Ardbeg makes some of my favorite scotches, solidly among my top 4 or 5 — let’s see, I suppose now’s a good time to list my favorites:
- Highland Park 18 year
- Oban 14 year
- Lagavulin 16 year
- Highland Park Magnus
- Singleton Single Malt
- Ardbeg 10 year
OK, solidly in my top 6, then. Anyway, I don’t buy myself scotches very often, in fact, nearly never. Sadly, they’re a luxury I can rarely afford. Singleton is decent for modest price, as is Magnus. But when I saw this Ardbeg on sale at my local state-run liquor store (don’t think I’ll ever get used to that aspect of Oregon), I was intrigued. Like the Magnus, it’s a scotch blended of various ages (when I read that, I can’t help but wonder if Ardbeg and Highland Park just kind of pour out the dregs of their various barrels into one big one like a whisky “suicide” to sell as their An Oa and Magnus….) and I like Magnus, so why not give this a try.
A bit more than I wanted to spend, but I felt it wasn’t much of a risk. And indeed, it ended up being a pretty solid decision. It’s, with one notable exception, a very well-rounded and balanced scotch. Just complex enough to be interesting, but not a challenge to drink or enjoy. The one exception being the smokiness. Usually, especially with the Islay scotches, the smokiness is balanced by the . . . grassy-nutty peatyness. But in the An Oa, it’s smoke forward, smoke finish, smoke for days. There’s nothing else to match, challenge, or temper it.
That said, it’s a very fine, enjoyable scotch, perhaps perfect if you’re sitting around a campfire where you’re already getting a snootfull of smoke and won’t notice it in your drink. I know some people will jeer (but the way I see it, do with your whiskys what you want to enjoy it) I enjoy this with a half an ice cube added.