On Monday I reviewed a WhiskySponge Ardmore 24 from a refill bourbon hogshead. I simultaneously liked it a fair bit and was a bit disappointed with it. Today I have a 22 yo Ardmore that started out in a refill hogshead and was then subjected to a sherry finish. I have to confess my default reaction to such a sequence is first one of anguish: why risk marring one of Scotland’s truly idiosyncratic profiles with a brief, potentially overbearing dalliance with sherry? And then one of skepticism: was the sherry finish applied in the manner of lipstick on a pig? But though my initial response may be skeptical, my mind remains open and I am hoping for the best. Will those hopes be rewarded or will they fall apart like an ill-conceived sherry finish? Let’s see.
Ardmore 22, 2000 (54.2%; WhiskySponge; refill hogshead/sherry finish from a bottle split)
Nose: The first impression is of brine. Richer evidence of the sherry comes up quickly from below: roasted malt, cocoa, a bit of dried orange peel. There’s some coal smoke but it’s pretty restrained. With time there’s some tobacco, some brighter citrus mixed in with the brine, and hints of sweeter fruit–will water turn them into at least insinuations? Yes, water pushes the char back a bit and pulls out brighter notes of orange, mixed in with a bit of apricot.
Palate: The smoke is in the lead here and it’s woodsmoke rather than coal. As I swallow, the oak announces itself, with a fair bit of char. A bit hot at full strength; decent texture. With time the charred oak gets more bitter and also a bit sour. No sign of fruit beyond the dried orange peel, which seems to be mixed with dried mushrooms here. Okay, let’s see if water brings out more of interest. Hmm well, there’s less of the char and less of the bitter oak and more of the cocoa from the nose, but I can’t say it becomes very interesting.
Finish: Long. The woodsmoke and char are the top notes. Develops as on the palate with time and water.
Comments: A good sherried, smoky whisky but it doesn’t really say Ardmore to me. A solid pour but nothing that would in any way justify the price that was apparently asked for it. I’m sure it’s long sold out but I wouldn’t pay £100 for this, leave alone £240. I don’t really follow the single malt market anymore—it may well be that this is what all 24 yo whiskies cost these days; but I do wonder if the price tag could be sustained without the dark sherry finish, which may well have also been applied to ease a slightly over-oaked whisky. And I’m sure the WhiskySponge name helps make the sale too.
Rating: 85 points. (Pulled up a bit by water.)