At Last, Ice Cream: The Ardbeg Ten Experiment

As my good friend and local whiskey spirit guide (pun not intended, but I’m not editing it out, so let’s all enjoy it for what it is) Sku noted on his excellent blog, Sku’s Recent Eats, I’ve been lax in addressing the ice cream content this site promises. Well, I’ve actually been working on it. Since he called my bluff, I think it’s time to make good.

But first, a word on the origin of the name. Several months ago, after a great serving of Macallan 18, I knew that a little vanilla ice cream would perfectly settle things down and complement the flavors of the whisky. My wife recoiled in horror at my (serial) pairing of scotch and ice cream. Some days later, we were talking about blogging and I’d mentioned my desire to a blog. She said I should name it “Scotch and Ice Cream”. The name stuck, and when things finally launched, I couldn’t deny it.

I’m sure we’ve all tried — or at least seen — several whiskey-influenced ice creams by this point. One of my favorites has been Jeni’s Ice Cream, who makes a really good whiskey ice cream that balances bourbon flavors nicely. My wife also recently made a Bushmill’s ice cream for her coworkers that was great. This all pointed in the obvious direction: Ice cream made from scotch whisky.

I’m a firm believer that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, and this was one of the best things to overdo. Instead of some dull, middle of the road, bland whiskey, this called for one of the biggest, baddest, boldest whiskies out there: Ardbeg Ten. The pure peat attack of Ardbeg seemed like an interesting and challenging whiskey to tame.

My wife (who has her own blog that I enjoy reading and is vastly less nerdy than my own) worked from the following recipe:

  • 1/3 corn syrup (used due to our lack of honey in this case)
  • 1 & 1/3 cups whipping cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup Ardbeg Ten
All are combined and run in the ice cream maker for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until it’s creamy.

The end result: a slightly yellow and light, airy ice cream…. that just happened to smell like a fresh pour of Ardbeg Ten. The first bite was surprisingly dry – a not altogether pleasant mix of dairy and peat. The smoke is quite intensely strong and dry against the creamy ice cream base. It’s so dry that at times it verges on being slightly chemical in taste. There’s a slight leather taste after a while.

If you’re guessing that this wasn’t a successful experiment, so far, I’d agree. This is not an ice cream as is that you’d scarf down half a pint of.

The next experiment was to try and pair it with two other sweet tastes. The first was simple: honey. After making the ice cream, we happened to have enough honey on hand to complement a small scoop of the Ardbeg cream.

The mix was much more promising: a light mix of sweet, almost floral honey and the Ardbeg peat that couldn’t be missed. The first spoonful was a very solid mix: there was a sharp kick of the Ardbeg, but it was almost immediately balanced by the rich, straightforward sweetness of the honey. The two elements were almost a perfect complement. At moments, one of the flavors would be dominant, but it was quickly balanced by the other.

This seemed to be a much better compliment.

The final test was to use a light spread of the Ardbeg over a chocolate cake. The chocolate cake in question was an old standby: Five minute chocolate cake in a mug. A small amount of ice cream was added to the top of it; not at all unlike the amount you’d get if you ordered a small chocolate cake a la mode. As you’d expect, the smell was dominated by the scent of fresh-baked chocolate.

The mix of chocolate and Ardbeg was a good one. The strength of the chocolate cake dominated the palate; the bittersweet flavor of the chocolate being offset dramatically by the Ardbeg. As things settled down, the chocolate and Ardbeg tastes became less integrated and the more chemical flavor of the Ardbeg became a little more present. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a great change in things.

Ultimately, it’s an interesting experiment. If I were to alter the recipe, I would likely make sure we used honey instead of corn syrup; I’d also use slightly less Ardbeg in hopes of cutting the extreme dryness of it.

I can’t say it was a successful experiment but it was definitely a fun one.

Stay tuned for more experiments. They’ll come around from time to time. If you have any suggestions; I’m all ears. I will note that Usuikyou is strictly off limits in this case.


11 thoughts on “At Last, Ice Cream: The Ardbeg Ten Experiment”

  1. Yeah, ice cream!  Though I can’t say I’m going to run out and mix up your recipe.

    What’s the ice cream base you are using here?  I assume you are cooking the egg yolks before adding.  I’m surprised the alcohol didn’t inhibit the freezing; what type of machine do you use?

    1. This is not a typical ice cream recipe for me. Usually I do a custard base which has both whole milk and heavy cream and you heat the cream and add it to the eggs.  This recipe is from the UK and only calls for heavy cream for some reason.

      This recipe indicated you heat the honey (or if you are like me and too lazy to run to the store, corn syrup…if I had it to do again I’d run and get honey) and then add the warmed honey to the eggs and stir together until the mixture is a pale yellow color. You don’t want the honey too warm or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Then add the honey egg mixture to cream and whiskey.

      Alcohol does inhibit freezing to an extent but this just means it churns longer in the machine, which leads to a creamery ice cream. I have seen other recipes that suggest adding small amounts of alcohol to inhibit freezing. I don’t think they had Ardbeg in mind.

      We have the Cuisinart ICE-20 Automatic Ice Cream Maker (1 1/2 quart).

      I have not tasted the ice cream because I don’t like whiskey. But I smelled the Ardbeg and I didn’t think it would make a good ice cream. The Bushmills had a much smoother smell and my coworkers loved it.

  2. I tasted Ardbeg 10 at Binny’s Loop store this summer for the first time. I didn’t leave with a bottle even though the server was a HOT young blond in a even hotter black short dress who was a flirt. Drinking dirt and smoke is not the flavor profile I’m looking for in my consumption of whisky. So I don’t thing I’ll be try your ice creams recipe as listed. Sorry.
    But as a kid growing up in Chicago I do remember making home made ice cream. We all took turns cranking the handle. That was the best ice cream I ever ate.

    1. No worries. You’re lucky to be so close to Binny’s! I only got to check it out this last spring while in Chicago for the weekend and filled every available inch of my luggage with bottles you can’t find out here. 

      We were discussing future potential ice cream + whiskey pairings and I think the bourbon profile is better… anything you think would be interesting? I’m leaning toward either saving a small bit of Weller for the next batch, or maybe a rye for variety…

      Homemade is hard to beat. I remember making a chocolate chip one when I was a kid and that batch is to this day one of my favorite ice creams ever.

  3. I love ice cream. Totally here (from Sku’s) because of ice cream.

    The only successful whiskey ice cream I know of, of course, is Slocombe’s secret breakfast. As an ex ice cream churning fanatic, the only alcoholic custard based ice cream I’ve been successful in making is oatmeal stout flavored. After reading, I feel the ice cream was a waste of good scotch and 4 egg yolks?

    The use corn syrup also rather upsets me. There’s no reason why sugar couldn’t be simply melted into the heavy cream during the custard creation. That said, the concept of a honey/scotch ice cream is absolutely fascination. G’luck!

    1. Hey! Thanks for visiting and checking it out. I appreciate it!

      I actually managed to never have Slocombe in over a year of frequent SF travel, and more depressingly still having worked mere blocks away. I blame the cold weather for not getting me in the mood. (I know, I know…) 

      There’s a place in Columbus, OH called Jeni’s that has had a number of whiskey based ice creams; I feel like the one I had was a bourbon and pecan mix that was incredible. I know Scoops and Sweet Rose have been kicking around the idea… I actually think the guy at Sweet Rose was mentioning a potential for it to be based on Pappy. Certainly extravagant and probably needless but could be interesting. 

      Ardbeg Ten ice cream is probably not going to become a go-to flavor for me, you’re right. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to call it a waste; it was definitely going for an extreme style and it certainly didn’t stand up on its own. I will tell you that the honey does balance it out nicely which makes the wheels turn a little bit… but it shall be some time before trying this experiment again. I’m still looking for the right whiskey to try. One commenter mailed and suggested a Canadian whiskey which might not be a bad idea. I’ll be thinking about it for a while. 

      The corn syrup was definitely an improv but your sugar suggestion will be kept on hand for next time we find ourselves in a similar situation. 

      Ah well – here’s hoping the next one turns out better! Always open to suggestions.

      (And if you check out Jeni’s, I have to say their Chocolate Cayenne is a really great, if somewhat devious, combo.)

    2. As Tim indicated the corn syrup was an improv per the suggestion of my handy reference book The Food Substitution Bible ( Really it was lazy and I should have just run out for honey. The directions for this particular recipe were not like normal custard ice cream base and called for heating the honey and then wisking it into the eggs to “cook” them versus traditional ice cream custard recipes, so I thought some form of liquid sweetner was best. I suppose I could have made a simple syrup with sugar but again I was a bit lazy probably because I myself had no interest in eating the ice cream.

      Tim initially brought me Ardbeg and Balvenie Doublewood as potential flavors (when I originally made this I used Bushmills). I smelled both and told him I thought Balvenie was the better option but he really wanted to see if Ardbeg would work. I don’t know that Balvenie would have tasted better but it certainly smelled better to me.

      My most successful alcohol flavored ice cream was from David Lebovitz’s Guinness-Chocolate Ice Cream recipe ( I loved it and I don’t even like Guinness to drink.

      1. Good ‘ol DLebovitz. My oatmeal stout ice cream came about from that recipe. I eventually compared the 2, and based on cost (Trader Joe’s Oatmeal Stout is $1/bottle) vs. taste, stuck with the oatmeal stout beer instead of Guinness. At least the Oatmeal Stout is relatively drinkable as I, too, dislike Guinness.

        In response to Tim’s Jeni recommendation — From their new book, I realized they’re utilizing corn starch & other emulsifiers in their ice cream. Homey don’t play that. I can get corn starched ice cream from the local grocery chain. Locally, Mother Moo’s rocking the best fat/flavor ratioed ice cream, IMHO. Tho they don’t have “exotic” beer ice creams, just yet… but they’re also not using any additives.

        1. What can I say – I’m a hopeless prole. :) I’ll check out Mother Moo’s. I’m still a fan of Sweet Rose’s stout flavor this year – just a great expression of the flavor. Rich without being one-dimensional. 

          Ms. Read has another base that may be a little more to your liking – I’ll leave it to her to comment on that. I’m still deciding what to go with. Frontrunners are a sherried whiskey, something fruity & floral like Balblair, or a straight-ahead malty flavor like Aberfeldy with some honey to perk up the flavor a bit. Hmm… ideas..

Leave a Reply