Ardbeg 10 Year Review – L03 281

Ardbeg 10 year Review L03 281

Ardbeg 10 Year L03 281 is made from pre-Glenmorangie acquisition juice. How do I know this? Well here’s a quick lesson in how to date a bottle of Ardbeg using their bottling code. The bottle pictured in the image above carries the bottle code L3 281 23:00 4ML which means it was bottled in 2003 (L3) on October 8th (the 281st day that year) at 23:00 (11pm) on bottling line 4ML. So why is that important?

For starters, things were done differently at the distillery before Glenmo purchased Ardbeg and Dr. Bill Lumsden and team came around. For instance from 1981 – 1989 the distillery was closed and then from 89-96 it was only open for distillation 2 months out of the year. From 92-96 it was owned by Allied-Domecq PLC so looking at the bottling code and knowing was bottled in 2003 we know that the majority (and youngest) of the whisky in this bottle is from 1993 distillate which was when they were owed by Allied and was produced during one of the brief 2 month periods they were operational for. Pretty neat, but let’s see how it compares to the current post-Glenmo distilled, but LVMH owned, release.

Ardbeg 10 Year L03 281 Review

Distiller: Ardbeg
Age:10 years
ABV: 46%
Bottling: L3 281 23:00 4ML
Price: $130+ (auction)

Non-Chill Filtered
Natural Color

Pear juice

Peat, complex tropical and orchard fruit, honey, vanilla and a whole rack of spices like pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice. Some light notes of citrus peel, mint oil and something a bit earthy just barely detectible. The nose is complex and dynamic and at times there’s a s’mores like note, campfire and all, that comes through. It’s really pleasant.

Peat, Juicy Fruit gum, honey covered granola, cocoa and that same complex spice from the nose. Lighter notes of mint, citrus oil and graham come through and that same s’mores like quality comes through from time to time here. There’s a darkness here that isn’t readily found in any of the other Ardbeg 10s I’ve tried recently (L13, L12 & L14).

Long and peaty with notes of toasted pastry, ambiguous sweetness, saline and mint.

Spot on balance with a nice round body and thick heavy oily feel.

Ardbeg 10 Year L03 281 is awesome. I’m really truly enjoying every moment with this dram. The unique darkness that runs through it is awesome and I love the complex spice notes and how they help balance out the peaty and fruity notes across the nose and palate. As a whole it comes across a bit richer than some of the recent releases I’ve had. This could be because the casks used were newer back in ’93 when they were filled or maybe Allied did something a bit different. Whatever the reason this stuff is awesome. Definitely recommend getting your hands on some old Ardbeg 10 if you can.

SCORE: 90/100

Ardbeg 10 Year L03 281
  • Nose - 90
  • Palate - 90
  • Finish - 90
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 90


Because Ardbeg 10 Year L03 281 is pre-Glenmo juice you’re going to pay a mark up on it if you see it in auction. You’re also likely to have to do a UK auction like I did which means auction and shipping costs can double the hammer cost like it did for me. Basically I’m saying value is in the eye of the collector on stuff like this.

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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6 Responses to Ardbeg 10 Year Review – L03 281

  1. Where can I find the bottling code on the bottle? Also, by L03/L3 you mean bottled 2003 and L13 is 2013 correct? Just clarifying because you stated L03 was 2013 in the first paragraph.

    • Bottling code is printed on the side of the bottle towards the bottom and thanks for catching the typo. It’s been fixed! (L03 = 2003 bottling and L13 = 2013, correct)


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