There were competing requests last week for themed weeks centered on Ardmore and on WhiskySponge releases. Competing because I cannot do both: two of the Ardmores are WhiskySponge releases. As a compromise I propose a week of WhiskySponge releases now and then the third, non-WhiskySponge Ardmore at the end of the month, to be paired with a whisky from another highlands distillery, with which I’ll kick off February’s booze reviews.
So, here’s the first of two WhiskySponge Ardmores. This is the older of the two: 24 years old and from a refill hogshead. On paper, at least, that sounds very good indeed. Will that be true in the glass? I liked the only other WhiskySponge releases I’ve reviewed—a trio of Ballechins from almost exactly a year ago (here, here and here)—but was not blown away by them. I’m hoping this January’s trio will live up to all the hype. Let’s see.
Ardmore 24, 1997 (52.4%; WhiskySponge; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Farmy peat mixed with lemon and some muskier fruit (charred pineapple). More mineral on the second sniff and there’s more of the barnyard even as some sweeter fruit (peach) shows up. The farmy/barnyard notes subside a bit with time as a bit of creamy custard emerges. The sweet fruit is now more citrus and pineapple than peach. A few drops of water and the farmy notes get pushed back even further as some paraffin emerges along with some floral notes.
Palate: Leads with the lemon with quite a bit of char coming up from below as I swallow. Good drinking strength, respectable texture. The lemon gets fizzier on the second and third sips and the char edges towards tar. With time there are notes of gin and the smoke gets less bitter (some hot tarmac now). Okay, let’s see what water does for it. It pushes the bitter notes back but I can’t say it brings out anything very interesting.
Finish: Long. The lemon crests and then the char emerges again. As on the palate with time and water.
Comments: This is good and more than a little quirky but I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with it. I was hoping for the elegance that older bourbon cask Ardmore often has and it’s not really here. Who knows, maybe if I had a full bottle I’d see it develop greater complexity over time. If you have one and have slowly drunk it down, do let me know how it changed with air in the bottle. As it is, it’s good but comes across younger than its age. Which is a quality I’d like to say I have at this point in my life but is not something I look for in 24 yo whisky.
Rating: 87 points.