After a week of non-single malt whisky reviews (rum, Irish, bourbon) let us return to our normal programming, which also means a return to Scotland. This week will see reviews of three whiskies from the same distillery. That distillery—in case you’re wondering what “Ardlair” is—is Ardmore. Ardlair is apparently the name given to their unpeated malt (Ardmore, as you know, is one of the few Highlands distilleries that normally distills peated malt). As to whether this name is used by the distillery or is required to be used by independent bottlers, so as to protect the distillery’s branding, I do not know. For all I know, it’s a Signatory-only naming convention. At any rate, I’ve never tasted unpeated Ardmore before and so am looking forward to this one even though it has two potential strikes against it, going in: 1) It’s very young; and 2) it’s at a stupid strength. Will the brilliance of the Ardmore distillate shine through anyway? Let’s see.
Ardlair 6, 2011 (63.3%; Signatory; refill butt 900027; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: A big raw nutty, beany note off the top and yeasty dough below it—this doesn’t seem to be so very far away from having been new make. A little sweeter as it sits. With time and air the nutty/beany/yeasty complex begins to recede a little but nothing very interesting emerges—an indistinct berry sweetness. A few drops of water push the nutty/beany/yeasty complex back further but it’s still not very interesting. A few more drops and now there’s some citrus building in the rear, along with a hint of apricot. But there’s not very much of it.
Palate: Very sweet entry and then the alcohol makes its presence felt. This is hot, hot, hot. More of the same on the second and third sips. One more small sip and then it’s time for water. Nope: nothing. More approachable with a few drops of water and not as sweet. The berries from the nose show up along with some roasted malt. Okay, let’s add a bit more water. More acid here too now and more interest.
Finish: Long. Mostly alcohol burn. Salt as it fades. Some plasticky bitterness emerges on subsequent sips. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Well, I’m not really sure what the point of releasing a whisky like this is. It’s too young and raw and even as water makes it approachable and drinkable, it doesn’t make it very interesting. If you do have a bottle, you might want to experiment with adding water till you find your sweet spot. If I had a bottle I’d mostly use it for my home vattings, I think.
Rating: 76 points. (Pulled up by water.)
Thanks to Michael for the sample.