Stitch Bar; A Whisky Lovers Review
About the Stitch Bar…
Located in Sydney’s business district, the Stitch Bar is more than just another whisky-centric establishment. Beyond the vintage décor of sewing machines at the entrance, and the dimly lit, cozy underground atmosphere, Stitch Bar knows how to win the affections of Ardbeg lovers. Specifically, because they only stock Ardbeg 10-year-old malt.
If you tend to gravitate towards Speyside malts and wish to give an Islay a try but are a bit wary of the peaty punch, I recommend trying one of Stitch’s Ardbeg “malt-tails”.
Ardbeg 10 has the depth and strength of character and nose, which we’ll discuss later. By knowing a bit about Ardbeg 10, helps you to discern the competing flavours in Stitch Bar’s ‘malt-tails’.
The ‘malt-tails’ provide an interesting diversion from your traditional straight up shot. Mixed with just the right accompaniment, Stitch bartenders know what works best to compliment this notorious pucker up malt.
What about the food? Why yes! The notorious Stitch burger, for example, with its tower of thick, smoky Angus beef, pairs up nicely with a “Smoking Rocket” cocktail. Stitch bar is successful at balancing the ambience of an American 1950’s diner with a mouth-watering selection of cocktails with Ardbeg at the helm.
About Ardbeg Distillery
Now that’s the short version. In order to understand Ardbeg 10, we need to first turn to the distillery for a bit of background information. For those who have not yet ventured to the shelf of peat smoked barley whiskies, Ardbeg distillery is for many, the perfect place to start. But it wasn’t always that way. From 1981 to 1997, Ardbeg distillery experienced a dry period…literally.
Very little production occurred in what had sadly become a deteriorating and nearly non-functional stillhouse. Not unlike Lazarus, resurrections do happen and by mid-1997 and under new operation management, Ardbeg restarted production. The writer of the Whisky Bible Jim Murray awarded Ardbeg 10 World Whisky of the Year declaring that the 10 is “…the most complex malt on earth…it’s just that magnificent”.
“…the most complex malt on earth” – Jim Murray
Murray’s recognition has certainly helped Ardbeg on its journey upward and away from those earlier hard times. In fact, Ardbeg won top points two years in a row. But not all things can be equated to a points system and one man’s olfactory glands (notwithstanding Murray’s invested interest and contribution to Ardbeg 10).
I prefer to let the malt speak for itself and in this case, it does. Ardbeg 10 is an affordable and relatively easy malt to find, unlike some rare or “reserved” malts which have a production limitation. So, what’s the deal about Ardbeg 10? Well, there are a few reasons.
Judge for yourself…
Firstly, should you decide to ask your whisky-loving friends about Ardbeg 10, especially if they are not big on the peat, just keep in mind that you will probably get an interesting assortment of responses. As with many of the finer things in life, whisky preference is subjective and although we all enjoy rankings to help us make choices, this is one area where I suggest you be the judge.
“…younger malts from the West coast can come across a bit ‘rough’…”
What to look for? As with wine, most malts improve with age, that is to say, the longer they sit in their casks (whether it is rum, bourbon for West coast and with the addition of sherry on the East), the more depth there is to the nose and palate. Thus, some younger malts from the West coast can come across a bit ‘rough’, especially if taken neat.
Let’s Taste Ardbeg 10…
Let’s discuss Ardbeg 10. To begin with, Ardbeg packs a peaty punch…and not of the medicine variety! Its nose is smoky with hints of orange, dark chocolate, liquorice and black pepper, although the campfire smoke does not overwhelm the hints of vanilla. Imagine smoking a cigar with a stick of vanilla bean next to you.
The initial sup is full of peat but is nuanced with the natural sweetness from the malt, with an underlying tang of lemon & lime and a strong cup of espresso. The smoke is not overpowering, allowing toasted marshmallow and cedar bark. To finish, which is extremely long, the smoky depth continues with liquorice, pear and the occasional nuance of freshly laid tarmac.
Having been briefed on Ardbeg 10, the three ‘malt-tails’ created at Stitch’s Bar will be easier to digest as they are often in contradiction to the depth of Ardbeg 10. For this reason, I recommend trying a cocktail such as Stitch’s “Smoking Rocket”, which turns Ardbeg 10 up a notch by adding Vida Mezcal (you know… tequila’s little brother). The added green habanero and lime offers a citrusy vibe while the finish is nicely balanced with a spoonful of silky sweet honey.
The “Sea Dog” counteracts Ardbeg 10’s great peaty depth and smokiness with the tartness of a balsamic reduction and is sweetened with aquavit and spiced honey. This provides those with a salty-sweet palate, an amazing combination of flavours.
And to finish on “Hazy Dayz”, for those looking for a “taste” of the Caribbean this ‘malt-tail’ delivers! Ardbeg 10 with gin, sherry, coconut and citrus fruits provide the ideal complement to some serious laid-back relaxation that takes you to that warm beach on a summer’s evening, chillin’ by the fire.
Depending on your taste, the hardest part is trying to decide which one to try first…or if you’re adventurous you could always try it neat!
Check out Stitch bar in Sydney, at 61 York St, Sydney!