Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Ardbeg 8 and 10 years old: no discussion needed


As a newcomer in the world of whisky blogging, I thought it would be nice to taste some benchmark and close-to-benchmark Islay whisky. So, the next few weeks I will fly past the regulars to see what they are up to. Let’s start on the Kildalton coast.

Say about Ardbeg what you want (and I will), but they are never sitting on their hands. They come up with new funny ideas every now and then, and since a couple of years we also finally see some age stated whisky come available. The latter seem to prove that Ardbeg reserves the real quality for those expressions, while the NAS (no age stated) expressions are allowed to go all over the place. There have been some hits; I rather liked the edgy funkiness of the BizarreBQ to name one. But there have also been some really avarage outings where only the branding seemed to matter.


A few years back Ardbeg rubbed our noses into the age statement discussion by releasing the Wee Beastie. Proudly displaying the 5 years of age on the label, it signalled a new direction. And then came the subject of today: an 8 years old. I would have expected by now this had become a regular addition to the Ardbeg range, but it has gone silent somewhat. Let’s try it, together with a 10 years old from a little longer ago that I stumbled upon in my drawer.

Ardbeg 8 years old, For Discussion, bottled at 50,8 % abv


Make-up: There is not much information to be found, except for an almost obligatory story by Dr. Bill Lumsden, detailing an alternative universe in which not the 10 Years Old is the Ardbeg flagship, but rather this 8 Years Old. So, can we conclude this has more or less the same cask makeup as the 10, just put into bottle 2 years earlier? Just guesswork. Also, there is banter of “aged ex-Sherry whisky” being the discussion.

General impressions: Wow, those are some heavy vapours rising from the glass. Close your eyes, and you will experience a supernova explosion of Islay right up your nostrils. A summery sea freshness. Always this lightness of character, but there is some definite medicinal side to this dram, too. To top it all off, I enjoy the liquorice that makes me slip into the dark cove of my memory, going to the week market with grandma and buying these pitch black Dutch candies.

When life gives you lemons, it is quite possible you are tasting young peated whisky. The citrusy sour notes and minty flavours are strong in this one and bound together by an excellent dose of smoke. This smoky edge also gives you memories of waiting for your car coming out of the shop after maintenance. Might it be the oily texture of this liquid? With a second (and third, and fourth) sip a more salty side makes itself known. So much tastes in this glass, as if Jackie Thomson temporarily left the Ardbeg Cafe to do some distilling. It is just marvellous. Sherry in there? I can’t detect it, and do not miss it either.

Conclusion: Forget the names, buy these little gems that are the age stated Ardbeg. The 10 years old is a no-brainer, the Wee Beastie at 5 years vigorous and promising, but this 8 years old the best of both worlds. My bottle says "for discussion", but I would say the debate is settled. Make this a regular release, Ardbeg! Please?

Score: 89 points

Disclaimer: Taken from a self-bought bottle.

Ardbeg 10 years old (mini), bottled at 46 % abv

Make-up: Bottled in 2003, originally part of the legendary Peat Pack.

General impressions: Yeah, I don’t think this is going to be a fair comparison, not even to the current day 10 years old. Such a maritime explosion on the nose, with an abundance of kelp, seawater soaked rope, in the distance fish being smoked above a hot fire. Lots of brine. Almost like Ardbeg Day in a glass. With a little more breathing time there are smells from the barn, cows walking with muddy hoofs in wet hay. Also, delicious sweet smoke. Classic peaty whisky indeed.

The taste brings a lot of ash and smoke, but on the front of the taste buds there is a sweet side. But most of all the peat dominates here. If you ever went to Islay and got to cut such a perfect log of peat with that special spade, and then imagine taking a bite from that log, it would taste like this. The more time you give this whisky, the more ashy it becomes. So different to the much sweeter Ardbeg 8.

Conclusion: The 8 years old is definitely a good dram on its own, but this older 10 is obviously a more classic Ardbeg. No lemons at all, all on brine, dark chocolate peaty notes, and a different kind of sweetness, not from vanilla but you see the purifier at work. This was some 20 years stuck in a 5 cl bottle, and certainly did not suffer from it. A story of peat indeed, like the Peat Pack once promised.

Score: 90 points

Disclaimer: Taken from a self-owned bottle.

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