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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Tuesday Review: Ardbeg Scotch (10 Year)

By John Barecki

Back again with my review of one of the most popular of the Islay single malts, the Ardbeg 10-year-old Scotch. But first a bit of information on the distillery and region where this tasty little beauty comes from.

The isle of Islay is situated off of the west coast of Scotland next to the isle of Jura, another notable production site. The area in general is surrounded by loads of history: wars, murder, shipwrecks (some caused by the Corryvreckan, the second largest whirlpool on this planet), and of course there is no shortage of mystery. But I digress.

The characteristics that most think of when it comes to Islay single malts are the medicinal, smokey, iodine-rich flavors created by the use of peat, the compressed partially decaying plant material that covers much of the island. Peat has been used for centuries as fuel, helping to warm those on the isle. Regarding the production of spirits, it is used in the kilning or drying of the malt as well as to enrich the water that each distillery uses. Other flavors associated with these malts include salt and brine, imparted during the barrel-aging process in open-air facilities which lie directly on the coastlines, and which in turn allow sea air to penetrate the wood causing a mingling of air and spirit.

The Ardbeg distillery has been a notable producer for a very long time, although having gone from one owner to the next has changed the malt in several ways. According to Scotch enthusiasts, the 10 Year embodies Islay's history in a bottle. The nose is rich and deep, having an almost campfire quality that wafts quite far from the glass. A deeper sniff reveals iodine and lemon-pineapple candy with a side of dark chocolate. The taste is extraordinary, a full rush of peat diverges into a tangy, peppery and briney toffee. With the addition of water this bonfire's smoke subsides enough to show a sweet fruity interior, reminiscent of sugary but still tart pears and citrus with underlying nuances of vanilla and hazelnuts. With such heavily peated malt comes an almost chewy body engulfed with oils, creating a finish that will last into your smoke lined dreams.

Ardbeg 10 Year is $49.99 for a fifth at Siciliano's.

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