Ardbeg Ten and Ardbeg Alligator

750ml, £38.80 and £65

By Joshua.Chambers

25 Jan 2012

Tonight is Burns night, and what better way to celebrate than with a sup of Scotch? As Rabbie once said: “Oh whisky! Soul o’ plays and pranks! Accept a bardie’s gratefu’ thanks!”

Accept mine too. This week, CSW has reviewed two malts by Ardbeg, of Islay (pronounced ‘eye-lah’). The whiskies from this region are perfect for January: heavily peated and smokey, they have quite enough punch to keep you going until the end of a dim and chilly month.

First up is the standard Ardbeg Ten. For an Islay, its nose is quite light, with notes of heather and honey, citrus and oak. A fine start: in most cases, much of the pleasure of whisky is in the smell, because its high alcohol content desensitises the tongue. Only fools rush in.

On its eventual tasting, the Ten has a sweetness that ever so slowly starts to tingle, before building into a smoky conclusion. Sadly, though, the expected explosion of fiery heat never quite seems to arrive; I was left waiting and wanting.

It certainly clears out the nasal passages – but rather than a rounded, mellow warmth, I felt a slightly thin, acrid sting. It’s an okay scotch, but has a hefty reputation that it doesn’t fully live up to.
Arbeg’s Alligator is sensational, however. The colour is just so rich and alluring, while its smell combines ochre and mahogany, oranges and cinnamon.

The Alligator splashes on to the taste buds with real intensity and aplomb. There is ginger and espresso, before a rush of heat that culminates in the smoke and soothing embers of a cigar.

Alligator’s a winner for me. As Rabbie might say: ‘Take a cup of kindness – and take on 2012’. ?

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