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Ardbeg 10 yo Vertical Tasting


Port Alan suggested we include a serious Ardgeg 10 Vertical tasting at Ardbeggeddon 10 in late December while we were puzzling over the initial reviews coming in on the various bottlings of Ardbeg 10 using the bottling codes from the Boxburn bottling plant recently closed.  We have an L7 and an L5 listed and I'm thinking we'll add at least an L1, L3 and a either an L7 with older whisky or an L7 with post closure Ardbeg - maybe more.

We'll post the bottling details here including full codes and with some luck we'll get some good tasting notes out of this exercise.  We'll also post a summary of what's going on here, how to read the bottle codes and why you should care!

Until then, here's my Ardbeg 10 yo Bottle Tracking Code Websheet with initial results for now.

Detailed Tasting Notes for some of these A10s are on my DD Archive.

A10 Vertical Tasting Summary

Ardbeg 10 Bottle Code Overall Summary Conclusions
L0 178 4ML 1117 No tasting notes - I was PLOWED
L0 1548 4ML Heathrow DF No tasting notes - I was PLOWED
L3 170 10:10 4ML Muscular young ardbeg - dirty peat.  I like.
L3 343 1428 No tasting notes - I was PLOWED
L5 110 17:50 4ML Approved - excellent dram offering a mix of older and newer casks
L5 237 5:36 4ML No tasting notes - I was PLOWED
L5 237 5:34 No tasting notes - I was PLOWED
L6 314 10:29 4ML Amazing - needs to open up for maybe 2-3 weeks.  Pour off a 120 or 240 ml sample, put the bottle away  for a month and taste the two HtH.  Transformation is amazing,  This is a worthy ardBEG!
L7 143 8:58 Awesome!  Tied with the L6 314 as my favorite A10s of all the available preclosure releases. (no discernable difference between these - heck, only 8 minutes apart!
L7 143 9:06 4ML Awesome!  Tied with the L6 314 as my favorite A10s of all the available preclosure releases.
L7 221 Recent 3/09 find in Maine, Randy has only bottle I've ever seen and I just have to talk him into opening it...  BRB
L7 295 13:39 4ML Earliest post-reopening whisky distilled after Ardbeg was taken out of mothballs by Glenmo we've found yet.  Everything previous should be pre-closure stock.
L7 324 First A10 I haven't much been impressed with.  Scattered palate and finish.  Getting better after opening but still has a LONG way to go.  See Tasting Notes

Unfortunately, we drammed these at A10 on Ardbeg Day and late in the lineup so I think I tasted these in the 45-50 dram range that day - 63 Ardbegs onsite Saturday and another 5 for a total of 68 by end of day on Sunday. 

Good luck FoaFing "older" 10 yo Ardbeg to all Ringleaders!

Ardbeg Bottle Codes - The Decoder Ring

FINDING THE BOTTLE CODE - Hold the bottle up to the light so it shines off the glass and look carefully around the base - you'll find the bottling codes etched into the glass in black. The current codes for the past 6 or 7 years have been all the same sized text on a single line. The codes in the early 2000 bottlings start with a huge L and have the code in 2 lines, but contain the same information. These are the codes from the Glenmo Broxburn bottling plant. By the way, all recent Ardbeg bottlings have these codes which helps locate those absolutely wonderful bottles you stumble across from time to time, but we'll only discuss A10 bottlings here and start other threads for Uigeadails, Beists and any other Ardbegs folks are interested in discussing.

READING THE BOTTLE CODE - The current codes are all in this format:
Here's an example from an A10 I have open in front of me:

L7 143 9:06 4ML
which is decoded as follows:

L7 - bottled in 2007
143 - bottled on the 143rd day of 2007 or on 5/23/07
9:06 - bottled at 9:06 am GMT
4ML - This is the bottling line but most bottles I've seen are marked 4ML but I've only seen a couple of 4VLs so far.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT THE A10 BOTTLE CODES? Well, remember that Ardbeg was pretty much mothballed for a decade (with admittedly sporadic distilling runs made during this period) before Glenmorangie bought, invested heavily and reopened the distillery. With this purchase they also bought warehouses full of maturing whisky stocks and their first flagship offering was the Ardbeg 10 (along with an astonishing series of early 1970's vintage bottlings and other gems from the dusty warehouses). The A10 was a HUGE success and very affordable back then often on sale for $27-$29. Well, think about it - it didn't take too long for Ardbeg to run out of 10 yo whisky since they had a decade long hole in production and since they wanted to continue to promote the A10 bottling they simply started bottling older and older whisky in the 10 yo bottle. Scottish law simply says that the age of a bottle of whisky can't be older than the youngest whisky in that run, but there's nothing that prohibits distilleries from bottling much older whisky in bottles marked younger. There are other classic examples of this happening over time but this is the longest and best example I know of.

So, what about the L7 143 I have open in front of me? This is an astonishing Ardbeg and I'm guessing much closer to 17- 18 yo if not older. I'll post the tasting notes separately but this is the reason you really need to turn into an uber whisky geek and start obsessing about Ardbeg bottle codes.

Ardbeg reopened in 1997 so they actually had 10 yo whisky available again for this bottling in late 2007. Everything I've tasted pre L7 143 has been older Ardbeg and the most current bottling in NE lately is the L7 295 which is clearly 10 yo single malt again. We're still searching for the transition point where they started bottling real 10 yo whisky again here. They changed the A10 packaging in 2008 but I haven't seen any of this rebranded bottle in the US yet and the Renaissance is the Cask Strength version of the new 10 yo which is one of my current favorite affordable Ardbegs (although not in the US yet but I've heard it's possibly coming...)

Another reason we think the bottle codes are important are from a time perspective since we also understand that Ardbeg uses the same bottling line for Uigedails, Beists and pretty much everything they sell so we've found really special A10s that have time stamps following closely to Uigeadail runs and these bottles appear to be a shifting vatting between the A10 run and the previous UIgeadail run, and these are often quite different from either.

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last updated 03/07/2009