Hunter Laing released a large number of whiskies last year to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line; they may have miscalculated a bit as a bunch of them are still available. Among these are this Ardmore 22, distilled in 1996. Ardmore is a bit of an enigma in the Scotch whisky world. From its somewhat off the beaten path location in the Eastern Highlands—don’t bother stopping by, they’re not open to the public—to the seeming general lack of interest on the part of the owners in pushing their whisky, it’s a hard distillery to get to know. There’s never been much of it available in official form and even less seemingly from the independents—though there’s been more probably from both directions in the last few years than in the years previous. This despite the fact that they’re one of the few non-Islay distilleries that make palpably peated malt, and you’d expect that to be a winning market proposition. Well, I guess Beam Suntory may be reserving a lot of its output for their blends. Anyway, while I have not had very many Ardmores—on account of lack of opportunity—I’ve liked all that I’ve had. And so I was more than willing to take a chance on this bottle. Let’s see if it has paid off.
Ardmore 22, 1996 (50%; Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv.; from my own bottle)
Nose: A big burst of fruit off the top—lemon, passionfruit—with a hint of vanilla, peppery peat and paraffin coming up from below. Quite consistent with time. With a couple of drops of water it gets quite buttery
Palate: Exactly as advertised by the nose, with some bitter zest bringing up the rear. Lovely texture. A burst of ashy smoke as I swallow. As it sits the bitter note picks up a bit of glycerin and some very Bowmore-like florals. Unfortunately, that bitter/glycerin quality expands as it sits—but good news: it calms down a bit again with even more time. Let’s see if water clears it up completely. Yes, with water the glycerin mostly turns back into pepper and the whole gets more acidic.
Finish: Long. The smoke doesn’t linger; instead the fruit expands and keeps going for a while. With time the glycerin lingers here as well. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Blind, I would have thought this was a Bowmore—from the fruit and mild peat on the nose to the florals and the glycerine note that shows up on the palate. That glycerine note is all that keeps it from getting to 90 points.
Rating: 88 points.