Ardbeg 10 Review: Fire-Breathing Dragon

ARDBEG 10 review:

The very first time I had this whisky 1, I was sitting at a bar with one of my best friends. At that point in my life, my palette was anything but delicate. I mocked those around me who could discern between dark chocolate overtones and citrus-y undertones. Pish posh, I thought to myself. There’s no way anyone can really tell what the tastes are. Oh how newb I was then.

I didn’t know at the time that appreciating a good scotch didn’t mean I had to know every single taste circling in that beautiful liquid. No. I just had to open up my mind and let the flavors tell me in their own ways the stories they encapsulate in their droplets. (It took quite a bit of urging from my whisky connoisseur friends before I allowed myself to truly appreciate scotches.)

That was in 2012. Since then, I have had many whiskies that have transported me to various places. (Yes, it’s magic.)

The Ardbeg 10-year-old, a single malt 2 scotch from Islay, was one of the first whiskies that whisked me away. Each time I taste it, I go back to the same story, except the story would grow with every new whiff and subsequent sip.

A few months ago, I had Ardbeg 10 with a bunch of friends in SF. The moment my nose inhaled the vapors and my tongue tasted the liquid, I was thrown into that fantasy world again. This time, a few more scenes unfurled:

Ardbeg 10: Fire-Breathing DragonKnights in shining armor sat valiantly on large white horses shielded by metal. They rode around and encircled me. Despite their wearing helmets, I could still see the fear (and amazement) in their eyes.

Suddenly, I realized why they looked at me that way. It was because I had become a fire-breathing dragon. My head twisted from one side to another as the smoke escaped my open mouth and flaring nostrils. I scratched the loose earth with my claws and whipped my tail up and down.

I was not angry—merely testing out what I could do in my dragon form because just a few minutes before I changed, I had been leading the charge and drinking with my men. As their leader, I wanted to toast them to a job well-done fighting evil warlords and saving innocent lives. I didn’t realize the drink I had in my own flask was a magical elixir, which changed me into a large and powerful beast.

I urged my men to remain calm, but the only things coming out of my mouth were fire and smoke. As their amazement quickly dissolved to fear, I had an idea: what better way to save our kingdom than by having all my men become dragons like me.

Thus, I nudged the flask that had fallen to the ground with one claw and blew a phrase into the air: “Join me.”

One of my men understood. He quickly grabbed the flask and took a few gulps of the Ardbeg 10. Within minutes, dust whirled around him and soon he became a dragon as well. The other men followed suit.

On that day, we formed our dragon army. We were best of the best—loved and feared equally—protecting our realm and righting wrongs.

After I finished with my first sip of Ardbeg, I returned to reality. I couldn’t believe I was back there again. I watched my friends eye me with curiosity.

One of them asked, “What happened? You seemed like you were in a different world.”

I nodded excitedly. Just like in my fantasy, I couldn’t wait to share this moment with my friends, and so I nudged my glass of Ardbeg 10 towards them and said, “Join me.”


ardbeg10_front&fullStyle: Single Malt Scotch
Age: 10 Years
Alcohol: 46% abv.
Produced at: Ardbeg Distillery
Region: Scotland (Islay)
Distillery Manager: Michael “Mickey” Heads


SOME FACTS:

  • The Ardbeg Distillery, founded for commercial use in 1815, is currently owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy
  • The name “Ardbeg” is derived from the Scottish Gaelic: Àrd Beag, meaning “little height”
  • The 10-year whisky is the first non-chill filtered 3 whisky from the Ardbeg Distillery
  • Ardbeg is known as the peatiest 4 and smokiest of the nine malts made on Islay
  • Distillery Manager Michael “Mickey” Heads won Whisky Magazine’s “2014 Whisky Distillery Manager of the year”

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SOME WHISK(E)Y TERMS DEFINED:
  1. Whisky vs. whiskey: Both spellings are correct. The difference is primarily due to geography. “Whisky” is primarily used in: Canada, Japan, Scotland, England, and Wales. “Whiskey” is primarily used in Ireland and the United States. For more info, click here.
  2. Single malt (type): Single malt whisky is a whisky made at one distillery from a mash that uses only malted grain, usually barley. Malting (process):  The grains (e.g. barley) are made to germinate by soaking in water, and are then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air. The resulting dried germinated cereal grains are called “malt.”
  3. Non-chill filter (method): A method for removing any “residue” from the whiskey before bottling. Typically, whiskey is chilled down to ~0 C so that any fatty acids or proteins will precipitate and can be filtered out. That way, when the whiskey is served chilled or with ice/water, haziness doesn’t appear. However, this process is believed to sometimes affect the taste of the whisky, for example by removing peat particles that contribute to the ‘smokiness’ of the flavor, some distilleries pride themselves on not using this process.
  4. Peat (flavor): Peat is basically turf made of partially decayed vegetation, e.g. moss and wood. In Scotland, particularly in Islay, peat is used as fuel to create fires that dry malted barley (one of the steps of making whisky).

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