Monday, 21 December 2015

The development of Ardbeg 10

Ardbeg changed their distillation regime in May 1998, and the new Ardbeg 10 was first bottle the summer of 2008. Back in 2011 I compared an old Ardbeg 10 from 2006 (L6 150 4:50 p.m. 4ML) to the new Ardbeg 10 from 2009 (L9 203 1:49 p.m. 6ML). Both whiskies were 46% abv. and non chill filtered.

According to my notes, the aroma and taste were quite similar, but there were differences. The difference in colour was close to zero. Both had sweetness and citrus on the nose, but they were not directly fruity. The old had a touch of peach, honey, toffee and acetone, while the new one was somewhat lighter and fruitier with a flowery touch. Vanilla was also more prominent in the new. The new developed to a greater extent from a sweet to a bitter and astringent mouthfeel. The old was more full-bodied, and appeared immediately smoother. Nevertheless, the new one had the smoothest mouthfeel.

Both whiskies had the characteristic Ardbeg creosote, sea, salt, pepper and smoke, even though the new one was more pronounced in all these areas. I finished asking if these are to completely different whiskies. The answer was no, and a statement that it would probably be possible to taste the difference even when you taste one by one, but if you don’t think about it, they would probably be taken for the same whisky.

Last week, I had the opportunity to compare a 2006 version against a 2015 version. I was in for a big surprise. I did not expect to find a big difference. The Ardbeg 10 year old is still 46% abv. and non chill filtered, but then come the differences.

The 2015 version was much paler than the 2006 version. Since no colour is added, a sign of younger whiskies.

The 2015 had a much more rubbery and smoky character than the old one which had much more of the Ardbegian creosote character. The new one seemed crisper, spicier and with a hint of crème brûlée, while the old one was the smoothest. Overall, I like the 2006 version much better than the 2015 version.

Why did I not find a big difference between the 2006 and the 2009 version, while I found a big difference between the 2006 and 2015 version? Has Ardbeg been moving gradually to younger whiskies with more rubber and less creosote? It seems reasonable. In the 2006 version, it is probably a large amount of older whisky from around 1990, while the 2015 version probably consists mostly of ten years old whisky. Doing the change overnight, would have caused a too fast change in flavour. It seems like a good idea to do the change gradually over several years. Is this what has happened?