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Laphroaig vs Ardbeg Peated Scotch Whiskies Compared (2022)

Last Updated on November 16, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Ardbeg and Laphroaig are known for their incredibly rich and complex peated Scotch whiskies. 

Located on the Isle of Islay, Laphroaig and Ardbeg have unique characteristics. But which of these two Islay whiskies will win your heart?  

In this in-depth comparison, we’ll discuss the various differences between Laphroaig vs Ardbeg to see which spirit deserves your recognition. Read on. 

Comparing Ardbeg & Laphroaig Peated Scotch Whiskies

Ardbeg & Laphroaig Bottles

Specifically, Ardbeg 10 has 46% ABV, a smooth and refreshing blend you can enjoy alone, while the Laphroaig 10 has a higher ABV of 58.6%, which is best mixed with water. 

On the palate, Ardbeg 10 is a bit more herbal and grassy with mellow mint and rosemary than the Laphroaig 10, which is known for its medicinal peat (iodine and bandaid). 

The finish of Ardbeg peated whisky is long and glorious, while the Laphroaig peated Scotch is rich and creamy. 

Overall, Ardbeg 10 is on the complex side but is smooth, tasty, and filled with peat and smoke. It gives a nice balance, making it an impressive Scotch whisky. 

While the Laphroaig 10 is a decent choice for Scotch fans who like medium-proof spirits with sweet notes and peat smoke finish.   

Side By Side Comparison 

History & Origin

Alexander Johnston and Donald Johnston founded the Laphroaig distillery, and they named it after the land’s area of Loch Laphroaig on the south coast of the island of Islay in 1815.

During the time of Prohibition, this was one of the few legally imported Islay whiskies into the US due to its medicinal notes. 

After a long history of mergers and acquisitions, the company that owns and operates the famous Laphroaig distillery is Beam Suntory. 

In the same year (1815), Alexander MacDougall founded the Ardbeg Distillery within Islay Island– two miles away from Laphroaig’s. 

But Ardbeg was closed and mothballed in 1981. Allied Lyons purchased it in 1989, and it was restored and resumed. 

In 1997, the facility was purchased by Glenmorangie PLC until Louis Vuitton’s Moët Hennessy took it over in 2004 up to this day. 

Distillation & Production Process 

copper stills

The water used by the Laphroaig distillery comes from the Kilbride Stream, which is full of peaty flavor and is pulled from the stream, whereas Ardbeg’s water comes from the nearby lake of Loch Uigeadail.

Laphroaig uses seven stills: four small spirits stills and three wash stills. In comparison, the Ardbeg Distillery only uses two stills. 

Here’s a brief of their production process:

Casks Used: Ardbeg usually use ex-bourbon casks, but they sometimes use Sherry casks or French oak casks for their other Islay whiskies. 

Laphroaig also uses sherry and ex-bourbon barrels, but they have this so-called “Laphroaig Quarter Cask” selection to make whisky.  

Peat Type: Laphroaig uses their own handpicked peat from their peat beds (or Glenmachrie bog).

They’re one of the few Scotch producers that can process their own barley. 

Meanwhile, Ardbeg uses Phenolic malt, a strong type of peat variety. 

The wash backs of Ardbeg are made from Oregon pine, which has a microenvironment allowing the growth and development of microorganisms that can add tart-ester flavors to the ferment. 

Fermentation: Ardbeg is fermented twice, which creates pine notes, while the Laphroaig is fermented in clear wort that gives the spirit some fruity taste. 

Distillation: Laphroaig and Ardbeg spirits undergo distillation twice using wash stills and spirit stills within Islay Island. 

Quick Fact: Ardbeg didn’t use caramel-coloring agents in their spirits, unlike most distillers. The spirits are made purely from water and malted barley. 

Mash Bill 

Bottle of Laphroaig

By law, single malt whisky must contain 100% malted barley and should be distilled within a single distillery.

Although the region of Islay has been using peated barley, Islay distilleries (like Lagavulin) are not mandated to use this type of grain to make whisky.

But two distilleries– Ardbeg and Laphroaig– use peated barley in their mash [1] to produce peated whisky.

Alcohol Content

Particularly, Laphroaig 10 is bottled at 43% ABV, while Ardbeg 10 is bottled at 46% ABV.

In short, Ardbeg is more high-proof compared to Laphroaig’s medium-proof alcohol content.  

Maturation 

2 oak barrels

Both Ardbeg and Laphroaig utilize barrels mainly used for bourbon, as well as barrels filled with sherry.

From what the name suggests, Ardbeg 10 and Laphroaig 10 carry the same 10-year age statement. 

Additionally, the delicate sea notes of both brands are derived from the barrels resting within the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean.

Tasting Notes 

Ardbeg 10 Single Malt Scotch Whisky

  • Palate: The taste contains green hints (reduces the robust smoky peat) with earthiness, white chocolate, black pepper, and smoke notes.   
  • Color: Pale gold with hints of yellow 
  • Nose: It has a layer of mossy peat and smoke with hints of baking spices and toffee.  
  • Finish: It has a medium-length finish with subtle pine, smoke, and vanilla notes. 

“This truly unique whisky is a remarkable piece of liquid history – an evocative taste of what Ardbeg was like when it malted its own barley.” — Charles MacLean, Whisky Expert

Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky

  • Palate: The taste combines charred oak, dark chocolate, vanilla, smoke, and iodine.
  • Color: Chestnut with hints of straw-gold 
  • Nose: It has intense smoke and peaty aromas of campfire smoke with tobacco, mint, and medicinal tones like iodine and bandaid. 
  • Finish: It has a medium-length finish with smoky oak char and toffee notes. 

Originating Location

The Laphroaig and Ardbeg distilleries are located on the Isle of Islay, an island in the Hebrides of Scotland.

Laphroaig and Ardbeg’s Islay whisky is a Scotch spirit protected by Scottish law. Islay whiskies, specifically, cannot be made outside Islay Island. 

Bottle Design

Ardbeg 10 Bottles with liqour on the back

The bottle design of Laphroaig vs Ardbeg is not important to consider (for some), but it shows how the brands present their spirits. 

There’s nothing much fancy about the bottles of these two brands. However, the Laphroaig 10 whisky can catch your attention.

It comes with a separate outbox, which holds the whisky bottle, adding sophistication to the expression.  

Ownership & Distillery

The Beam Suntory, a US subsidiary of the Japanese spirit giant Suntory, currently owns and manages Laphroaig. 

On the other hand, Ardbeg is produced by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, a Paris-based luxury goods group. 

Price & Value

Ardbeg 10 Bottle on a store shelf

The Laphroaig 10 costs around $64.79 per 750ml bottle, while Ardbeg 10 costs around $61.99 per 750ml bottle.

Between Ardbeg vs Laphroaig, Ardbeg is fairly priced for Scotch, and you may find it a little cheaper in certain areas, compared to Laphroaig, which is a little pricier (with just a few bucks). 

But both brands offer various spirits, such as: 

Laphroaig

  • Laphroaig Lore
  • Laphroaig Four Oak
  • Laphroaig 10 Sherry Oak Finish

Note: The Laphroaig 10 has won the Gold Medal at the 2019 Worlds Spirits Competition (San Francisco) and was recognized as 2019’s Best Single Malt Scotch 10 Years & Under by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. 

Ardbeg

  • Ardbeg Corryvreckan
  • Ardbeg Uigeadail

Note: The Ardbeg 10 won the Gold Medal at the 2015 Worlds Spirits Competition (San Francisco and was recognized as the 2018 World Whisky of the Year by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.  

FAQs

Is Ardbeg 10 smokier than Laphroaig single malt Scotch?

Yes. Ardbeg 10 is smokier compared to Laphroaig. It has the right balance of sweetness and smoke.   

Which is more beginner-friendly, Ardbeg or Laphroaig Scotch?

Laphroaig Scotch is more beginner-friendly. Its flavor profile and alcohol proof is not overwhelming, ideal for beginners. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for an introduction to more intense forms of whiskey besides rye whiskey and bourbons [2], these two peat heads from Islay are the perfect choice (along with Lagavulin). 

Ardbeg vs Laphroaig are both competitive whisky spirits in their category. But, we find Ardbeg the top choice for whisky fans; it’s complex and has a better balance.

But if you’re a novice in this whisky type, we suggest starting with Laphroaig, as it won’t overwhelm your palate.  

References:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/distilled-spirit/Producing-the-mash 
  2. https://www.britannica.com/story/whats-the-difference-between-whiskey-and-whisky-what-about-scotch-bourbon-and-rye 

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