg 10s from the intervening years, I can’t say if this is a one-off or a steady decline. Still very pleasurable but it’s no longer the punch in the mouth it used to be. With fewer casks available to become eligible for the 10 yo—given all the NAS nonsense—is this pretty much an inevitability?
Rating: 84 points. (82 if tasting only neat.)