Ardbeg 10-year-old vs Port Charlotte 10-year-old

Now, here we have the good ol’ Ardbeg once again. Just yesterday, I sipped on Uigeadail and Ardcore. This one is a 10-year-old single malt from Islay, which, so far, has won a round against the same-aged Ledaig from Tobermory in this tasting. In general, I think that Ardbeg is one of the top stable favourites among the peat lovers of the world, but here comes Port Charlotte of 10 years in age, produced by the Bruichladdich distillery. I can tell you right off the top that both single malts are neither coloured nor chill-filtered. I have already stated that they’re of the same age, and I can even say that in my glass, they look the same in colour. The most significant difference is ABV – whereas Ardbeg is at 46%, Port Charlotte packs at 50%. So let’s see where they measure side by side! But first, we need music! Now playing: Federico AlbaneseBefore And Now Seems Infinite.

We start with Ardbeg Ten [as it is sometimes spelt with letters], of lower ABV. With numerous awards, this is a staple single malt named World Whisky of the Year in 2008. It’s fresh, grassy and floral, with earthy peat and hidden sweetness on the nose. It’s got a beautiful arrival with the very first sip – that sweetness is still there, and now with smoke and toasted oak. The second sip is even better, and it goes down soft and smooth, with lasting, warming, smoky finish. For this pairing, instead of focusing on one and then the other, I drink both, side by side. I move on to the “heavily peatedPort Charlotte. [Side note: it’s interesting, but suddenly my sense of smell is dulled, even as I come back to the Ardbeg]. The Port Charlotte smells even sweeter, candied, and perfumed with something else I cannot put my mind on. It’s almost citrusy a bit, with distant faints of grilled bananas. It’s fuller in the mouth and has no burn at all, with an extra four per cent. There is a hint of salt on the edges of my tongue, and then it moves into a glow of candied lemons soaked in smoke. Oh, what a lovely dram! Both Ardbeg and Port Charlotte use first fill and refill (only second fill) ex-bourbon American oak casks. Port Charlotte also blends in malts aged in some French wine casks.

Let’s go back to the Ardbeg now. It counters with a punch of peat, that lovely iodine and bourbon char. It doesn’t yield and stands up strong, reminding of its strength with a pepper finish. Port Charlotte now responds again, its peat a little veiled, velvety, and delicate. It’s almost sensitive in touch, not overpowering and soft, surprisingly at 50% ABV. This is a back and forth, my friends – it’s tough to call a winner. I take a break and let my palate settle down for ten minutes and go at it again. This time I’m starting with Port Charlotte for a change. A sip of sparkling water to prepare, and then I nose the glass. There is that citrus and bananas once again – I wasn’t wrong the first time, no siree. There is that saltiness on the arrival and then peat, and herbal sweetness on the finish. I nose the Ardbeg, and it’s got that boiled sweet, and then that wonderful and healing peat with all the proper medicinal powers. The Ardbeg here had a chance to persevere – it has been many years in the tweaking. This is a perfect formula for sure, attained through knowledge, past experience and wisdom. And yet, Port Charlotte’s catching up – this 10-year-old single malt was only introduced in 2018 and, in its last few batches, getting better.

So there you have it, folks. A tie? I’m still not sure of where to lean here. The Ardbeg is about £46, while Port Charlotte asks another £4 [for an extra 4%?]. I love the Ardbeg for what it is – an absolute perfection for which the Ten is known. And yet, Port Charlotte is right there, and not the Ardbeg which is loved – and therefore, it’s intriguing, delightful and engaging. For that alone, I’ll make a call and here proclaim that Port Charlotte wins this round.

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