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Laphroaig Vs. Ardbeg

I've mostly only tried Speysides and the more common blends, but I would like to try a Islay. Laphroaig 10 and Ardbeg 10 are the two that are available to me and in my price range.. which do you prefer and why? Which do you think I would enjoy more as mainly a Speyside drinker?

Also, some folks have told me that what I want is the Laphroaig 10 cask strength.. and it would probably be affordable for me. My fear is that it will be too strong tasting and I want to sort of ease into Islays. Opinions?

I know, I know.. go to a bar and try some. But I really can't seem to find any bars within reasonable distance that have more than a few basic blends and Speysides.

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  1. I'd suggest the Ardbeg 10. If you were going with an older Laphroaig or the Quarter Cask, I'd say Laphroaig is easier for an Islay-newbie than Ardbeg. But I find the Laphroaig 10 to be rough around the edges. In contrast, although the Ardbeg is heavily peated, you'll also get some fruit and other flavors. And the Ardbeg 10 is more refined than is the Laphroaig 10. All IMO - maybe others would disagree.
    Also, I'm sure others will add that neither Laphroaig nor Ardbeg is the gentlest introduction to Islay. Something more like a Bowmore or Lagavulin might be a good place to start (not counting the not peaty Islays).

    1. As you can see from my avatar I am an ardbeg fan. While I do like a good laphroaig, I find it not as flavorful as the ardbeg. Ardbeg has a delightful finish and remains happily on my taste buds for long after.

      Bowmore was a pleasant surprise for me when I tried it recently, but it wasn't the ardbeg. There was no longevity but the bowmore transitioned through various flavors while rolling it around my mouth.

      The ardbeg has spoiled me now, I am afraid. Enjoy your tasting!

      1. You know, they're both very good whiskies. Laphroaig tends to be more medicinal with seaweed and iodine; Ardbeg has more char but also a bit more sweetness. As tdg mentions, these are not gentle malts and they are quite different from the traditional Speyside flavor profile. They are bang you over the head types. Where I am, Laphroiag tends to be a bit cheaper.

        As for the cask strength, given that you don't drink a lot of highly peated malts, I would try the standard versions first and then if you like them, move up to the cask strength.

        1. Do you live near a Trader Joe's? You might try a bottle of Finlaggan, which is a malt whisky from Islay that sells there for $18 a bottle. It will give you a pretty good introduction to Islay malts for a modest price.


          1. Caol Ila is also a very nice Islay if you can find it, not quite as strong flavored as Ardbeg or Laphroaig, very well balanced like Lagavulin. Otherwise I would echo the sentiments of the others.

            Bowmore legend is a nice and inexpensive intro to Islays, at ~$25 a bottle (where available).

            1. Personally I would not try Laphroaig 10 as your first Islay. The 15 year (I think that's right) is a whole different animal, but it's much more expensive.

              If Bowmore Legend is available, don't be put off by the affordable price. It's very nice, and if you don't like it, you're not out that much. It also mixes well in Islay cocktails.

              I also agree that Caol Ila is very nice.

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              1 Reply
              1. re: EvergreenDan

                Laphroaig 18 has replaced the 15 yr old, it is very good - IMO the extra age has tamed the rough edges in the 10 yr old and made it very much like Lagavulin. It can be rather pricey but can be found for a decent price, I got mine in PA for $60 but normally online I see it for $70-80.

                Black Bottle is another blend that is a good representation of Islay, as it is a blend of all seven - though it is mainly smokey with not much peat or brine it is under $20 (for the NAS version) and is not bad at all.

              2. I much prefer the Laphroaig to the Ardbeg...I had them side by side last Wednesday to confirm; Ardbeg has an almost plasticky soapy taste to me, but that could be something with my palate.

                5 Replies
                1. re: blkery

                  I can't recall a Scotch I would call soapy, though I did have a Tequila like that. The Auchentoshan Classic i tried the other day (my first lowland) did have an odd finish that got more noticeable as the glass emptied, might have been a little soapy, need to try it again - but that is a very mild Scotch, I would never have noticed it among the peat and smoke of Ardbeg.

                  1. re: blkery

                    Perhaps this is silly, but I've found that it is very difficult to rinse all the soap out of a fine crystal glass. Rinse and rinse and rinse, and I still smell soap. I sometimes keep a whiskey glass for my personal use that I don't wash often with soap. I rinse it with 190*F water from my instant hot dispenser. Could the soap actually have been ... soap?

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                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                      Nope I never use soap in my Glencairn glasses just rinse them in hot water immediately after use.

                      Edit - oops sorry Dan your post was right below mine I didn't look at the "re:".

                    2. re: blkery

                      That is unusual. I'd say give Ardbeg another try some day to be certain. As suggested, it could have been the glassware, perhaps something with the bottle (one never knows, I suppose... contamination happens).

                      If you enjoy Laphroaig, then Ardbeg should at least have a smoke-peat flavour to you, and not soapy.

                      Again, hope you give Ardbeg another shot one day. Cheers.

                      1. re: M_Xandria

                        Another factor is that Ardbeg 10 year old , more than many standard malts, tends to vary a lot from year to year and batch to batch. This partly has to do with the fact that the distillery was closed for a while, so different editions of the 10 year old have contained vastly different whiskies, some much older, pre-closure whisky, and only recently have they been able to use whisky from the reopened distillery.