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.
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).
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!
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.
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).