Ardbeg 10 years old
So now we're into the heart of the lineup. Ardbeg is the ultimate expression of an Islay whisky. Whiskies from this small island off the west coast of Scotland are noted for their taste of sea air, strong finishes, and above all, PEAT. Islay whiskies, most notably Ardbeg, owe a lot of their distinctiveness to the use of peat, instead of a pure wood fire, in the toasting of their malts. The peat bog aroma infuses a unique smokiness, but also saltiness from the sea air and high winds of the region.
Ardbeg has a very fine gold color which belies the stiff kick that's coming to you when you have a wee dram. Quite frankly, it can knock your socks off the first time you have it if you are not used to Islay whisky in general. But stick with, sip slowly, even add a small amount of room temperature water, and you'll be happy you did.
On my first trip to England with my future wife, and as a pure whisky neophyte, I asked a kindly shop lady in the Duty Free Store in Heathrow to recommend a good whisky for a beginner. She handed me Ardbeg. Needless to say, I was surprised when I opened it in America. To this day, I don't know if she was being cruel, stupid, or doing me a huge favor.