Ardmore 11, 2009 (Signatory)


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. Continue reading

Ardmore 19, 1992 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Ardmore week began on a low note with Monday’s 6 yo Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore bottled by Signatory) and then hit a big high on Wednesday with a regularly made 10 yo (bottled by Single Cask Nation). Will today’s 19 yo (bottled by Single Malts of Scotland) from 1992 go even higher? Only one way to find out. This sample also came to me from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls but I’m not sure if he’s reviewed it yet himself. I greedily accepted the offer of the sample even though I have a full bottle myself.

Ardmore 19, 1992 (49.3%; Single Malts of Scotland; bourbon barrel 9464; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Everything you want your Ardmore 19 to be: mineral peat mixed with sweet floral notes and savoury notes (ham cure). On the second sniff the smoke has begun to turn ashy and the floral notes begin to move in the direction of musky fruit (honeydew melon) and fruit custard. Citronella builds in the background and then comes to the fore. With time and air the citronella moves in the direction of sweet orange and the sweet fruit moves somewhere between peach and overripe pineapple. The smoke builds as it sits. A few drops of water and it all melds perfectly. Continue reading

Ardmore 10, 2009 (Single Cask Nation)


Ardmore week got off to a very shaky start with Monday’s 6 year old Ardlair (unpeated Ardmore). I am hoping that today’s regulation peated Ardmore will reset the week despite being only four years older. This one was bottled a couple of years ago by Single Cask Nation from a single first-fill bourbon hogshead. I maintain this optimism even though the last Ardmore of this general age I reviewed didn’t set my hair on fire. What can I say? I’m an optimistic guy. Okay, let’s get to it.

Ardmore 10, 2009 (58.8%; Single Cask Nation; first-fill bourbon hogshead 707927; from a bottle split)

Nose: Mild mineral peat with lemon, wax, wet wool and some sweeter notes of vanilla. The lemon begins to turn to citronella pretty quickly and some paraffin emerges as well. The peat picks up with more time and it becomes quite briny as well. With more time and air it gets quite creamy. A few drops of water and the acid is amplified again with some chalk in there as well; after a few beats a more savoury note emerges as well (ham brine). Continue reading

Ardlair 6, 2011 (Signatory)


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. Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.140)


Last week was a week of reviews of peated whiskies from Islay—one each from Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. I liked them all a lot. This week will be a week of reviews of whiskies from the highlands. We’ll begin with a young Ardmore that also keeps the peat theme going for a little longer. This is yet another Ardmore from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—probably the most consistent source of Ardmore casks in the US. I’ve reviewed a number of their Ardmore releases before, most recently this 23 yo which I adored, and before that a trio comprising a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo, all of which I really liked as well. This one is quite a bit younger at 12 years of age—though in today’s single malt market 12 years old sometimes seems positively middle aged. Will it approach the quality of its older siblings? Oh yes, the SMWS’ tasting panel gave this the whimsical name, “Hickory smoked lobster”. I can’t say I’ve had smoked lobster but it does sound good—any relation to the reality of what’s in the glass? Let’s see. Continue reading

Ardmore 23, 1997 (SMWS 66.197)


Okay, let’s end this week of peat in the eastern highlands of Scotland, at Ardmore. (You may recall that I started the week on Islay at Caol Ila on Monday and stopped in the Speyside at Benromach on Wednesday.) Ardmore is one of my very favourite distilleries these days. The only reason really that I didn’t put in my list of top five distilleries last year is that it’s very hard to come by Ardmore in the US and the official lineup has never been very inspiring. The one regular source for a varied supply of Ardmore in the US is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society but I’m not sure if even they send more than just a few of their Ardmore selections here. I reviewed three SMWS Ardmores in August and I don’t see 750 ml releases for any of them listed on Whiskybase. Nor for that matter is a 750 ml release listed for this one. (If you know if any of these were in fact released in the US please write in below.) August’s Ardmore trio were a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo—all distilled in 1997. This one is a 23 yo distilled in 1997. Unlike the first three, however, which were matured entirely in refill bourbon hogsheads, this one spent 21 years in refill bourbon and then the next two years in a refill Spanish oak sherry hogshead. Will the sherry cover up all that I love about bourbon cask Ardmore? Let’s see. Continue reading

Ardmore 22, 1997 (SMWS 66.174)


And here to close out Ardmore 1997 week is a 22 yo. Will it be closer to Monday’s 20 yo whose combination of fruit and smoke I really, really liked or to Wednesday’s 21 yo whose more austere charms I only really liked? I’ll find out soon. Oh yes, the SMWS’s panel named this one “A Vintage Dinner Suit” which probably means something.

Ardmore 22, 1997 (56.1%; SMWS 66.174; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big zesty hit of lime off the top, a lime that has been charred heavily. The lime is sweeter on the second sniff and then muskier fruit begins to emerge (pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). The char burns off and now there’s more of a mineral note; the lime turns to citronella. As it sits the char begins to come back though it’s more ashy now; some cream too. Water emphasizes the fruit and the cream—really very nice now. Continue reading

Ardmore 21, 1997 (SMWS 66.146)


Ardmore 1997 week continues with another refill bourbon hogshead bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I really liked Monday’s 20 yo which displayed a lovely mix of rich fruit, char and mineral notes. Will this one, which is a year older, be as good or better? Let’s see.

Ardmore 21, 1997 (51.9%; SMWS 66.146; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Comes in with more lime and less mineral peat than the 21 yo and there’s some cream here as well; some ham brine too. As it sits the mineral note expands and it gets more peppery; the fruit is less expansive though than in the younger cask. With time muskier fruit begins to peep out. Let’s see if water releases it more fully. Well, the citrus expands and turns to citronella but the hints of muskier fruit remain just that. Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1997 (SMWS 66.138)


This will be a week of malts from Ardmore. What’s more they were all distilled in 1997, matured in refill hogsheads, and  bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. And they were bottled in successive years at 20, 21 and 22 years of age. Now I don’t want to pretend that very significant differences can be spotted between malts a year or two apart in age from each other even with all other variables quite similar to each other, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition anyway. What’s certain is that I like Ardmore a lot; it’s always a pleasure to try their mildly-peated, fruity malt, especially when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I’ve reviewed a few SMWS Ardmore releases before, including a couple from 1997. Indeed, I’ve reviewed another 20 yo (which I liked a lot) and another 22 yo (which I also liked a lot). And I’ve also reviewed casks from adjacent years from other bottlers (most of which I also liked a lot). All of this history seems to bode well for this one. Let’s see if it works out that way in practice. Continue reading

Ardmore 19, 1992 (Whisky Doris)


Highlands Week got off to a great and terrifically fruity start on Monday with this Ben Nevis 23. It was also a timely start to the week and month, what with the cask having been bottled only in 2020. Today we go back almost a decade to a cask bottled almost a decade ago in 2012. This Ardmore 19 was one of several of similar age released at that time from the 1992 vintage. I’ve previously reviewed a 20 yo released by Whiskybase under their Archives label and another 20 yo released by the Whisky Agency (are they still around? I don’t think I’ve seen anything released by them in quite some time). Those ran the gamut from very good indeed to excellent. Both the Archives and the Whisky Agency cask were very fruity and so I am hoping that this one will not belie the hope I expressed on Monday that this would turn out to be not only Highlands Week but also Fruity Whisky Week. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Ardmore 22, 1997 (SMWS 66.168)


I started November with a review of an Ardmore released by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Here now to start December is another Ardmore released by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This is my 6th Ardmore review of the year—taking my total to a measly 15 (Serge reviews as many every Wednesday between a dozen 1972 Boras and 33 Springbanks from the 1960s). I am hopeful that 2021 will bring at least as many Ardmores my way, if not more. They’re not very thick on the ground in the US though. This one is a full decade older than last month’s SMWS cask, having been distilled in 1997 and bottled only this year (I think). I really liked that 12 year old and like that one this too is from a refill bourbon hogshead. Good things usually happen when you put whisky in refill casks and very good things seem to happen to Ardmore’s whisky when put in refill bourbon casks. Let’s see if this whisky proves that would-be axiom right. Continue reading

Ardmore 12, 2006 (SMWS 66.133)


In July I had a review of an Ardmore 13, 2006 released by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society that I was not terribly enthused about. Here now is an Ardmore 12, 2006 released by the SMWS that I am expecting to like a fair bit more. That’s because unlike the 13 yo—which was a red wine finish for some reason—this one is from a refill bourbon hogshead. Ardmore’s mineral peat and lemon notes should come out front and center. The operative word there is “should”. The fact that the SMWS named this one “Farm Salad” seems like a good sign but let’s see if things actually go as planned. Certainly the last SMWS refill hogshead Ardmore I reviewed was excellent as was the most recent Ardmore I reviewed back in early September. Both of those were a fair bit older, of course. But I’m keeping my hopes in check anyway: if being an American in 2020 has taught me anything it’s to not get my hopes up. Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1996


I started the month with a heavily-peated Islay that was a bit of a misfire (this year’s Cairdeas). Let’s continue with peated whisky but move on to the eastern highlands, to Ardmore who are not known for heavily peated whisky. Interestingly—and also worryingly—however, this particular 20 yo release was apparently finished in ex-Islay casks after an initial maturation in ex-bourbon casks. If these were casks from Laphroaig (possible given that Beam Suntory owns both distilleries) then there’s a good chance that the usual combination of mellow, peppery peat and fruit that characterizes the best Ardmores might get lost in a phenolic overlay. On the other hand, if the casks were ex-bourbon Bowmore casks—Bowmore being another Beam Suntory distillery—then that might actually be a good match. Let’s see how it goes. I’m a big fan of Ardmore, even though we don’t get very many opportunities to try their malt in the US, and I am hoping for the best. Continue reading

Ardmore 13, 2006 (SMWS 66.161)


Okay, let’s make it two Ardmores in a row. I really liked the 20 yo I reviewed on Monday. Like this one, that was also bottled by the SMWS. Unlike this one, however, that was from a refill bourbon cask. This one very much is not. Well, it started out in bourbon cask but ended up in a red wine cask for some reason. I’m yet to come across any compelling reason to finish whisky in red wine casks. Will this change my mind? Let’s see.

Ardmore 13, 2006 (58.1%; SMWS 66.161; red wine finish; from a bottle split)

Nose: Fairly jumbled with some pickled/acidic notes, some char, some oak, some red fruit. On the second and third sniffs there’s quite a bit of lime. As it sits the smoke takes on a slightly plasticky/acryclic character. The nose settles down with time and air and the plastic/acrylic note recedes. Water brings out a cured meat note. Continue reading

Ardmore 20, 1997 (SMWS 66.137)


Last week I reviewed a slew of Benromachs—well, three of them anyway. Let’s stay in the general vicinity and let’s stick with Highland peat. Ardmore is the other distillery in that general part of Scotland that is known for peated whisky. As at Benromach, Ardmore’s peat is not phenolic in the Islay style and nor is it as farmy/brutal as Ledaig’s can be. Instead it typically has a peppery, mineral character, with soot and coal in place of the phenols. It’s hard to find much indie Ardmore in the US—or even very much officially released Ardmore—but I am a big fan of the distillery and try their whisky every chance I get. And I usually like it a lot. Why, I even liked a 10 yo put out by K&L last year! More to the point and closer to the age of this one, I also really liked a 22 yo from 1996 released to mark the 20th anniversary of the OMC line in 2018. If this is as good as either of those I’ll be very happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Ardmore 10, 2009 (Old Particular for K&L)


Oh no, it’s another peated whisky. For a change, however, it’s a very recently released whisky and in fact it may still be available—yes, I checked, it is. It’s another from K&L’s recent parcel of exclusives from the Laing companies. As you know, some of my reviews from this batch have endeared me even more to K&L’s staff. What can I say? I’m easy to love.

Anyway, Ardmore: usually good, and usually not very much of it available from the distillery’s owners. Last year I reviewed a 22 year old released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line (another Laing property) and really liked it. This one is about the half the age of that one. It’s from a barrel which might bode some risk of over-oaking—barrels are smaller than hogsheads—but it’s a refill barrel. I’m a fan of Ardmore’s brand of fruit and highland peat. Let’s hope it’s on display here. Continue reading

Ardmore 24, 1985 (SMWS 66.30)


In my last review of an Ardmore I noted that it was a hard distillery to get to know. No further clarity has emerged on that front since that review and so let’s dispense with an introduction to this review and get to business sharpish. I will note only that this is not the first Ardmore from the 1980s I’ve tried and that while I liked that 25 yo fine, it wasn’t anything  so very special. In fact I didn’t like it as much as that last Ardmore I reviewed, which was a 22 yo from the mid-1990s. Where will this 24 yo, bottled by the SMWS in 2009, fall? Let’s see.

Ardmore 24, 1985 (52.5%*; SMWS 66.30, “An outdoor banquet”; bourbon hogshead; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Typical Ardmore smoke, sooty and mineral (not phenolic), mixed in with lime zest and some brine. As it sits there’s a hint of vanilla and the citrus moves in the direction of citronella. Brighter and brinier with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Ardmore 22, 1996 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


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. Continue reading