Last week featured malt whiskies from three different Indian distilleries (Kamet, Amrut and Paul John). This week will feature malt whiskies from three different Scottish distilleries. In a further connection, they’re all bottled by Signatory—and to be more specific, they were all bottled in Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection. Bottles in this series, usually but not always at 46% abv, were a major part of my malt whisky education more than a decade ago. I lost track of them for a while after that but was very glad to see a bunch of recent releases in the series on the shelves of a local liquor store in early May. I bought two of those and both will be reviewed this week. First up, is an Ardmore 11, 2009. I am—as is no secret—a big fan of Ardmore’s peated profile, with its emphasis on pepper, mineral notes and fruit. I didn’t realize until I got home that this cask might not display those qualities. Why? Well, because the label says “Bourbon Barrel after Islay” which I take to mean an ex-bourbon barrel that had previously held Islay whisky. If a heavily peated one, those notes might easily overpower Ardmore’s more delicate profile. Did that in fact prove to be the case? Read on.
Ardmore 11, 2009 (46%; Signatory; bourbon barrel 706248 “after Islay” from my own bottle)
Nose: A big wave of peat but rather than the usual mineral Ardmore peat it’s big and phenolic—that Islay cask is the story here. A littler drier on the second sniff and more briny (more of the Islay cask influence). As it sits it softens and some cream emerges along with some citronella. Some tart apple begins to peep out too from behind the smoke. Water emphasizes the citronella
Palate: Big peat here too but there’s some campfire smoke mixed in with the phenols. A good drinking strength but the texture feels a little watery. Not much change on the second and third sips but with time there’s first some wet stones and then some cream and some milky cocoa. Water pushes the smoke back and lets out more of the softer notes.
Finish: Long. The smoke is really the only story here too at first and then it develops as on the palate. With water it gets quite ashy at the end.
Comments: The Islay cask has overwhelmed the Ardmore character here, which is too bad. But if what you’re looking for a big smoky whisky then this delivers. Not much subtlety but also no flaws.
Rating: 86 points.