As you follow your whisky journey through the land of Scotland, you have likely heard of an island named Islay. While the popular belief is that Islay is the land of peated whisky, there are plenty of peated whiskies outside of Islay, as well as non-peated made on the island. Today, we are focusing on peat, because at one point or another, people decide it is time to try a peated Scotch.
This is where things get interesting, especially if you are in a whisky group on Facebook. Someone asks, "I like Scotch, but I've never tried peated Scotch so what should I try first". And that's when the fights begin. There are lovers of the lightly peated Highland Park and Oban. Some people bring up the most popular brands of Ardbeg, Bowmore, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. Other people talk about places like Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila and Kilchomin. There are a lot of distilleries and a ton of bottlings from Islay. But if you watch long enough, people invariably gravitate towards two bottles, Laphroaig 10 and Ardbeg 10.
This is where things get more interesting: people ask which one is better. And more arguing commences. With all whisk(e)y, better is subjective. Some people like bold flavors, while others appreciate subtle complexity. If you are looking to try Laphroaig or Ardbeg, you hopefully appreciate bold flavors, otherwise you are in for a surprise.
All this being said, this is not going to be your typical review. This is a comparison of these two Islay 10 year olds, with review notes so you can see how they differ.
As you can see, the overall scores are nearly identical. The Laphroaig finish is a winner, while the Ardbeg is slightly more balanced. The difference in flavors will really determine in which camp you tend to fall. If you love the barbecued meats, Laphroaig is a good choice. If you prefer the briny vanilla and pear, Ardbeg may suit your palate. In all honesty, there is no loser here, you win with whatever you choose. And yes, I normally have both in my cabinet :)