At the time that the VYA was released (as a six year old), the SMWS also released a few casks of 6yo Ardbeg. I sampled two of them - one was from a sherry gorda, and it was the most amazing whisky. Despite being a large cask, the gorda seemed to accelerate the maturation, and the sherried bottling seemed more like a 10 year old in its depth and complexity. Having an Ardbeg with sherry sweetness is a rare and valued treat!
The other SMWS cask came from ex-bourbon and it was an absolute peat monster - smoke, smoke, and smoke.
This year, the SMWS is now releasing some seven year old casks, and I've already tried one. Again, it is just an amazing explosion of peat. I understand from Stuart Thompson that since Glenmorangie took over in 1999, they've changed the way they mill the malt, and that the husks are now included in the mash. This has had the effect of actually increasing the phenols in the final spirit.
Don't quote me on the numbers, but it was something like this:
Ardbeg specify their malt be peated to 50ppm. After the distillation process, the final phenol reading in the spirit used to be around 15.
With the new milling process of including the husks, the final phenol reading in the spirit is now up closer to 20.
In other words, Ardbeg has become a peatier whisky than it used to be.
So when the existing 10yo runs out and the Glenmorangie-distilled 10yo comes on line, we should all notice a discernable increase in the peatiness of Ardbeg.